Tripping on Cobblestones

What I’m Reading: Committed by Elizabeth Gilbert

I brought this book along on our recent trip to Cozumel hoping I could get some reading done on the beach. I had figured it would be light and fun, perhaps reminiscent of it’s predecessor, Eat, Pray Love. Well, that was a very wrong assumption.

This book is effectively research done on marriages in societies around the world. What the reader will find in it’s pages are anecdotes and factoids relating to everything from “Who might you have been forced to marry in the 1700’s” to the history of marriage in religion throughout the centuries. It may sound like I disliked this book, and that would be false. I did enjoy it because it points out so many fallacies and inconsistencies in the institution of marriage. This just wasn’t proper beach reading. I do feel like I learned a lot and I was given a few tools to evaluate my own marriage in terms of it’s feminist qualities and our own very special set of circumstances. I felt pretty solid after reading Gilbert’s words, even though many of them had a slight sense of doom and gloom.

I even began pondering the title of the book even: Committed. Typically when you think of being “committed” in marriage you think of someone saying “Oh yes, I am so committed to my relationship” and they say this with an air of love encircled around it. I was getting the feeling that Gilbert was using it in the more morbid sense of “The State committed the man…”. The more I read the more Gilbert’s sense of commitment in her pending marriage felt like entrapment. Oddly though it was comforting that someone else could feel that way about an arrangement documented on a piece of paper. I’m sure everyone has felt stuck or held down at least one point in the marriage, but what I’ve always thought was strong about that paper was that it makes it hard for people to leave the marriage when times get a little off kilter. If you had the opportunity to just walk out on someone if they burnt your toast things might get a lot thicker for the people left behind paying for mortgages, raising children and carrying on with life without that spousal support. Divorce is hard so people fight for stability (most of the time). But I learned not to assume that, as most marriages are actually much weirder than they appear to the average person. Ah, so much to digest, Gilbert!

Overall I enjoyed this book. There are so many anecdotes and scenarios that made me question my assumptions of marriage and you really do get a more world view of how it all works. I’d recommend this to anyone, literally. There’s the political revelations, the religious curiosities and lots of room for self reflection. When it gets to the core of the book, I think it’s really about challenging society’s notion of normal and expected outcomes. Gilbert lets you see that you don’t have to play into rules that everyone thinks you do. Gilbert shares a secret with her readers: when it comes to marriage, no one has a clue what the heck they’re doing. And neither will you.

You can purchase this book from Amazon here:

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