Everything you wanted to know about marriage but were afraid to ask

Neither one of us ever read Elizabeth Gilbert’s bestselling memoir Eat, Pray, Love (soon to be a movie starring Julia Roberts) — we were both faintly annoyed by the idea of being along for the ride while some over-analytical divorcee worked through her problems on paper. But then Curtis Sittenfeld’s review of Gilbert’s Committed: A Skeptic Makes Peace with Marriage convinced us that Gilbert was a smarter, funnier, more insightful, and less annoying writer than we’d assumed. She was right: Committed — a sequel of sorts to Eat, Pray, Love — is a compelling take on marriage and its discontents. Sure, at times it feels like being along for the ride while some over-analytical affianced woman works through her issues on paper. In fact, it feels like this a lot of the time — but it is only very occasional annoying. The memoir is likeable for multiple reasons, but here are five of our favorite relationship tips that we took away from it (whether or not Gilbert intended them  that way):

  1. The best way to avoid cheating on your spouse is to avoid confiding in anyone else more than you do in him or her.
  2. One of the best things about intimacy is talking softly in bed together late at night. Take yourselves back to the early days when that intimacy was still a novelty by picking a word at random — say, fish — and asking your partner to tell you a story that the word recalls for them.
  3. No matter what you think about a big white wedding, no matter whether or not you register at Bloomies, no matter if you have 27 bridesmaids and groomsmen or none, your friends and family should be part of your marriage. No marriage is an island — or, at least, not a successful one. It takes a village and all that.
  4. In times of strife, it’s easy to say things you’ll later regret. Gilbert and her soon-to-be-husband have a kind of safe word — the phrase “Let’s be careful” — which they use to preempt a nasty fight when they sense the circumstances may cause one.
  5. If you look at it in a certain light, marriage is a subversive act — resisting the collective and choosing to love one person, in private, all others be damned (and all powers-that-be be damned, too). In other words, marriage isn’t a stuffy old institution, it’s practically revolutionary! A bit of a stretch, perhaps, but us monogamists take comfort where we can get it.