Is Marriage Happily Ever After?

Young women around the world dream of love and marriage from an early age. Girls plan out their dream wedding, provide names for their future children, and imagine their prince charming. Recent studies have concluded that these young girls are right, married women and men are much happier than those who are not. Not only are married people happier, they are healthier, have greater social support and economic stability than their single counter parts. However, this fact brought on additional questions about marriage and happiness. Are married people happier and healthier than the unmarried couple who lives together? What about the unhappy marriage; are couples who are unhappily married better-off than the unmarried individual? It is these questions that gave way to curiosity about love, happiness, and marriage. Conducting extensive research on the general health, happiness, and well-being of the married couple compared to the unmarried cohabitating couple, there are various factors put into place that can provide answers to these questions. As a result, this study will indicate the economic, social, and health disparities seen in the married couple compared to the unmarried couple. Research will demonstrate that the married couple is happier and healthier than the cohabitating couple.

Since the 1950’s unwed couples living together have increased dramatically. It is estimated that, “1.2 million people over the age of 50 are currently cohabitating”, (Brown, Bulanda, & Lee, 2004). However, there are two distinct cohabitating trends, young couples who are living together with the expectation of one day marrying and older couples who have no expectation of getting married. Unlike the younger cohabitating couple, older couples are more likely to have been previously married. As such, their grounds for entering cohabitating relationship greatly differ than the younger couple testing the waters before marriage. Studying the cohabitating couple, the fundamental question is, “do these unmarried cohabitating partnerships provide adults with mental health benefits that are similar to those enjoyed by marrieds”, (Brown, Bulanda, & Lee, 2004). The answer to this is no.

A study conducted by Brown, Bulanda, and Lee in 2004, indicated that, “poor and near-poor [individuals] are more likely to be cohabitating than their non-poor counter parts”. This suggest that cohabitating unmarried couples are more likely to live together for the main purpose of economic support. This point rings truth as “cohabitating men are less likely to be working and have smaller incomes than either married or single men”, (Brown, Bulanda, & Lee, 2004). Men are more likely to live with a woman to save money versus for the physiological effects of being close to a loved one or to build or reaffirm a relationship. Waite and Gallagher explained that economic benefits of cohabitating relationships are less beneficial to unwed couples because they are unwed. There is no financial security between the cohabitating couple. Cohabitating couples are less likely to complain to one another about poor spending habits or spending haphazardly. Most cohabitating couples feel that, just as long as the bills are paid, they cannot complain to their partner about how his or her money is spent. However, married couples are more likely to complain about poor spending habits. They have free access to one another’s accounts where money is viewed as ours versus mine. In addition, married couples tend to discuss spending habits with one another making future plans and investments; whereas cohabitating couples do not show interest in their economic future.

“Supportive relationships can directly influence health by facilitating health-promoting behaviors and decreasing maladaptive coping behaviors,” (Kiecolt-Glaser & Newton, 2001). In 2003 a study conducted by Kristi Williams, research shows that, “being continually unmarried is associated with poorer psychological wellbeing relative to being married”. In addition, the state of being happy, or rather happier than the cohabitating couple or single individual, is that the economic stability and social support observed in marriages is what promotes and encourages happiness. Married couples are more likely to point out bad habits and unhealthy practices, overall encouraging good health. Wives often promote better nutrition by either providing balanced meals for their husbands or discouraging unhealthy eating habits. Lin and Umberson admitted that married couples, “improve health by providing care in the event of illness, allowing the purchase of care and resources, and increased probability of access to health insurance”.

Good health in married couples is further indicated as, “single men drink twice as much as married men”, (Waite & Gallagher, 2010). In addition, married men are more likely to not drink at all compared to single men. The research study provided by Waite and Gallagher also indicated that mortality rates of single men are much higher than married men. Their study showed that mortality in single men is 250% higher than married men and “single women have mortality rates that are 50% higher than married women”, (Waite & Gallagher, 2010). The same study concluded that “9 out of 10 married men and women alive at the age of 48 are alive at the age of 65”. However, “cohabitating couples are less likely to monitor each other’s health”, (Waite & Gallagher, 2010). These numbers undoubtedly prove that married couples are much healthier than single individuals and cohabitating couples.

