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For Better: How the Surprising Science of Happy Couples Can Help Your Marriage Succeed

3.44  ·  Rating Details  ·  551 Ratings  ·  134 Reviews
Take The For Better Quiz #3: Defining Your Love Style."The most credible and interesting marital self-help book of all time." -Newsweek

Tara Parker-Pope's Well column in The New York Times has made her one of the most popular and e-mailed journalists in the nation. In this eye-opening-and ultimately optimistic-look at marriage today, Parker-Pope reveals the heart behind
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Paperback, 368 pages
Published April 26th 2011 by Plume (first published January 1st 2009)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 1,286)
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Tara
What do the mating habits of animals have to do with people? I skipped this chapter because it seriously annoyed me. There is much more interesting information later in the book, and starting with this almost made me skip the whole book.

Sometimes this book is a 5, and sometimes it is a 1.

Good things:
Fun facts! Jazz lovers are 30% more sexually active than other people.
Clear Presentation.
Occasionally humorous.
Included information on same-sex married couples.

Bad things:
Some parts were just so "d
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Dora
Sep 15, 2010 Dora rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Not that I should have expected more from the NYT, but honestly, this book was a huge disappointment.

The introduction intrigued me. I really liked what Parker-Pope said about her own story: she was a health journalist, and when her own marriage began to fall apart all she found were self-help books and wanted more information on the science behind marriage. Great concept!

Then this book turns into a totally heteronormative and surface-level self help book! It's filled with oversimplifications of
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Katie Kenig
This is a book about marriage. Duh.



Most marriages start out pretty much the same - full of hope and love and dreams. So what happens? Why do half of all marriages end in divorce? (Or do they? That's one myth this book dispels!) What comes between couples, and how can you eliminate the problems and have a happily-ever-after ending with your soulmate?

The author, puzzled by her own divorce after a seemingly compatible match with her husband, decided to delve into the study of marriage, monogamy, pa
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Darren Standar
Aug 22, 2010 Darren Standar rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I found this a really annoying book.

Parker-Pope explains she wrote the book because when her 17-year marriage broke up, she wanted to research the reasons for a marriage ending.

Seems like a poor premise to me. Marriages end for millions of reasons that are unique to the couple, so if she thinks she's going to find answers to her own marriage through research studies, that's pretty lame. I'm no shrink, but I'd guess she knows the real reason her marriage broke up and was looking for a good distr
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Heidi
Jun 08, 2011 Heidi rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
The book was an interesting read and had some quizzes you could test your marriage against. But overall, I had some trouble with believing her statistics were any more valid than the ones she was refuting. I think it was worth reading, but with a critical eye.
sharon
Not so much Science as "SKIENCE!" Most of the studies Parker-Pope cites are given an overly simplified and surface treatment and she seems unable to distinguish between causation and correlation. While she states that the aim of the book is to provide encouragement for married people she writes about her own marriage as doomed statistically before it even began and her divorce as inevitable. In another spot she writes "Spendthrifts and tightwads are destined for a life of conflict when they marr ...more
Laura Hughes
I liked the concept of this book a lot. It's a good overview of what is presently empirically known about long-term relationships. Tara Parker-Pope is a blogger, not a scientist, so this is a secondary source, but as an easy-to-understand lit review for laymen, it's solid. The studies are well-chosen, including Betsey Stephenson's historical/correlational data on the real divorce rate (hint: it's much lower than the oft-touted 50%); Elaine Hatfield's studies of chemical attraction; John Gottman' ...more
Will
Jul 10, 2010 Will rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Overall, I really enjoyed this book - it struck me as similar in a lot of ways to "Stumbling on Happiness" by Daniel Gilbert, in that it tries to apply scientific (or "scientific") research to people's problems.

My only real gripe is that the author goes out of her way to target the book specifically to heterosexual married couples; while that's what most of the research focuses on, a lot of the lessons in the book should be applicable to unmarried couples (gay or straight) who live together, and
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Marjorie Elwood
There were a lot of studies quoted in this book and a lot of science explored, which I appreciated. The author pointed out that most marriages do *not* end in divorce and that the statistics that we hear about (that 50% of marriages end in divorce) are misleading. The book also explores how you can strengthen your marriage/relationship.

