Title: Committed: A Skeptic Makes Peace with Marriage
Author: Elizabeth Gilbert
Page Count: 279
I’ve been on a bit of an Elizabeth Gilbert kick since reading Eat, Pray, Love (see here and here), so my next two reviews are also Gilbert books. It is too simple to say that I’m reading more of her work because I like her. She has an interesting voice. I’m fascinated with the leap she made as an author and with the spiritual peace she has found. She puzzles me more than I like her. And she is a good writer — her stories are compelling and her prose is thoughtful and precise.
So, Committed. It’s basically a follow-up to EPL, at the end of which she enters a relationship with “Felipe” (actual name Jose Nunes, if you are incurably curious, like moi). Long story short, they end up having to get married because of citizenship issues. In the year it takes the government to process their case, Gilbert researches the history of marriage, trying to prepare herself to enter it again. The book is equal parts personal experience and research, weaving stories, quotes, and data. Of course, as a newly married woman, I was very interested in this book. A few issues stand out:
- The long-term success of arranged marriages. Not that I advocate arranged marriage (I’m glad I chose my own husband!), but I think arranged marriages do come with a helpful concept — that of not leaving. My faith leads me to believe that marriage is forever (with a few exceptions, of course), that you go into it believing that you will be together “until death do you part.” That belief leads me to fight for my marriage more. Not naively to believe we won’t have problems, but to believe we will work through them. Several of Gilbert’s findings support that belief (although she does not).
- For women, marriage = sacrifice. Although this reality is changing, marriage often requires a woman to choose between family and career. It is easy (and I have) to see women who desire a career as money or power hungry, but Gilbert conveys the dreams that women in her family have given up in a way that is heart-breaking. She struggles, as I sometimes do now, with the expectation that a wife will stay home, essentially confined to the circle of family and raising children. Like I said, it is becoming easier for women to juggle both, but it remains a major consideration in marriage.
- Marriage is a community concern. Gilbert struggles with the community and government involvement in marriage, but she also tells positive stories of marriage concerning family, friends, and leaders.
Marriage is a complicated institution. Because of my background and beliefs, I believe strongly in it, but I understand some of Elizabeth Gilbert’s reservations and confusion. Outside of a Judeo-Christian viewpoint, marriage as we know it makes little sense.
Is Committed worth the read? Probably only if you’re interested in marriage or relationships. Or the inner workings of Gilbert’s mind (again, moi). It’s a great read, but it is entirely about marriage. You’ve been warned.
Do you have questions or doubts about marriage? Have you read Gilbert (beyond Eat, Pray, Love)? Let me know in the comments!