Her newest book, Committed is an exploration of the Western idea of marriage. Much to her reluctance, her own life circumstances have pushed her to marry the man that she loves, even though they are quite happy to live without the document of marriage.
In her interview, Liz talks about the wild, unrealistic expectations we put on marriage and the strange respect we seem to give anyone who has entered the institution, even though the act of getting a wedding license is one of the simplest things to do. Why have we fetishized marriage to such a degree in our society?
I couple of great quotes from the interview (loosely paraphrased):
“People used to make decisions of marriage based on very practical reasons on what would benefit their families and community, no one would ever think to hang their future prospects, prosperity, and happiness on something as fickle as romantic affection.”
“That is one of the greatest delusions we live under—balance. That we can have it all, that we can be both autonomous AND connected equally, simultaneously. That somehow we can achieve this if we can only figure out this magic equation of balance.”
These and other ideas in the interview really got my attention, as someone who is sublimely happy, but also sublimely challenged, in my own domestic partnership with the love of my life, Shane.
Growing up, I had such foolish notions about love and marriage. I imagined that my partner would help me become a better person by virtue of a relationship of such overwhelming mutual admiration (idealization), that we would both be perpetually-inspired to try to live up to the other. I imagined myself in a hetero-normative dynamic in which I would probably be the one bringing home the bacon. Most of all, though, I foolishly thought that I had such a willing domestic nature and such insight into human relationships that it would be easy for me to open up my heart and share my life with another person.
Reality has been oh so different. Shane and I do push each other to be better people, because we demand it of each other, because being in a relationship of two strong-willed people demands greater patience, forgiveness, and love. No one knows our personal faults quite as keenly as we know each others. As it turns out, I am actually VERY autonomous and like a lot of personal space and freedom. Domesticity and sharing a life does not come easily to me. Also, while Shane and I are both very committed to the idea of building a family together, including adopting a child at some point, we both love to work and love the nature of our work. We will have to navigate a new path that would allow us to work and raise a child.
So far, Commited has been a great read. Comfortable, easy prose and very stark, unsentimental perspective of the ever-evolving institution of marriage in the Western world. I am certainly learning a lot about the cultural underpinnings of this institution and can’t wait to finish it (which I suspect will be in another day or two).