Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Committed by Elizabeth Gilbert

Well, life has been quite the whirlwind of excitement lately--as it tends to become--so even though I finished Committed by Elizabeth Gilbert *gulp* nearly two weeks ago, this is the first minute I've actually sat down to blog about it. (I'm giving you this explanation in consideration of your feelings since I know you've all just been weeping into your pillows every night wondering when I was going to tell you what I think of this book.)

(Okay, I apologize for that over-the-top sarcasm...)

Committed was a little bit different than I expected. Knowing that Gilbert wrote it after (during?) she and her fiance were traveling aimlessly around waiting to get the go-ahead for a green card wedding, I expected it to be similar to Eat, Pray, Love, and to include more about her actual traveling. (I believe I was slightly misled when I read an excerpt from the book, which happened to be one of the few portions which was about the people she met during her travels.) Most of the book consists of Gilbert's thoughts on the abundant research she's done on marriage. As a marriage skeptic trying to come to peace with marriage, Gilbert tries to uncover as much as she possibly can about marriage--the good and the bad. She shares various theories, statistics, words from experts, and stories from her own family (some of my favorite parts).

Even though it wasn't quite like I expected, I loved Committed from the get-go. Reading Gilbert's personal and down-to-earth writing was like a breath of fresh air. I've said it several times and I'll say it again: Gilbert is one of my writing role models. I hope that someday my writing will be as real as hers is.

That said, this book brought me face-to-face with my ideas about marriage. I won't get political (heaven forbid), so I'll stay out of that ballpark; my experience with the book was actually much more personal, since I'm very comfortable with my political views on marriage. I started to really think about marriage in relation to myself. 

I'm a single, female college sophomore. Despite this fact, I actually have no desire to party or date around. I was raised by happily married parents who have always encouraged me to be careful as far as romance and find one man to spend the rest of my life with. And that's always been my goal.

So marriage is actually very attractive to me--pretty unusual for a 19-year-old California girl, I know. I'm much more attracted to the "family man" type than I am to "bad boys." I have dreams, but I want a family and stability.

Before you make any assumptions, reading Committed didn't actually change any of this. In fact, it kind of made me want it more than ever. But it also made me ask myself, Really--what kind of man am I actually looking for here? 

I've always tried to be practical when it comes to the expectations I have for my future husband, but lately my dating life has made me change my mind on certain key points. For one thing, financial stability used to be really important to me. I wanted to marry someone with an education that can get him an actual job. I didn't want any of this do-what-you-love nonsense. I figured, hey, if he loves me, he'll make as much money as he can.

Then I met a few guys who are in a major they couldn't care less about simply so they could be sure of financial security in the future. And it was so...unattractive.

Now, I'm not saying I don't respect them. I think it's great that they are pursuing their goal of being able to support a family without any trouble. That's awesome. It's just that I can't relate at all. I wonder how they can possibly do that. Did they have to give up some other dream, some non-money-making dream? Or did they just not have any dreams?

These are people who cheer when class is cancelled. Who scan the syllabus at the beginning of the semester and figure out the bare minimum that is required. Who do what it takes to get an A and then do their level best to forget everything over the summer.

Well, I don't have anything against those people--I have many, many friends who are like that--but it's just nothing like me. It's hard for me to believe. I'm an English major and I absolutely love my English classes (actually, I've been kind of mopey lately because I'm not currently taking an English class). I would hope to marry someone who gets the same kind of thrill--or at least enjoyment--from whatever it is he studies.

Now, I know that opposites attract. And I'm not saying I want my husband to be exactly like me. I'm still figuring things out--I mean, I might completely change my mind about all of this next year (or next month, for that matter). But this is one thing that really means a lot to me. I think it would be hard for me to be married to a man who didn't care one way or the other for his career. I know I'm ambitious, and I'm not saying he has to be. But I want to at least be able to understand where he's coming from.

