When I worked at Barnes & Noble I had a terrible habit; I would judge a person simply on their reading choices. People who bought biographies or histories of people or times that I thought interesting were deemed worthy of further conversation. Those that chose to to peruse the New Age or Self Improvement areas could be prayed for. Someone who inquired about computer tomes such as C++ could be strategically ignored. Romance readers were to be pitied and Sports readers could be humored.
At the bottom of the list though were the ladies who walked in and asked for Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert. Gilbert's book was an anecdotal biography of the new life she found after divorce traveling the world and her experiences with food (Eat), spirituality (Pray), and eventually romance with a Brazilian man she meets in Indonesia (Love). Not a day went by that some lady didn't come in asking for that book and I got to admit, I got a little cynical. Probably because I have traveled the world experiencing food, spirituality, and ultimately my lover but she's making millions on her story and I'm...well...maybe I need to write a book instead of this stupid blog :)
Anyhow, you can imagine how I felt when I saw she was releasing a new book on marriage called Committed that details her relationship with her lover from Eat, Pray, Love All I could think was, "Thank God I'm not at the book store anymore" :)
But when I read a CNN article interview with Gilbert I was dumbfounded.
I totally agreed with her take on marriage...at least most of it!
Gilbert did a lot of research into the history of marriage and how it is implemented in various cultures. She mentions that when cultures move from more conservative values based on commitment to more liberal notions of marriages based on love then divorce rates increase. I must admit, whenever someone has said to me that the reason they divorced was the love was gone, I'm always like, "Huh?". What has that got to do with it.
If you look at the history of marriage, anytime you see a conservative culture of arranged marriage being replaced by a more liberal culture of romantic marriage ... you will see divorce rates start to rise immediately.
It turns out that love is a very fragile notion upon which to base a very important and complicated institution. I think most people throughout history would look at the way we choose our marriages today and just think, my God, these people took huge risks. They risk their future, financial stability, property and their heirs on something as fragile and delicate as romantic affection.
It's not that that necessarily means that I advocate a return to arranged marriage, it just helps put in perspective why contemporary western marital arrangements can become so chaotic.
When love dies, and that's the only thing that holds you together, there is nothing to keep the marriage intact.
I couldn't have said it better myself.