Social support is an important factor in a marriage. The same is also true for single people and cohabitating couples. However, married people are more likely to have additional and more reliable support from friends and family than the unmarried person. This is seen as married couples have more family relationships for support including in-laws, extended family, and children. The single or cohabitating couple has established friendships rather than family support. In addition, married couples sometimes adopt their spouse’s friends and often encourage friendships with others. However, interestingly enough Kiecolt-Glaser and Newton show that, “women’s support networks often include close friends and relatives as confidantes whereas men typically name their wives as their main source of support and the only person in whom they confide personal problems or difficulties”. Consequently, men are happier married due to the support and confidence they have from the close relationship with their wife. Women, on the other hand, continue to rely on outside sources such as friends and family as a support system.

Relating social support between married couples and cohabitating couples, “social support experienced by cohabiters versus marrieds show that cohabiters report less support” from their partner, (Brown, Bulanda, & Lee, 2004). Furthermore, “wives are five times less likely than single or divorced women to be victims of crime”, (Waite & Gallagher, 2010). Waite and Gallagher suggest that this is due to the married couple’s habit for looking out for their spouse’s well-being and concern. Married couples are more likely to provide advice, discourage their spouse from participating in dangerous situations, and warn each other about risks. Consequently, being married and having a family will discourage risky behaviors that may cause harm or danger. However, cohabitating couples are willing to take risks and act impulsively. They do not seek approval from their mate about personal and recreational activities that may cause harm. Married couples have better communication with one another discussing factors and behaviors that encourage safety.

The research clearly indicated that married couples are at a greater advantage than cohabitating couples when comparing economic stability, social support, and health. Although cohabitating couples do not have a rewarding and fulfilling relationship observed in married couples, cohabitating couples are happier and less depressed than unmarried and single individuals. “Cohabiters tend to report lower levels of depression and higher levels of happiness than singles”, (Brown, Bulanda, & Lee, 2004). Cohabiters are happier and have more self-fulfilling lives than the single individual, however, “the higher levels of depression among cohabiters versus marrieds reflect the greater instability characterizing cohabiting relationships”, (Brown, Bulanda, & Lee, 2004). Happily married and unhappily married couples greatly influence test results when compared to the happiness of singles. The results indicated that, “troubled marriages are reliably associated with increased distress, and unmarried people are happier, on the average than unhappily married people”, (Kiecolt-Glaser & Newton, 2001).

Conducting research on the happiness and fulfilling lives of married couples iterate the sanctity and importance of marriage. One would conclude that cohabitating couples would have a fulfilling and rewarding life, however the research indicated otherwise. “Marriage offers unique institutional, economic, and psychosocial benefits that cannot be obtained from other types of relationships (such as cohabitation)”, (Lin & Umberson, 2008). Cohabitating does not provide the legalities observed in marriage. In marriage, there is no separation of property, money, or social status. There is less stress associated with marriage as 40% of married couples have sex a minimum of two times a week compared to 20% of single men and women, (Waite & Gallagher, 2010). Marriage allows couples to have genuine concern for one another and there is little to no fear of rejection that can be observed. With marriage on the decline, divorce on the rise, and cohabitating becoming increasingly popular, the fundamentals of marriage is being lost amongst the numbers and statistics. Waite and Gallagher demonstrated that “86% of married people who rated their marriages as unhappy and stayed together, rated the marriage as having improved 5 years later”. The evidence is proof in its self, that married couples are happier and lead fulfilling and successful lives versus cohabitating couples and singles. With this evidence, singles and cohabitating couples might want to reconsider their life choice and decide instead to take an oath and commit themselves to a lasting and rewarding relationship.


Brown, S., Bulanda, J., & Lee, G. (2004). The significance of nonmarital cohabitation: Marital status and mental health benefits among middle aged and older adults. Center for Family and Demographic Research, Retrieved from

Kiecolf-Glaser, J., & Newton, T. (2001). Marriage and health: His and hers. Psychological  Bulletin, 126(4), 472-503.

Lin, H., & Umberson, D. (2008). The times they are a changin’: marital status and health   differentials from 1972-2003. Journal of Health Social Behavior, 49(3), 239-253.

