Yet under the new soul-mate model of marriage, divorce could be an opportunity for growth not only for adults but also for their offspring.
The view was that divorce could protect the emotional welfare of children by allowing their parents to leave marriages in which they felt unhappy.
In 1962, as Whitehead points out in her book The Divorce Culture, about half of American women agreed with the idea that "when there are children in the family parents should stay together even if they don't get along." By 1977, only 20% of American women held this view.
At the height of the divorce revolution in the 1970s, many scholars, therapists, and journalists served as enablers of this kind of thinking.
The new law eliminated the need for couples to fabricate spousal wrongdoing in pursuit of a divorce; indeed, one likely reason for Reagan's decision to sign the bill was that his first wife, Jane Wyman, had unfairly accused him of "mental cruelty" to obtain a divorce in 1948.
But no-fault divorce also gutted marriage of its legal power to bind husband and wife, allowing one spouse to dissolve a marriage for any reason — or for no reason at all.
In this new psychological approach to married life, one's primary obligation was not to one's family but to one's self; hence, marital success was defined not by successfully meeting obligations to one's spouse and children but by a strong sense of subjective happiness in marriage — usually to be found in and through an intense, emotional relationship with one's spouse.
The 1970s marked the period when, for many Americans, a more institutional model of marriage gave way to the "soul-mate model" of marriage.
Most important, the psychological revolution of the late '60s and '70s, which was itself fueled by a post-war prosperity that allowed people to give greater attention to non-material concerns, played a key role in reconfiguring men and women's views of marriage and family life.
Prior to the late 1960s, Americans were more likely to look at marriage and family through the prisms of duty, obligation, and sacrifice.