Newsletter: November 2005

Building Relationship Skills NewsletterNovember, 2005Dear Friends,Below are reviews of two new books that I hope that you will find interesting and useful in your work.  The first article introduces a new book entitled, The Sedgwicks in Love: Courtship, Engagement, and Marriage in the Early Republic. The book explores the many changes in the way men and women related to each other in the generation born just after the American Revolution–all of which happened to the seven brothers and sisters of one prominent Massachusetts family. You may find it helpful in teaching about relationships across the curriculum.The second article is on Elizabeth Marquardt’s new book, Between Two Worlds, detailing the outcome of divorce on apparently well-adjusted, successful adults whose parents divorced. Her book will help us educate students of the impact of even amicable divorces on children.Both these articles come from Diane Sollee’s Smart Marriage list serve.( Dibble Institute has a new fax line to better serve you.  Our new fax number is 972.226.2824.  Because our old fax number was, at times, not working correctly, please call or email us at 1.800.695.7975 if you faxed us an order in the last three months and have not yet received it.Dibble Institute’s Outreach Educators are attending many school and youth conferences this year as speakers, trainers and exhibitors. If you know of a conference that we should be attending, please let us know! We are pleased to support your efforts and help spread the word about the importance of relationship education for youth.Best,Kay ReedPresident———————————————————————————————————COURTSHIP AND MARRIAGE IN EARLY AMERICADear Ms. Sollee:I am a history teacher at Norwell (Mass.) High School. My book, The Sedgwicks in Love: Courtship, Engagement, and Marriage in the Early Republic, will be published in November.  A friend suggested it might be of interest to your readers.The book explores the many changes in the way men and women related to each other in the generation born just after the American Revolution–all of which happened to the seven brothers and sisters of one prominent Massachusetts family.The Sedgwicks had arranged marriages and “love” marriages, including one in which a woman rejected a partner chosen by her father in order to marry a Sedgwick brother.  They had failed courtships and successful ones, during which they learned the intricate rules of courting among the Boston elite in the 1810s.  A case of domestic violence revealed how limited a woman’s options were if she wanted to end her marriage.  A squabble over an inheritance reflected how severely women’s property rights were restricted. During one long engagement, a couple exchanged nearly a hundred letters carefully laying out their vision of their anticipated union.  One sister consciously chose to forego marriage in order to live the life she had envisioned for herself as a writer.These Sedgwick brothers and sisters wrote everything down enabling me to explore these developments in the context of a narrative that has continuing characters, a plot, and even occasional passages of dialogue–all quoted and cited from documents found in the Sedgwick Family Papers and Catharine Maria Sedgwick Papers at the Massachusetts Historical Society in Boston.You can visit my web site at and the publisher’s page at to learn more about the book.I am taking this year off from teaching to do whatever I can to get people to read The Sedgwicks in Love.  I will happily visit any location to discuss the book and the research.Timothy KensleaE-mail timkens@aya.yale.eduTheodore Sedgwick was one of the Federalist party¹s leaders in Congress. Pamela Dwight Sedgwick was descended from the most powerful families in western Massachusetts. The courtships, engagements, and marriages of their sons and daughters are the subject of this book. ³The Sedgwicks in Love manages to combine scrupulous scholarship and a moving human story.  Delving deeply into a previously unexplored trove of family letters, Kenslea has expertly woven interlocking narratives that dramatize an era, the evolving institution of marriage, and the yearnings of the heart.Timothy Kenslea¹s work on the Sedgwick family of Berkshire County offers a sophisticated analysis of how American marriages changed during the post-Revolutionary generation.  By focusing on the long courtship of Harry Sedgwick and Janet Minot, Kenslea provides an absorbing account of how members of the new generation constructed their own ideals of marriage, and prepared themselves for a more affectionate type of personal relationship.