Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)




Despite concerns about the decline of marriage in the United States, research has consistently revealed that getting married and staying married remain important to Americans. The value attached to marriage, however, is coupled with an ethic of individualism that results in a focus on personal satisfaction and fulfillment in marriage. While this individualized marriage has been established at both the macro level as part of an American marriage culture and at the micro level in the preferences and actions of individuals, less attention has focused on how communities mediate, respond, and react to these beliefs. I draw from a comparative study of Catholic and evangelical Protestant marriage preparation programs to analyze how religious communities interpret cultural shifts in marriage and provide their members with lenses to understand them in their daily lives. In addition to research at six archives, the study includes ethnographic observations of four marriage preparation curricula and seventy interviews with participating couples and leaders of these and other programs. Through this research, I examine how religious groups craft discourses on the “good” and “Godly” marriage by drawing from broader therapeutic discourses and religious imagery. In addition to showing how this has implications for constructions of gender and sexuality, I consider the reception of these messages among premarital couples. My findings help to contextualize analyses of religious and marital change by situating recent cultural shifts within the broader development of a therapeutic culture.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License.

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