Waite, L., & Gallagher, M. (2010). The case for marriage: why married people are happier, healthier, and better off financially. New York, NY: Broadway Books. Retrieved from Case for Marriage: Why Married People Are Happier, Healthier, and Better off Financially.pdf

Williams, K. (2003). Has the future of marriage arrived? a contemporary examination of gender, marriage, and psychological well being. Journal of Health and Social Behavior, 44(4).

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Female Sexuality in Shakespeare’s Titus Andronicus: Lavinia and Tamora


There is an irony to the fact that Lavinia and Tamora are the only women in the Shakespearian tragedy Titus Andronicus.  These two women are the complete opposites of one another in almost every aspect, representing two spectrums of femininity.  Lavinia represents the socially acceptable practices and lifestyles of women in sixteenth and seventeenth century Europe.  This is because she is both graceful and passive. Tamora, on the other hand, displays the negative examples of femininity seen through her vulgar sexuality and behavior. Tamora vows revenge on the Andronicus family, practices promiscuity by maintaining an affair, and aids in committing murder and corruption while Lavinia is the opposite. Lavinia kneels to her father, maintains her chastity, and remains powerless in her relationships with the men.  In terms of love and sexuality, they maintain their differences. Lavinia is pure, innocent, and virginal whereas Tamora is married more than once and familiar with her sexuality. With this in mind, the play displays vivid images of women and their roles in society; the sadistic and sexual Tamora and the innocent and defenseless Lavinia.

Within the first act of the play Tamora is a loving mother. Like all mothers she is willing to do everything for her family. This includes pleading with Titus to spare the life of her first son.  After her new husband Saturninus chooses to marry her, Tamora speaks sweet promises and words of affection to her husband. However, the sentiment is not innocent. She states she will be “a handmaid be to his desires, A loving nurse, a mother to his youth”(I.i,337).  Tamora presents herself as a 17th century MILF. Middle aged with adult children, she lets the audience know that she is not naive about sex. The statement introduces that audience to her character as assertive because she is outspoken when it comes to men and does not hesitate to express her feelings.  Although Tamora has just met Saturninus before their wedding, it does not take long demonstrate her sexual freedom. Tamora comes to represent power that women possess including men and sexuality.

As Tamora’s contrast, Lavinia is viewed as true and virtuous. This is observed when Lavinia kneels in her father’s honor in the first scene.  The virtue of her femininity is seen again when Saturninus asks Lavinia’s father, Titus, for her hand in marriage.  Saturninus describes Lavinia as “Rome’s royal mistress” and “thy name and honorable family”(I.i,243).  Here, the reader is aware of Lavinia’s youthful age as a young woman suitable for marriage and also desirable by two men Saturninus and Bassianus.  With the new emperor of Rome asking for Lavinia’s hand in marriage it is implied that her virginity is intact. She is what the average man wants. Lavinia is loyal to her father and society. She lives up to the standards of what a woman should be.  As a result, she is submissive and defenseless. When Bassianus “seizing[es] Lavinia” and protest to Saturninus marriage proposal with an exclamation that “this maid is mine.”  Bassainus does not hesitate to show ownership and control over Lavinia in which, Lavinia remains passive. She does not take this opportunity to be assertive and state to her father who she wants to marry.  She just stands in the scene, allowing her father to use his best judgment of her future.

Tamora remains opposite to Lavinia in her action. This is seen later in the play when Tamora’s affair with Aaron is revealed. Aaron admits his true feelings for her saying, “I will arm thy heart and fit thy thoughts, to mount aloft with thy imperial mistress”(I.i,511). Participating in pre-marital sex with Aaron, Tamora is seen as evil and full of sexual desires.  This is further displayed in Act II when she attempts to persuade Aaron to have sex with her in the woods, asking “let us sit down and mark their yellowing noise;”(II,ii,20).  Tamora’s words expose her sexual liberation. She does not feel tied down by rules and expectations relating to the role of women. Through her sexual promiscuity, Tamora rebels against the social norms in her society.  Even though Aaron is aware that his mistress is now married and queened empress of Rome, he still has intentions to have sex with her.  Thus, by the end of the first act, the readers are aware of Tamora’s promiscuity.  Although most of the first scene displays the typical qualities and behavior of a woman, the end of the scene rebuffs the previous statements. This sets the reader up for her evil corruptions that seen throughout the entirety of the play.