What I didn't like was the author's strong bias in certain areas. Twice, she looked at the rather clear statistics (one example: having a child lowers marriage s
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Rachaelita
A few years ago, I had a dear friend confide in me she was contemplating divorce. I was astonished and baffled by her news as her relationship seemed rock solid and quite happy. My marriage research began with her plight. I made it my number one goal to help her through her tough time and to learn as much as I possibly could. What I discovered in my research was that our idea of marriage and divorce was completely wrong. Media loves to tell us half of all marriages end in divorce. This is a very ...more
Laura
Jul 24, 2010 Laura rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I bought this book a few months ago on a whim because I like Parker-Pope's well blog on the nytimes. Obviously I'm not getting married anytime soon, but as my friends get married I have been having lots of thoughts about the marriages all around me. This book really helped me reflect on and organize those thoughts. Parker-Pope does a good job summarizing and citing the research. There are times when the research could be used to draw different conclusions, but overall she is very careful to pres ...more
Tamra
Jul 26, 2010 Tamra rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: possibly no one
Recommended to Tamra by: Google Reader
Shelves: couldn-t-finish
2.5 stars. Interesting, but not monumental.

She goes to great lengths in the first chapter to say, "This is not a self-help book." But, it kinda really is. Exhibit A: 19 Quizzes to assess various aspects of your marriage. Granted, I expected some marriage advice based on the research, but ... it didn't hit the right balance for me. I wanted more science, less advice.

I didn't feel like she did a very good job of presenting the research, either. It was sometimes too shallow of a treatment for me,
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Kirsti
The most interesting thing I learned: How a couple behaves in good times affects their rate of divorce just as much as how they behave in bad times.

Things I already knew but were worth hearing again: five of the ten most stressful life events are related to marriage; positive events can be stressful too; couples who bicker a lot don't necessarily get divorced; feeling that you can't trust your partner to spend money wisely is a great big red flag; it's okay to argue with your partner as long as
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Molly
Aug 23, 2010 Molly rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I'm giving up on this book, about 70 pages in. While I'm interested in the science of marriage, the writing feels lazy and simplistic. Despite all her research, it seems like the author resorts to dated stereotypes instead of doing original writing about the complex realities of relationships. The final straw for me was the chapter about sex. She opens it with the time-worn stereotype that many husbands wish their wives would have sex with them more, while the wives wish their husbands would und ...more
Rachel
Sep 23, 2011 Rachel rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Finally, a science-based relationship book. Based on social science, but science nevertheless. The constant research summaries can be a little exhausting, but Parker-Pope constantly relates the studies to real life through quizzes and a few anecdotes (sometimes it feels like she's trying a little to hard to make it "relate-able"). Lots of interesting research stuff, which is of course interpreted by the author.

A few things that struck me: Parents who invest time in their relationship with each o
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John Kennedy
Apr 26, 2010 John Kennedy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Journalist Tara Parker-Pope offers a convincing book of how to avoid divorce. She wishes she had gleaned some of the research before her own 17-year marriage ended. The book contains lots of advice on how to keep a marriage fresh, including several quizzes. It also shows who is headed for divorce by our actions: eye-rolling at a spouse's comments is a telltale sign. So is recounting how a person met the spouse or the wedding day; if the stories are told with sarcasm, watch out. But arguing is he ...more
Cynthia
I wanted to like this book better than I did. The author says it's research results, not a how-to manual, but in reality she presents research, looks at the results, and then tells you why / how you should behave to get the same results. That's not awful, but her grasp of statistics and especially causality seems weak & so I am not sure that the research she presents and especially the courses of action she promotes really show what she thinks they do.

