Publication Date


Type of Culminating Activity


Degree Title

Master of Arts in Communication



Major Advisor

Laurel Traynowicz, Ph.D.


Questions about what makes a marriage work are treated widely in the popular press. This study seeks to discover how we learn about marriage through self-help books. According to Cameron (2007), these texts can become a part of our construction of everyday life. Therefore this study focuses on how marital self-help books frame the institution, and whether relational dialectics were present in each book. Two books— Laura Schlessinger’s The Proper Care and Feeding of Marriage and John Gottman’s Seven Principles of Making Marriage Work—were selected through an exhaustive process. A thematic analysis was conducted on each text, and topics were compared and contrasted to discover if there was a unified theme. Results showed different paradigms operating in both texts, which made it difficult to determine one central theme. Relational dialectics were not acknowledged meaningfully in either book. Counselors and consumers can use this research to open dialogue about what messages are the most helpful in constructing a marriage.