No Cheating, No Dying

by Kathleen on April 10, 2012

The title alone was enough to pull me in, because really, what better ground rules could a marriage need?

Like Liz Weil and Dan Duane, Ari and I have very basic, and very high, expectations for our partnership.  Love, passion, friendship, encouragement, plus complimentary goals and attitudes about family life, made either more or less tricky by the fact that we threw our lots in together long before either of us had any clear attitudes about the most pressing elements of that life.  All we want is your basic wedded bliss.

And really, we have it.  Ari and I love each other utterly, and we love being married.  (My note of congratulations to newly engaged couples always includes this: being engaged is stressful and occasionally awful, but being married is the best.thing.ever.)  And being married, as Weil so perfectly explains, is a process:  I’ve always believed that you get married, truly married, slowly, over time… through all the pain, tears, and absurdity; through small and large moments you never expected to happen and certainly didn’t plan to endure.  But then you do: You endure.

Amidst all the excitement, it’s no wonder that so many of us breathe a sigh of relief into our safe, loving marriages.  We read up on parenting because our kids baffle us, research financial planning or caring for aging parents because those things seem impossible.  But marriage?  We can do that.

In No Cheating, No Dying, Liz Weil asks herself (and her husband) if they really do marriage as well as they could.  They embark on a year of pro-active marriage improvement, from psychoanalysis and religious counseling to financial planners and sex therapists.  Though Weil cites plenty of research, No Cheating, No Dying is a personal examination of a real marriage.  Liz and Dan find some baggage they really need to unpack – like how much time they spend with her parents, or how much influence his crazy ex-girlfriend has in their lives – and some that can stay safely in the attic.  (Sure, the rabbi thinks they need to make more clear religious choices for their children, and the financial planner wants to see better accounting, but it’s not their marriage.)  In the end, their attention to each other and the life they’ve built – and are continuing to build – gets them “declared too stable to fix” by a therapist who can’t hide his smile.  Marriage can be messy, but they’re in it together.

I imagine that, after the rave reviews her book has received, I am not the only reader ready to befriend Liz Weil.  I imagine that my insistent feeling that we would have funny, fascinating conversations and recognize much of each others’ lives says more about her writing than about our kindred spirits.  But I’m professing our connection anyway.

I’ll keep reading reflections about marriage, and Ari will keep asking if he should worry about my reading choices.  We’ll debate whose turn it is to pack lunches and pick fights when we’re tired, but we’ll hold hands and cuddle up and keep falling in love.  Because that’s what marriage is all about.

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