Lavinia’s submissive behavior displays her personality and character. It demonstrates her devotion to her father as she stays within the role of female.  The part that she plays within the structures of the tragedy is passiveness.  Her powerless state is equivalent to her female sexuality.  Her sexuality is stripped from her when she is brutally raped. Her purity is now mutilated, her virginity and virtue taken. The passiveness that she maintains, even after her rape, is a representation of herself and family.  By keeping her virtue, she keeps the high merit of her family and the ability to marry a man of high stature and wealth.  Her father choosing her suitor displays his need to watch over and protect her into her new life as a wife.  Titus reveals his own devotion towards his daughter as he attempts to keep her pure and away from harm even after her sexual assault.

In the end, both Lavinia, and then Tamora are dead.  Each died at the hand of another and for different reasons.  Titus kills his only daughter because of her lost virginity and virtue.  Before killing her he states: “thy shame with thee, and with thy shame thy father sorrow die.”  He kills her to rid her of her shame and ridicule that is marked upon her mutilated body. He also kills her to rid Titus of his own shame of the brutal rape and the helplessness of his daughter.  With her purity lost, she felt shame. This is the same shame that comes with the essence of rape is never gained back.  She herself wanted to die if she did not have her dignity and chastity.  Tamora, on the other hand, found herself in a continuous spin of evil, corruption, and deception.  She is punished and killed because of her power, while Lavinia was killed because of her powerlessness.  Tamora’s power was channeled through her growing sexual freedom and her part in the deaths and mutilation that occurred throughout the play.  Ironically enough both women brought apprehension towards their male counterparts.  They challenged the male illusion of what a woman is to be as well as what she represents.  They stood on different ends of the spectrum and still the men around them felt threaten. The men were intimidated by the self-reliance of these women. For Titus, the traditional role of the female was problematic.  The end of the play placed him into the role of nurturer and protector towards his daughter. This occurred with Tamora’s lover Aaron as well.   He took the attributes of a mother when it came to his baby, a son.  In the last scenes he asked for the child’s life to be spared.  Good and evil of the men were eliminated to fatherhood as Titus and Aaron attempt to protect their children.

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Love and Courtship in Classic Literature

Courtship is a popular topic among writers of the 16th and 17th century Europe as seen through the poetry and plays of this era. From this, readers can distinguish how men and women court one another. This includes how couples date and treat each other through the concept of chivalry. The idea of chivalry of originates with Knights and the Kings Court. It suggests that a man must romance a woman through promises of love. Love becomes a key element in these works as Knights were expected to woo women by doing good deeds and shows gifts of affection. Poets and dramatist began to glamorize these acts chivalry within their works, some condoning chivalry while others satirizing it.  Women are also depicted as practicing chivalry as an attempt to win over the hearts of men. They did this through promises and pleas of bountiful love and adoration. Classical writers of this time, including Ben Jonson, William Shakespeare, and Christopher Marlowe, showed no diversity in acts of chivalry, courtship, and love. The treatment of women remains consistent with ideals of courtship through vows and promises to honor love and marriage that is often reciprocated.