———————————————————————————————————-DIVORCE’S LASTING EFFECTSBy Cheryl WetzsteinTHE WASHINGTON TIMESSeptember 27, 2005Mrs. Marquardt’s views collide with those of the booming divorce industry, which maintains that “the way” parents divorce is more important than the divorce itself.Even though adult children of divorce often appear well-adjusted and successful, their childhoods were profoundly scarred by their parents’ breakup, a study finds.The “untold story” of divorce is that it forces children into a strange new childhood that is filled with stress, secrets and fears about safety, says Elizabeth Marquardt, author of “Between Two Worlds: The Inner Lives of Children of Divorce.”Many researchers say that if children “don’t end up drug addicts in the street,” it means they are just fine and the divorce wasn’t a problem for them, says Mrs. Marquardt, who is one of roughly 15 million Generation Xers — or one in four persons ages 18 to 35 — whose parents divorced.”But just because you’ve managed to survive something and come through it OK doesn’t mean at all that the experience was no big deal. … As a society, we still have not grasped just how radical divorce really is,” says Mrs. Marquardt, a scholar at the Institute for American Values in New York.Her advice to parents is to fight harder to save their marriages instead of opting for a “good divorce.””While a good divorce is better than a bad divorce, it is still not good,” she says.Mrs. Marquardt’s views collide with those of the booming divorce industry, which maintains that “the way” parents divorce is more important than the divorce itself.”Ending a marriage is a painful, wrenching process that shakes up the family’s foundation, but it doesn’t follow that the family itself is broken,” sociology professor Constance Ahrons wrote in her 2004 book, “We’re Still Family: What Grown Children Have to Say About Their Parents’ Divorce.”In her study of 173 adult children of divorce, Ms. Ahrons found that most of the children had blossomed into effective adults who were connected to their families. Three-quarters thought they and their parents were better off because of the divorce.”How you rearrange the ingredients — how two new households are built from the original foundation — is the key to the family’s future,” concluded Ms. Ahrons, a divorcee who coined the phrase “The Good Divorce” in her 1994 book of that title.Divorce rates have been edging down nationally. In 2004, there were 3.7 divorces per 1,000 persons, compared with 3.8 divorces per 1,000 in 2003 and 3.9 divorces per 1,000 in 2002, according to the National Center for Health Statistics.In 2004, this translated into about 800,000 divorces, far fewer than the 1 million-plus a year recorded for much of the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s.But 800,000 divorces a year is still a formidable number, which is why most academics and counselors accept widespread divorce as inevitable and focus on helping couples create amicable or “good” divorces.”I think divorce looms large for all children, but I don’t think it’s a huge handicap,” says Vicki Lansky, author of many divorce-related books, including “Divorce Book for Parents: Helping Your Children Cope with Divorce and Its Aftermath” and “It’s Not Your Fault, Koko Bear.””Most people understand that divorce is problematic for their children, but studies have also shown that an unhappy family or a family with a lot of yelling or anger is as much, if not more, detrimental to a child … than divorce,” says Ms. Lansky, who divorced many years ago.She prescribes divorce education so parents won’t keep fighting after the breakup, and arrangements that give both parents access to their children.It would also help if the nation would stop hyping the “whole nuclear-family fantasy” and how children deserve “perfect lives,” Ms. Lansky adds.”I don’t think anybody has perfect lives,” she says. “Family configurations are so different today, and I think it’s wonderful. I think we need more family, not less. … The more, the merrier.”Mrs. Marquardt says her study is unique because it captures the inchoate impact of divorce — the dismay, longing, discomfort, anger and worry that children experience, but often can’t put into words.With help from University of Texas at Austin professor Norval Glenn, she surveyed or interviewed more than 1,500 adults, ages 18-35, half from divorced families and half from ntact families.Her research shows that children of divorce learn to:–Worry about child abuse, sexual abuse and parental kidnapping.–Worry about their “stuff,” because it is often lost in the constant traveling.–Wonder about religion and God, owing to the mixed messages they receive from their parents.–Become “chameleons,” because they must figure out how to function in their parents’ often starkly different worlds.–Become vigilant about parental moods.–Become a keeper of secrets, especially those of their parents.–Handle a parent’s subsequent remarriage and/or divorce.For most children, the most dramatic change is going from being a member of one, intact family to being a part of two or more families with ever-changing rosters of parental lovers, relatives, stepparents and stepsiblings, says Mrs. Marquardt.Any sense of “belonging” is lost because “as children of divorce, we became insiders and outsiders in each of our parents’ worlds,” she said.Mrs. Marquardt, who is married and a mother, says she is not calling for an end to divorce or trying to make divorced parents, including her own, feel bad. Her message is that two-thirds of divorces occur to couples who have unhappy but low-conflict marriages.”I urge parents to think harder still” about ending those marriages, she says. “A lot of people in an unhappy marriage can get happier in their marriage.”Speaking for herself and other members of “the first generation” of Americans to grow up in a society where divorce is prevalent, Mrs. Marquardt adds:”This is what we want: a home, strong marriages, wholeness, understanding of our true experience and a secure world for our children — one world.”