Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Committed

"Committed: A Skeptic Makes Peace with Marriage" by Elizabeth Gilbert; ©2010, Viking Penguin

Over the holidays I made a trip to the library with my children. They each selected books and I wandered, looking for one of my own. No book club selections were available, but as I turned from the computer I noticed a rack of books nearby. The name Elizabeth Gilbert jumped out from the cover of a book. Having read "Eat, Pray, Love", I was already familiar with whom Ms Gilbert was. Yes, I was smitten with her tales of food, travel, salvation through meditation, and of course love. I suppose her name alone sold me on the book, just as the large font of her moniker was supposed to. So home I went with this book that suggested a struggle with the very ideals of marriage.

"Committed" picks up where "Eat, Pray, Love" left off. In the former book, Gilbert had fallen in love with a dashing stranger and then tentatively explored possibly finding new happiness with him. This time around though, she was leery of the precepts of eternal devotion, as presented by the tenets of the marriage contract. No, her and her partner had too many scars to ever consider formally stepping into the marital bounds again. That is, until he is arrested at the border, as they try to re-enter the US. He is told that he will not be allowed to come back into the country, until such time as he legally makes the United States his home - via marriage.

The couple is horrified.

While the idea of marriage does not usually elicit dark and gloomy faces from most people, these two still have wounds that make them skittish at the very thought of marriage. It is fine for some, but they had always sworn to never marry, even whilst making claims to be devoted to one another exclusively. Gilbert takes their time in exile from the States to explore marriage, what it meant to her, the people she met on the road and also set herself to discover what more she could unearth about the state of unions throughout history. At times, the tale is almost immature in its insistence of how horrible it all is, but when you look at the stats (just over 50% in the US and just under that mark in Canada), perhaps it is only naive of me to think that there aren't a whole host of others that are as gun-shy of marriage as she is.

As Gilbert delves into historical models of marriage and her understanding of how she thought it was supposed to work, she unearths some interesting facts; like the 50s in the US weren't always chock-a-block full of happy June Cleavers. And as she further discovers, while divorce rates seemed extraordinarily high, those statistics were skewed when comparing first and second-time marriages. In case you were wondering, secondary marriages had much lower divorce rates. I found that interesting from a clinical perspective, but also a personal level. How many of my peers are in the process of separating? Am I not also in a significant relationship that could ultimately lead to a secondary marriage (which I would rather not think of as doomed to failure).

Ultimately, she has some interesting thoughts and facts, but the text left me feeling that she still has a few more demons to banish before she can forgive her past experiences. But then again, don't we all have our skeletons in the closet that we sometimes wish would just disappear? And don't those mistakes and heartaches make us stronger, wiser individuals that are more willing to make decisions for ourselves, which hopefully includes making the decision to accept happiness and love into our lives once again? As you can probably guess, Gilbert did tie the knot once again and stepped into marriage wilfully.

May we all find that peace ourselves.

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