Elizabeth Gilbert’s year-long search to uncover the truth about marriage
Elizabeth Gilbert’s memoir Eat, Pray, Love was one of the most popular books of the last decade. Gilbert is now married to Felipe, the Brazilian man she met in the “Love” part of that story, and has published a follow-up book called Committed: A Skeptic Makes Peace with Marriage. <!–more–>
Committed combines history, science, anecdotal research, and Gilbert’s own personal experiences to explore the concept of institutionalized fidelity and expose some interesting truths about love and marriage. The author was recently interviewed by CNN, where she discussed infatuation vs. marital love, arranged marriages, and why getting married benefits men way more than women. After reading this interview, I rushed out to by the book. (Well okay, I rushed over to Amazon, and will keep you posted when it arrives.) I can’t wait to read what promises to be an enlightening analysis of this crazy ride called marriage. Here’s an excerpt from the interview:
CNN: After writing this book do you still feel that marriage is “suffocating and old-fashioned and irrelevant”?
Gilbert: It can be. It also doesn’t need to be. What I did find after all this work was that it’s a far more complicated story than I thought it was. What I’ve discovered is that it’s not so much a boxy, rigid institution, but a thousands-of-years-old, ever-evolving, liquid, flexible, malleable social science experiment that we are still very much tinkering with and that people will tinker with for as long as there’s such a thing as institutionalized couplehood. I feel more like I’m part of something that’s very old and interesting rather than having been shoved into a container that doesn’t fit me.
CNN: Marriage has often been portrayed as something that protects women. But you found in your book that it benefits men the most. Were you surprised by that?
Gilbert: It’s surprising, though it shouldn’t be. Looking at study after study, it becomes quite chilling to see how very much benefited men are by marriage. Married men perform in life exceptionally better than single men, they live longer, they’re richer, they’re happier.
CNN: And yet men are often reluctant to enter into marriage.
Gilbert: Which is the big irony. They have to be dragged kicking and screaming into something that will benefit them enormously in life. And the cruel irony is that the people who drag them kicking and screaming into it — the women — are the ones who often find that they’ve gotten the short end of the stick. Women give more and as a result they give up more. I think the other problem is that women go into marriage with such high expectations, really inflated romantic ideas about what this relationship is going to be. Men go into marriage with virtually no expectations whatsoever. Ten years later, the men are delightfully surprised to find out that it’s actually kind of nice, and the women have sort of had to take a nose dive from what they thought it was going to be.
CNN: You didn’t want a big public wedding, which may shatter the wedding industry.
Gilbert: I don’t think there’s any danger whatsoever that anything I could say would shatter the wedding industry. It’s well entrenched. Not since I was about 13 years old, and obsessed with Charles and Diana’s wedding, could I say that I have fantasized about the big white wedding. I have lots of romantic fantasies, that just doesn’t happen to be in my playbook. But I recognize that it’s something a lot of people care about, and I respect that. I do think, though, that it’s really important if we are to become adults, if we are to graduate out of girlhood and into womanhood, that one of the most important steps we have to take is to begin to recognize the difference between a wedding and a marriage. I think a lot of people who feel as though they desperately want to be married oftentimes simply desperately want to have a wedding.
CNN: Your romance with Felipe is very grown-up. You describe it as “real, sane, mature love — the kind that pays the mortgage.” Will a 25-year-old person reading your book get it?
Gilbert: There is not a single doubt in my mind I would not have listened to a word of this when I got engaged at 23. I don’t think you can come into your wisdom until you have made mistakes on your own skin and felt them in reality of your own life. There’s a wonderful expression, a Brazilian adage, that says most people never learn anything at all, very smart people learn from their own mistakes, and the geniuses learn from other people’s mistakes.