Poet Ben Jonson in Song: To Celia, shows a prime example of how men dote on women through chivalry and courtship. The poem demonstrates that chivalry is practiced  whether or not a maidens accepts or rejects these sentiments. If a maiden rejects them, a man will practice chivalry by presenting them with gifts and affection, as well as other good deeds to prove their loyalty.  Although the narrator does not make extra attempts to woo her, the narrator continuous to show interest towards the Lady.  He starts the poem saying: “I will pledge with mine, or leave a kiss but in the cup; and I’ll not look for wine”(2-4).  In this line he shows his devotion by stating he will substitute wine for a kiss. It shows not only devotion but desire as the narrator compares her lips to a cup of wine, but it is her lips that he thirsts after. He promises that even if his soul pleads for thirst he still would not except it because her kiss is a better substitute.  After he makes this promise he sends her the gifts to win her over when he says, “I sent thee late a rosy wreath,”(9).  He did not send her a bouquet of roses, he sent her a wreath signifying a unified circle or rather the symbol of love and marriage that is associated with a wedding ring.  He blatantly admits that “thereon didst only breathe, sent’st it back to me;”(14); meaning that all she did was “breathe” or take a short moment before sending the flowers back.  This makes the reader understand that the narrator is not upset or dismayed. It is observed through the voice of the narrator. Even though he is rejected, he continues his invitation for love. The narrator is not silenced so quickly as he continues to show affection. “Since when it grows and smells, I swear, Not of itself, but thee”(15-16).  From this statement it is understood that even though she has rejected him, his love for her is still strong. Although the reader knows that this is not possible, it gives a clear understanding of his act of chivalry. The narrator is willing to wear his heart on his sleeve and bear his feelings, even at the risk of rejection.


Shakespeare has famously written about love and chivalry through his works. In many cases, women are observed being just as romantic and displaying acts of chivalry as their male counterparts. In these incidents female characters seek out their objects of affections. Some of these women are brazen and bold, unafraid of failure or rejection.  This can be seen in the character Helena, in the comedy Midsummer Night’s Dream. Throughout the play Helena goes unscathed by the fact that her main affection, Demetrius, does not love her. In fact he seems to hate her with every passing moment.  Throughout scene i of act II Demetrius runs from Helena in attempt to elude her.  Despite this, Helena does not submit and continues to swear by love.  After Demetrius tells Helena that he “do[es] not nor cannot love you”(201), Helena exclaims that “even for that I will love you the more”(202).  She goes on to state that “the more you beat me, I will fawn on you”(204). She even begins to “beg in [his] love”(208) by telling him to “use me as your spaniel”(206).  Helena goes on like this throughout Acts I and II desperately pleading for Demetrius’s love.  She appears to have no will or drive contain herself. She puts her integrity on the line by doing this, often appearing desperate or crazed. Her emotionally dramatic appeals and the lengths she goes demonstrates all she is willing to do to make Demetrius love her.  Instead of Demetrius viewing Helena’s love as a proof of her loyalty and devotion, he scorns her and turns her away continuously. He does not succumbing to her passions and is turned away from her because of it.


Shakespeare also demonstrates male chivalry in his works. This can be seen through the promises of love Demetrious made towards another throughout MidSummer’s Night Dream. While turning down Helena and her vows of love, Demetrious swooned after Hermia. Even through Demetrious knows that Hermia does not love him, he attempts to force Hermia into marriage. He uses Athenian law and ties with Hermia’s father to persuade her. Demetrious begs her, “relent, sweet Hermia” so the two can marry.  His actions display chivalry of devotion to his love.  This is seen when he follows Hermia into the woods to keep her from marrying someone else. Knowing that Hermia does not love him, he tries to coerce her despite her unhappiness. It depicts chivalry at this time as being on the edge of madness, the inability to accept no for an answer. The carelessness of love shows a hint of insanity as men go out of their way to win a woman’s heart. The satire of the love affair shows chivalry and courtship in a different light. This includes how people can lose themselves in the name of love.  It represents the lengths that people go to show loyalty, devotion, and determination, in order to have love and marriage with the one’s they love. This is through the acts of coxes and promises.


