Thursday, December 09, 2010

Reading Committed

Over at A Practical Wedding, Megan is holding a discussion on Elizabeth Gilbert's book, "Committed." For those of you who aren't familiar with it, it's the follow up to "Eat, Pray, Love." Gilbert, after living with boyfriend Felipe for a few years with no intention of marrying him, had to marry him in order for him to live in this country. A Skeptic makes peace with marriage, indeed. This is one of my favorite books that I've read this year, and a wonderful treatise on marriage as it's been in the past, how it is in the present, and how it might be in the future. This is my comment, responding to the questions that Megan posed about the book:

Do you think there is something that marriages, generally or individually, can offer to the larger community? Economically? Socially? Emotionally? For our neighborhood, our nation, our friend group, our families, or another group?
I think it’s the same thing that any unit – family, team, community, offers to the outside world and to each other. The world works better in cooperation. And we all choose our teams.

Has the evolution of men’s and women’s roles in our social network negatively or positively affected our marriages in the Western world?
The best answer to that is “yes”. I’m only going to speak for women I know in my generation – we were raised to believe that we can do anything, get an education, [have a career], get married, have kids, raise them, [all at the same time] but we weren’t really aware of the consequences/compromises involved, probably because the people who were telling us this didn’t realize it themselves. The men, I think – THINK – weren’t raised with the same urgency or pressure to have it all. Their pressure is still different, that drive to be a financial success, and there’s an expectation that everything else will work itself out. And just from my observation, women kind of buy into that, as well – “he’s not/can’t take care of it, so I have to.” They’re the ones working it out. That being said, more women are saying, yeah, I need your help, and more men are saying okay, what do you need, and giving it to them.

Early in the book, Elizabeth Gilbert says that “every intimacy carries the ever-coiled makings of complete catastrophe.” Do you think that’s true of your relationship? Does it make you feel doomed, or hopeful?
Well, yeah, and it’s not just a couple relationship. It’s how no one can make you feel bad like your parents can,with like, one word! When you love someone, you care what they think, a lot, you want them to think well of you, you want them to understand you, and that’s not easy or even possible in some cases. It doesn’t make me feel doomed or hopeful, it’s just life and living. But it’s also a matter of perspective, like, “I don’t like your pasta dish” is not the equivalent of “you’re a horrible person and I want you to die.”

how might we work together as a society to construct a world where healthy children can be raised with out women having to scrape bare the walls of their own souls to do it?
Well, for one thing, women need to stop accepting that they’re the ones who have to make all the sacrifices. It’s a choice. And for another, both men and women need to be aware that there are sacrifices that have to be made. I mean, he might not get it, either, and if you’re just moseying along all scraped and not saying anything, then..? You’d be surprised what happens after you raise your hand and say, “This sucks.”

How has/have your own parents’ marriage(s) influenced your view of marriage?
I was raised by a single mom sans Dad, and it could get pretty chaotic. For a while there, I thought, okay, if there was a GUY, then he could take control of this stuff and everything might calm down. And, uhh, a couple of relationships in my 20s cured me of that idea! He doesn’t know anything more than you do,and expecting that he will will leave you severely disappointed. Relationships need to be a partnership, or someone is definitely going to be soul-scraped.

On page 35 Liz states “… the person whom you choose to marry is perhaps the single most vivid representation of your own personality. Your spouse becomes the most gleaming possible mirror through which your emotional individualism is reflected back to the world.” Do you agree or disagree with this statement?
As in, “You’re the kind of woman who would choose to marry that guy”? “Kind of woman” and “that guy” = different things to different people, and that's not really something any of us can control. Context is important. Whether or not you care what other people think is important, too. I mean the response to this statement could be, “yeah, so?”

How did Gilbert’s list of demographics’ effect on marriage make you feel about the prospects of your own marriage?
I already knew most of it, but I did love the history part. I think what stood out for me, as others have said, is that marriage wasn’t always any one thing, and for most of history, it wasn’t about love – we didn’t get to decide who we were going to spend the rest of our lives with. Now, we can choose who we marry, and why. What most people need to realize is that we can also choose what our marriages look like.

What are your responses to Megan's questions?I’ve often contemplated buying it for every couple I work with, but I’m never sure how that would be taken!

See you at the end of the aisle,

Liz Coopersmith
Silver Charm Events
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