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Two Views on Subject of Togetherness

March 27, 1986|ROSELLE M. LEWIS

Tough Marriage: How to Make a Difficult Relationship Work by Paul A. Mickey with William Proctor (Morrow: $14.95); Men and Marriage: The Changing Role of Husbands by Elizabeth C. Mooney (Franklin Watts: $16.95).

Marriage has undergone a sociological change during the last 20 years, evolving into something new and often strange. Here are two books that take, respectively, a prescriptive and descriptive look at this altered institution.

A minister with extensive pastoral counseling experience, Paul Mickey in "Tough Marriage" makes the often-overlooked point that stable marriages make for a sound economic society. The present high divorce rate, which proves terribly costly in money and human dislocation, can be reversed, Mickey believes, if people adopt the attitude that when the going gets tough, the tough stay put.

In unadorned prose, he sets down his own "12 Commandments," based on psychological truisms and homespun common sense: Practice mutual respect and admiration, break bread together, leave the "comfortable nest" by asserting independence from parents and prepare for life's "pits as well as peaks." Mickey's advice won't strike a response in all readers, but some will find this a useful book of sermons by a sensitive and savvy preacher.

Elizabeth Mooney's "Men and Marriage," conversely, contains nary a word of marital advice. Like a tourist, who is bemused by the ruins of a once-noble edifice, she examines the changes in marriage wrought by the last 40 years, beginning with the time that a rakish, just-divorced Army captain swept her off her feet.

Some of her findings: In 1983, 1.9 million people lived in the state of POSSLQ (people of the opposite sex sharing living quarters); among the alumnae of Mooney's Smith class, 135 of her friends were married at 28, whereas only a handful of their daughters had wed at this age. Yuppie fathers aren't embarrassed to make brave flourishes at bringing up babies. Middle-age women still are cruelly divorced, and those whose husbands are about to retire have commented: "I married him for better and for worse, but not for lunch."

Somewhat misleading in its title, this book is essentially about women seeking love among the ruins--about their search for the title of "Mrs." and traditional fulfillment in an institution, where, as Mooney sums up: "There are no rules but the ones we make up as we go along."

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