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When Did Marriage Become So Hard?

Marriage is hard — and there are signs it's become even harder in recent decades. We examine how long-term relationships have changed, and whether we might improve marriage by asking less of it.

wedding cake // Getty Images, Peter Dazeley

No one will deny that marriage is hard. In fact, there's evidence it's getting even harder.

Eli Finkel, a social psychologist at Northwestern University, argues that's because our expectations of marriage have increased dramatically in recent decades.

"[A] marriage that would have been acceptable to us in the 1950s is a disappointment to us today because of those high expectations," he says.

The flip side of that disappointment, of course, is a marriage that's pretty amazing. Those of us who can meet the high expectations of modern marriage, Finkel says, may find "a level of marital fulfillment that was out of reach until pretty recently."

This week we go back in time and look at the history of marriage and reflect on where we are today. We'll also ask Finkel, author of The All or Nothing Marriage: How the Best Marriages Work, for some tangible ways we can improve our love lives — including by asking less of our partners.

The Hidden Brain Podcast is hosted by Shankar Vedantam and produced by Rhaina Cohen, Jennifer Schmidt, Parth Shah, Renee Klahr, and Matthew Schwartz. This week's episode was produced by Gabriela Saldivia. Our supervising producer is Tara Boyle. You can also follow us on Twitter @hiddenbrain, and listen for Hidden Brain stories each week on your local public radio station.

Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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