What Keeps Couples Together

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Speak up for better parental leave policies. The United States lags way behind other nations that have far fewer resources but higher family priorities," says Coontz. Paid maternity leave is a basic social right in most European countries. In fact, it's compulsory in the weeks just before and after childbirth (Germany gives women six weeks off with pay before and eight weeks off after giving birth, for instance). Sweden has a smart way of encouraging paternal leave: Mothers and fathers get the same amount of time off -- but if the father does not take it, the mother cannot.

Talk to your human resources department and your local legislators about instituting more family-friendly leave policies. "Our social policies are archaic and way behind those of every other major industrial society," says Coontz. "Unless we do something to agitate the country into starting better programs, our problems won't go away."

Let yourself -- and your spouse -- off the hook. The conditions of marriage have changed all around us, but we haven't changed our attitudes about or support systems for it," says Coontz. "We're dealing with an economic and political structure that is absolutely unresponsive to the needs of parents and couples." So instead of pitting yourself against your spouse because you're not getting the help you need, try to look at it this way: We're in this together against a society that's giving us little support. In the end, that may go a long way toward helping you appreciate -- and preserve -- your union.

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