The poem by Christopher Marlowe further demonstrates how men attempted to capture a lady by material things and special deeds for love.  In the piece entitled, Passionate Shepherd, he bravely tells a Lady “Come live with me and be my love.”(1). The narrator is direct and straight to the point in his statements. He does not ask her to live with him, he simply tells her then attempt to adorn her with specialties. He believes it might bring her to live with him by offering her promises and vows.  He does not offer her jewels or a rich estate. He offers her beauty that only nature can provide. Everything from what they would do in  “that valleys, groves, hills, and fields; woods, or steepy mountain yields”(3-4), he also promises to coat her with the riches of the lands to dress her from head to foot.  The narrator vows to make her everything from “A cap of flowers,”(11) to “Fair lined slippers for the cold”(15).  His vows and what he would do for her love indicates to the reader that nature is riches and his proof of love.  Though he cannot offer her jewelry or fine clothes, the next best thing is the nature around him.  He wants to lull her into his lifestyle of “shallow rivers to whose falls; Melodioous birds sing madrigals”(7-8) to view nature how he does.  What he can create with nature’s beauty is what he would like to share with his maiden.  He wants to appeal her to nature because that is his perception of beauty as well as what he would like to see in a woman.  To get her he promises to merge his two loves, the love of the Maiden and his love for his surrounds.  To encompass the two he wants to make her “a kirtle; Embroidered all with leaves of “myrtle;” and “A gown made of the finest wool”(11-12).  Then after reciting all that he is willing to do for her, he asks, “if these pleasure may thee move,” (19). Simply asking her that if she likes what she hears, if she wants to live with nature with him and embody herself with its beauty. Doing this she can “come with me, and be my love”(20).  So that she can have what he has to offer and live a life with him.


Another comedy written by Shakespeare also displays women’s insistence in the pursuit of love.  In the comedy Twelfth Night, the character, Olivia falls in love at first sight with another character name Cesario.  She is very assertive and direct with her love coming off as a less dramatic character than Helena.  Olivia has less out burst of love and is level headed about the situation.  She appears to be more assertive in her pursuit of Cesario by attempting to chide him with jewels.  First she has her messenger give Cesario a ring in order to bring him back to her palace.  Later when they meet in the garden, she gives him a diamond brooch that contains a picture of herself.  All of these acts are a symbol of her adoration of him.  Olivia giving him riches and jewels also acknowledges her wealth, openly stating to Cesario that he may have more if they “prithee”.  She goes on to admit that she gave Cesario the ring to bring him back.  Putting her pride on the line she curiously asks, “let me hear you speak,”(III, i, 120). After it appears that Cesario is dumbfounded by Olivia’s love and adoration.  Though she does all these things to win Cesario’s affection, the only response he has is “I pity you.”(III, i, 121). While in conversation, Olivia is unable to contain her emotions much longer and releases a passionate declaration of love. She swears “everything, I love thee so, that maugre all thy pride, nor wit nor reason can my passion hide.”(III, i, 146-150)  Despite her spontaneous words of love she is unwanted. Rejected once by Cesario, Olivia does not hesitate to try again later on in Act IV. In this scene she directly asks for his hand in marriage.  This displays the boldness of women in their quest for love.  While most women chose their suitors carefully to ensure she is not married for money, Olivia is willing to share abundant fortune with her “servant”.


Courtship and chivalry is an act that couples do which leads to marriage. Individuals show their love and devotion for a love interest which can end with acceptance or rejection. In the two Shakespeare plays analyzed, loyalty and devotion is used in exchange for love. The characters go to great lengths to show their desires and affections. At then end of Mid Summer Night’s Dream, Helena marries Demetrius, and in Twelfth Night, Olivia marries Cesario’s twin brother -which is somewhat the same.  In the selected poetry, the acts of chivalry end in rejection. As seen in Song: To Celia, the narrator is rejected, but still is in love with the Lady.  This is the same for the poem Passionate Shepherd. In another poem written entitled The Nymph’s Reply, the author, Walter Raleigh, replays to the Passionate Shepherd with a poem of rejection. The poem argues that love is fleeting and often fades away. Just how nature dies when it changes to winter, the Shepherd’s love for her will die to.  It claims that the Shepherd’s words were untrue, comparing it to an infatuation or fling because like seasons change so do human feelings. It is heart breaking to see men and women rejected when they’re so loving and devoted to another.  With this ability to sympathize with the characters of the play and other poems, writes portray aspects of love that a 21st century reader can still relate. The idea of men practicing chivalry is still present today in modern America.  Men practicing chivalry is a practice that has been around for hundreds of years and probably will remain for hundreds more. However, the idea of women doing the same in today’s era is a hard concept to digest.  In movies and shows women starting to be more assertive when it comes to love and choosing a life partner. Even still women are not noticed for chivalry and courtship or for promises of love and devotion. They are noticed for their beauty and sexuality. This makes female chivalry displayed in Shakespeare’s comedy a radical concept for today’s time.

