I prefer to read fiction but the title of this book and the sub-heading, ‘Women Share What it Takes to Really Stay Married,’ got my attention. In university I had to read all sorts of non-fiction. I enjoyed ethnographies and skimming a few pages of this book made me decide to give it a whirl. After all, I find marriage quite difficult in many ways and maybe I could learn something! I can hardly expect to get good marriage tips from Real Housewives episodes! Ha ha. (But I sure do enjoy some of those series!).
In this book, the author interviews all kinds of women who have been in long term marriages. Their stories are interesting and there is a lot one can relate to, chuckle at, or be horrified by. The biggest disconnect I felt with this book, personally, is that the women are from a very different generation despite being somewhat ethnically and economically diverse. I am not sure if all their issues are the same issues a newly married woman in today’s culture would be facing over the next few decades to make marriage work. The author ties in her own marriage to connect the chapters and does not necessarily agree with the recommendations the women make. Neither do I! Different things work for different people and the recommendations include everything from spending all your time together and not with others- unless you are together-to having occasional affairs, to separate summer vacations.
Nevertheless, some main themes that seemed to arise is that marriage is major undertaking and never what one expects (they got that right!). The author actually says something along the lines of navigating a marriage day-to-day is hell! The happily ever after storybook promise is way off! In my opinion, the story really begins once the wedding is over. The advice the author offers is that there are three things that can help a marriage. These are to resolve your problems, interact regularly (ask about each other’s days and make sure to touch and be physical), as well overcome roadblocks and move on rather than getting into a cycle of anger and resentment. I think this last one can be hard but you really have to let some things go at times, no matter how hard it is, if you want to move forward.
In the book, trouble also seems to hit many of the wives when kids started arriving. It seemed like there was lots of tension, inequality, and resentment during this phase. Hmmm. Many of the wives also felt they lost a sense of self during their marriages which they had to find again when the kids went off to college. This could be through hobbies or working again. Once they found this, they seemed to be more satisfied again. Of course, it also seemed as if the men mellowed out as the years passed and that helped as well.
Keeping interest in hobbies and activities important to oneself before meeting the man was also a key element. Two people occasionally going away and doing different things and coming back together to share is healthy and leads to marital satisfaction. I could see that. Finally, accepting a spouse for who they actually are and not who you hope they will be is also important. This reminds me of a joke I once heard. The joke was that a woman married a man and spent all her time grooming him into what she hoped he would be. Once he finally changed-after years and years together-she felt depressed. Her therapist asked her what was wrong she said he wasn’t the man she fell in love with married in the first place! J You just can’t win!
Here are a few other interesting facts from the book:
- Most divorces take place in the first 8 years of marriage and are initiated by women
- 44% of Americans under 30 believe marriage is headed for extinction but 95% still want to get married! Seems as if there is something appealing about it all (or is it the wedding they want?).
- The average bride today is 27 and the average groom is 29