Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Book Review: The New I Do

"If nothing else, the dramatic changes in the marital landscape over the decades has proven that marriage can be an incredibly adaptable and inclusive institution-if it's called on to be so."

This is the bold statement which begins to sum up one of Seal Press's newest releases, "The New I Do: Reshaping Marriage for Skeptics, Realists and Rebels". It's only a hair over 200 pages, yet it is packed with information. I underlined a phrase nearly every page and my copy is littered with post notes.

Authors Susan Pease Gadoua and Vicki Larson offer ways to reshape and redo marriage since nearly half of all contemporary marriages still end in divorce.They believe that "rather than continue to encourage people to cram themselves into an old model that isn't working for many....we want to acknowledge what's already happening and encourage you to think about new ways to marry."

New ways indeed. They offer several options: the Starter Marriage, Companionship Marriage, Parenting Marriage, Living Alone Together Marriage, Covenant Marriage, Safety Marriage and the Open Marriage. Gadoua and Larson lay out the pros and cons of each option, along with any relevant history or origins. They also make it clear that while some partnerships may end, to view the marriage as failed would be a mistake. The authors believe "marriage should be considered 'successful' by what it has accomplished, not by how long it lasts".

These choices show that there are many ways to do marriage and while your neighbor's or your best friend's marriage may not look like yours, if it works for them, who's to judge? One aspect that is highlighted throughout the book is this idea of a "real" marriage. Many people have a stereotypical idea of what a "real" marriage looks like: "Too often we are presented with the false choice between a life-long loving marriage and a lonely, un married life. But those are far from the only options." And the authors include several real life interviews from people, already adapting these marriages to their own lives.

A chapter on pre-nuptial agreements rounds out the book and it's a good place to end. One of the biggest themes of the book is about communication. Very few marriages survive broken communication and unresolved mis-understandings. The book states that "there's a huge disconnect in how people conceptualize marriage and how they act once they're in it." Pre-nuptial agreements aside, to begin to implement any of these marriage options requires a lot of communication. Even if you choose none of these marriages, opening the discussion about these options and what they offer could be beneficial to a partnership.

Marriage and the many ways it is included in peoples' lives are always being analyzed and rehashed, least of all with gay marriage becoming legal in many places, both domestic and abroad. This book adds to the conversation that marriage is a changeable, permeable aspect of our society. The advice and options offer a new and important take on marriage for the 21st century and how to make it last or not with the changing times.

(Photo Credit: Seal Press)

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