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Compulsory Heterosexuality and Lesbian Existence by Adrienne Rich, 1980

Adrienne Rich offers great insight into the male desire for dominance and control. This primal male characteristic is what drives the denial and negative associations given to lesbians and the lesbian existence. Rich gives great detail and history into what she calls, “the institution of heterosexuality and male dominance”, (Rich, 1980, p. 633). She provides a thorough and clever analysis of the male species and their need to dominate women. It is to stimulate the claim that women are weak and dependent creatures that require care and sexualization. The author admits the stereotypes and assumptions placed on women. As a result, Rich cites that women are consumers of victimization throughout history even though they hold the womb and are carriers of life. This causes men to be driven by women; the continuous cycle of coming home. The womb or women is the first source of home both literally and figuratively that is romanticized throughout history and literature.

Rich states: “If women are the earliest sources of emotional caring and physical nurture for both female and male children, it would seem logical, from a feminist perspective at least, to pose the following questions: whether the search for love and tenderness in both sexes does not originally lead toward women”, (Rich, 1980,p. 637). This provides a biological understanding on the case of lesbianism. Doing this Rich gathers credible points against the male denial of lesbian existence and other negative assumptions. Although male dominance has negative effects on feminism, the author answers fundamental questions of why this happens. This includes the real power and influence of women.

Rich goes on to say that, “The male need to control women sexually results from some primal male ‘fear of women’ and of women’s sexual insatiability…is that women could be indifferent to them altogether, that men could be allowed sexual and emotional therefore economic access to women only on women’s terms, otherwise being left on the periphery of the matrix”, (Rich, 1980, p. 644).

The root of the denial of lesbian existence has an apparent cause and effect. By better understanding the sexual harassment and heterosexual pressures that women are placed, the desire for male dominance and the institution of heterosexual male identity becomes clear. It is a failure of inequality and obligations to the important role that women play. They are not only mothers, they are wives, daughters, sisters, aunts, cousins, and the necessary function of life and the power and influence of overly sexualized and romanticized male ego.


Rich, A. (1980). Compulsory heterosexuality and lesbian existence. Women: Sex and Sexuality. 5(4) p. 631-60.

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Substance Use and Family-Centered Therapy: Adapting Therapy to Meet the Needs of African American Families

Drug abuse and substance addiction is a problem that affects families across the globe. This problem does not discriminate. It affects individuals from all walks of life, regardless of class, age, and cultural background. As a result, it is a problem that affects everyone. To better understand and treat addiction it is important to include family into the therapeutic framework. This is because family relates to “the set of beliefs and values known as ideology and culture”, (McCollum & Trepper, 2001, p. 16). Culture directly influences the individual and their family such as styles of communication, roles, and expectations. Culture is important to counseling. It can predict and determine environmental stressors or even treatment outcomes. To provide effective therapeutic services for families facing addiction, counselors must adapt family-centered therapy strategies to meet the needs of cultural groups. This can be observed in the African American client.

There are factors which can contribute to the onset of substance abuse. These are observed within the family environment. It can be seen in different families from various religions, backgrounds, and socio-economic class. Research conducted by K.L Kumpfer found predictors for substance abuse within the family environment includes:

  • Limited family bonding
  • Chaotic home environment
  • Poor parenting
  • History of substance abuse
  • Social isolation
  • Poor communication of values
  • Lack of discipline

Through the use of family-centered therapy, families facing addiction are able to learn interrelation skills, understanding, improved communication, improvements in parenting, and more. All of these qualities allow individuals and their families to overcome addiction and mend relationships. “Implemented to improve specific problem behavior such as substance abuse… family centered therapy can impact a broad range of other adolescent and adult outcomes such as improved school and job performance, mental health, delinquency, health, and goal attainment”, (Kumpfer, 2014). This is done by engaging family support through understanding and setting goals. However, to address the needs of the individual and their family, counselors must be aware of, acknowledge, and adapt to family culture and cultural differences. This is important to providing effective treatment and positive outcomes.

