I just read an article in The Handmaiden by Fr. John Mack. It was a question/answer style article and the question asked was "What are the problems causing the breakdown of marriage today? Has that changed from, say, fifty years ago?"
"I've done a lot of thinking about this one, especially as I talk to couples. I really believe that the number one problem today is the fact that most of us live seperate from our extended family. We live in a world in which the family unit, the nuclear family, is very often isolated from an extended family, from a community. We don't see our extended family often, we don't even know our neighbors. We're so busy going back and forth to work that there's not a sense of community. What has happened is that the individual relationship between husband and a wife has to be so much more than it was eighty years ago. When I talk to people who have been married 50-60 years, they have a realistic attitude about their marriage--'My husband is wonderful, but there are some things that he doesn't do well.' But most of those people lived in the context of a larger family or community in which they never expected their husbands or wives to meet their every need. Thus they were able to support each other and receive from each other, without demanding that the marriage be everything.
It seems to me in our modern day, when we're so isolated from our extended family and community, there's so much more pressure on the relationship. Especially when you add kids. In the old days, when your child was driving you nuts, you could say, 'Would you go across the street and spend some time with Aunt Jane?' You could pass your child off and have some time to reflect. Now, in most families, we live in our little houses. We come home and we're tired from work. The nuclear family has to do everything. God never intended the nuclear family to be everything. I often say to husbands and wives that there is no way that one person is going to meet all of your emtional needs. It's not possible. We have to live our marriages out in light of a larger community."
And makes me wish even more desperately for the gap of 1700 miles to close between my extended family and me.