Thursday, May 27, 2010

Book #2: Committed

I have been reading up a storm, both for school and for fun. My summer class has me reading about individuals with disabilities and it is truly very interesting. My fun reading is all across the board.

Last weekend I picked up Committed: A Skeptic Makes Peace with Marriage by Elizabeth Gilbert, and I've struggled to put it down. Her last book, Eat, Pray Love, was one of my absolute favorite books. The story of her journey of self discovery that led her across the world was so inspiring, and of course, a best seller. I absolutely cannot wait for the movie to come out later this summer.

In her new book, Gilbert picks up somewhat where she left off, having started a relationship with a Brazilian man, "Felipe," while she was in Bali, with whom she made a commitment of eternal fidelity, along with a vow to never get married. Unfortunately the pair runs into some immigration issues that force them to reconsider the latter, when they are basically told that they must get married in order for them to be together in the United States. While waiting for everything to process, the pair journey across the world to Southeast Asia, where Gilbert spends her time researching and examining the customs, traditions, and realities of marriage.

For those like me, who loved Eat, Pray, Love,  be warned that this is a different book, but not in a bad way. Gilbert starts off with a note to the reader, pondering how it is that she can follow up a book that was so popular and had such an impact on people (while being a deeply personal journey), knowing that there would be certain expectations from her readers, a different crowd than in the past. She struggled, writing this book, and then leaving it, then starting completely over.

While this is another memoir, one about making peace with marriage, her personal stories of travel and relationships are interspersed with the data and history of marriage. She shares some useful insights, including the results of a Rutgers University report titled, "Alone Together: How Marriage is Changing in America," which shares results of a marriage survey done over 20 years and factors which predicted a successful marriage. As someone who is 27 years-old and not yet married, there were a few factors I was excited to see, including level of education and age as two pluses. Apparently if you can wait until you are over 25 to get married, you are more likely to stick it out. Hooray for that!

I'm at that age where friends and colleagues are getting married left and right, and the focus often becomes wrapped around chair covers and engagement photos, plus all of those other little details that you would never think would be important. For some people, those little details are what make the wedding fun and personal. To me, they are overwhelming and often, costly. As so much in the media focuses on the wedding, it was interesting to think more about the marriage piece. One day versus a lifetime (hopefully).

Perhaps my favorite part of the book was the section in which Gilbert talks about expectations for a partner. In society today, there is the expectation that your partner should "complete you" (thanks Jerry Maguire) - they should be your soulmate, your inspiration, your source of life, etc. That is probably not very realistic and is likely to lead to disappointment. Gilbert argues for the importance of realistic expectations and that "one plus sometimes supposed to equal two." She also talks about keeping hobbies and interest of one's own and being okay with being your own person.

I appreciated the stories from Gilbert's travels, her interviews with family members and a glimpse into her internal conversations as she considers marriage. While the history gets a little heavy at times, it was definitely an interesting read. Check it out!

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