African Americans represent a unique culture within American society. They are impacted by a history of American slavery, racial discrimination, and social disparities in incarceration, class, and educational outcomes. In addition, African American families are more likely to drop out of therapy and less likely to seek out counseling. (Kelly, 2006). For this reason, therapist must practice cultural sensitivity to encourage participation and growth. When working with all clients whether they are culturally different are similar, counselors must be (1) aware of the significance of culture (2) use cultural differences as an expansion of self and (3) develop uniqueness and understanding of cultural differences, (Kelly, 2006). The best way to do this is to talk about culture. Openly discussing cultural traditions and values that set African Americans apart, counselors can gain an understanding of the African American family.

The aim of family-centered therapy is to treat the family and not the individual. In this way the family is observed as a functioning unit. Culture affects individuals and the whole family. When counseling a family that is culturally different, counselors must modify treatment according to cultural needs and dynamics. Research found that “adapting the program to target the needs and cultural sensitivities of the families… increased program success”, (Kumpfer, 2014). It is important for therapist to address the culture and cultural differences observed in families. This includes validating, supporting, and acknowledging cultural similarities and differences. Gaining understanding of how culture shapes the family structure, counselors can apply appropriate strategies for treatment and improved treatment outcomes.  It can be done by taking simple measures. “Therapists may respectfully ask African Americans to share aspects of their heritage and background of which they are proud, and then acknowledge and validate those strengths”, (Kelly, 2006, p. 109). This can help clients and counselors to develop a rapport with one another and establish comfort as well as address cultural assumptions. In addition, counselors can also use this as an assessment tool and strategy for treatment. For instance, when these cultural strengths are lacking within the family it can be used as a goal to rebuild and reinstate cultural values.

Racism, discrimination, and cultural stereotypes are a problem facing African American families. It also negatively affects individuals within the family as members can internalize these assumptions. When this happens it can encourage poor mental health for the client and his or her relationships with others. “Negative racial identity is strongly associated with greater personal distress… therapist need to assess the degree to which their African American clients internalize racist and self-blaming societal messages”, (Kelly, 2006). This is important because it can affect family structures, roles, and rules. African American men, especially feel the pressures of society including racial bias and cultural stigma. They may feel worthless, less likely to succeed, or encouraged to meet the demands of racial stereotypes. When this occurs it affects the roles and rules for African American women and their relationship with their loved one. In this case women may feel the need to verbally castrate male family members or test their boundaries or male identity. According to Kelly this is also a common theme found in African American families because it comes from social stereotypes. As a result, negative themes related to the African American identity are most often found in those suffering from substance abuse, (Kelly, 2006).

“Family systems theory recognizes and respects the importance of each system in the ecology of the individual, from his or her own internal processes to the social and cultural forces”, (McCollum & Trepper, 2001, p. 16). Family systems theory recognizes the importance of culture and how this shapes the individual and the family unit. This includes the African American culture and family dynamics. Black families are heavily affected by incarceration, single-parent households, and single-mothers. It is a common assumption that African American households are fatherless homes, some children do not know or have a relationship with their father. Regardless of these myths, African Americans are heavily impacted by racial stereotypes and cultural disparities. Family centered therapy recognizes the importance and influence of family as well as how individuals are affected by the family structure. For this reason, family systems theory is a therapeutic approach that is popular to treat individuals suffering from substance abuse. This is because family systems theory recognizes the risks and stressors which stimulate and contribute to addiction. By attacking the problem within his or her family environment, members can develop strategies to improve on themselves as well as their relationships with others. As a result, research has found that, “family based interventions are the most effective way of preventing or treating substance abuse”, (Kumpfer, 2014).



Kelly, S. (2006). Cognitive-behavioral therapy with African americans. In P.A Hays & G.Y  Iwamasa (Eds.) Culturally responsive cognitive behavioral therapy: Assessment, practice, and supervision (pp. 97-116). Washington, DC: American Psychological Association. Retrieved from:

Kumpfer, K. (2014). Family-based interventions for prevention of substance abuse and other impulse control disorders in girls. International Scholarly Research Notices Addiction. 2014(2). 1-23. Retrieved from:

Snyder, W. (2013). Understanding the family in context: Family systems theory and practice. In E.E McCollum & T.S Trepper (Eds.) Family solutions for substance abuse: Clinical and counseling approaches (pp. 11-33). New York, NY. Routledge Press.

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