Committed provided an interesting perspective on all of this. Elizabeth Gilbert and her fiance were already old enough that they had careers securely in place--careers, and goals, and hobbies, and even daily routines. Of course, they had to make sacrifices for each other, but they also remained (as cliche as it may seem) true to themselves. Elizabeth Gilbert is a writer. Period. And marriage wasn't about to change that. They each accepted each other as each other. She writes (excuse me for not being able to quote it directly as I've already returned the book to the library) that we yearn for two to become one in marriage, but sometimes two equals two. Elizabeth Gilbert is still Elizabeth Gilbert, whether she's married or not.

I'm not saying that I want my (future) marriage to be exactly like--or even very much like--Elizabeth Gilbert's marriage. (Do you feel like this post is turning into a list of disclaimers? I do...) But it definitely made me think about what I want in a marriage. And when it comes right down to it, I don't want my spouse and I to be the same person. I want him to embrace his him-ness, and I want to embrace my me-ness. And I want us both to endlessly admire the other for their passion and their diligence, and to support each other in our goals.

Well, this sure is a lot of talk about marriage from a person who has never been married (or anywhere close to it). This is an issue I'm still trying to work out in my mind. Any thoughts? I'd love to hear them.


  1. I'm commenting, because it always bothers me when people don't recognize that they've read my stuff (Im not looking for appraisal, I just want to know that Im not speaking to deaf ears. Or no ears at all) ANYWAYS, here I am to let you know that I read it, and I always enjoy reading your stuff. :) Your best friend EVER,

    1. Haha, I know exactly what you mean! Thank you!

  2. I'm trying to write a response to this, but I'm having trouble phrasing it right! So I think I'll try to give more of a summary. You spent several paragraphs saying that you want to understand your husband and his motivations. One thing that surprised me about marriage is that Ken is so much harder to understand than the female friends I've had. I often just shrug my shoulders and tell myself that that's just how he is and I'm not going to get it. I think Mom and Dad might be the same way. There are exceptions, and maybe you'll marry one, but in general men don't communicate like women, and it makes them hard for us to understand. (Ken's not usually hard for me to predict, though. That's not what I'm talking about.)

    I'm kind of tired right now, so I hope this came across the way I meant it. I don't know if other married couples would agree with my assessment, but I think you may wind up being surprised at how puzzling your husband can be, and how little that really matters.

    1. Well, what I meant to say is less that I want to understand exactly why he wants to do what he wants to do as that I understand the wanting. His goals might not make sense to me and might be very different from mine, but I just want him to HAVE goals. What you're saying, I think, IS actually kind of what I meant to say, when I said that I'll have my me-ness and he'll have his him-ness; we'll be two very different people with very different goals, and I may not understand his very well at all. I just don't want to marry someone and have him just plogging along in whatever old thing while I'm trying to pursue something that really matters to me.

      So, when I said I want to understand him, that's not to say I expect I'll understand why he loves what he loves or why he enjoys what he enjoys. But I want him to have those things. I don't want him to just melt into his family and home and me, like some of the guys here seem to expect to--and even want to.

  3. I agree. This book is more research-driven, but I suppose that was understandable given that in it she's trying to come to terms with marriage. For me (and as you've observed), her family stories were the best! They reminded me of the personal tale that is Eat, Pray, Love :)

    I enjoyed reading about how the book caused you to reflect. I hope that you get everything that you want :) I must say, I did the same thing during and after reading the book - recall my own thoughts on marriage. Good luck with the rest of the challenge. I look forward to reading your future blog posts. :)

  4. I wasn't planning to read this book but may actually give it a try after reading your post - which was an interesting read.
    I've been married 31 years, and dated him for 5 years before we "committed". That being said, through ups and downs as in any relationship, I would do it all over again and marry the same man.
    I think you need to be friends first and I think you each should retain your own interests as long as you also have many in common, want to be together, spend time together, are committed to each other, put your marriage before your friends and have the same goals.