Still, it was an interesting read. I esp
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Nicole
Oct 23, 2012 Nicole rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
I thoroughly enjoyed this book! It’s a fantastic read for anyone in a committed relationship, new or old. Well researched, succinctly written, and overall positive about marriage, Tara Parker-Pope has created a work of nonfiction applicable to anyone interested in lasting intimacy, partnership, and commitment. Perhaps most striking about the book is the wealth of scientific evidence behind all claims and suggestions—the numbers don’t lie—which really drives each point home. I also really enjoyed ...more
Kayla Shanley
This book touches on a large number of topics related to a "successful" marriage, but never really digs deep enough into any single area of interest to establish much of a point. The book includes many studies, yet it lacks in providing significant supporting evidence due to vague, generalized writing and conflicting arguments. It may be a good choice for readers who want a very brief introduction to basic relationship skills, but will probably prove frustrating for those coming from a research ...more
Andrew
Mar 18, 2016 Andrew rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Andrew by: Barking Up the Wrong Tree
The author claims her book is not a self-help book, and in a way she is both correct and incorrect. Relationship books lined the shelves for years, and everyone heard tales and speculations from their own peers, but often there is no research backing up any of the common beliefs, in that manner her book is distinct from the genre of old. On the other hand, the text is not for the scholarly as she merely puts together passages and data from various academic literature, summarized then repackaged ...more
Ashley Fournier
May 29, 2015 Ashley Fournier rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Excellent book for those who are married or looking to get married. My boyfriend and I both listened to this on audio book and learned a great deal. Tara Parker-Pope provides key ways to improve one's relationship, ranging from striving for gender equality with household chores, learning how to fight in a productive way, and making physical intimacy a priority. She provides tangible actions for women and men to take to immediately strengthen their relationship. She also delves into studies about ...more
Emily
Jun 05, 2011 Emily rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Do not read this book if you are getting married. I put it down after the tidbit about how women can sniff out the man who is most genetically appropriate for them to mate with, but not if they're on birth control pills. There is nothing I want to read less 5 weeks before my wedding than the fact that I could have made a poor choice in husband because I couldn't smell him properly.
Katherine
Jun 08, 2011 Katherine rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
A Practical Wedding's write-up of people's reaction to this at the last APW book club is perfect: http://apracticalwedding.com/2011/06/...

Basically, questionable science, over-emphasis on gender roles, and not that useful/interesting/educational. Correlation does not equal causation!
Lacey Louwagie
If you'll only ever read one marriage advice book, make it this one.

This is marriage advice of the BEST kind, based on solid research rather than flimsy platitudes or untested assumptions. The research is both fascinating and applicable, and well organized to address the major milestones or stumbling blocks of marriage, from the attraction that draws you together to housework, sex, and children. It even includes several of the surveys that were used in the marriage research quoted. Although the
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Tiffany
May 11, 2015 Tiffany rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I found this to be exceptionally accurate. The studies from John Gottman's research was pivitol when I was taking marriage psychology in college. i felt the author did her homework. Tara Parker-Pope put together a brief collection of the best advice from leading love labs and kept for the most part her personal views to herself, while explaining why she was so interested to a minimal.

I wish she had added more on research for substance abuse, violence and the effects of horrible childhoods to her
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Saralyn
Oct 17, 2010 Saralyn rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction
I learned a few interesting things from this book, but on the whole was not overly impressed. Felt a little negative to me at times, despite being called "For Better..." Not one I would run out to recommend.
Jonna Higgins-Freese
I always love science and data about any subject. This was interesting because it really had a number of very simple points, taken from a long-running study of couples who married in the early 90s (I think, can't exactly remember). They compared characteristics of those who divorced and those who stayed married. Perhaps the most interesting point is the author's dispute of the 50% divorce rate. She argues that that was true for couples married in the 50's, when roles and many other things were c ...more
Carla_Collette
Sep 19, 2013 Carla_Collette rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Stephanie
I really liked this book and found it helpful. Parker-Pope does a good job of sifting through scientific studies of couples and marriage and finding what elements lead to a lasting, satisfying marriage. Certainly science, especially the "soft" science of studying human behavior, is not perfect, but nonetheless Parker-Pope leaves us with things to consider and do to improve our relationships.

I felt like I learned a lot (or maybe had things verified that I already suspected): children reduce marr
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Blog on Books
Jul 26, 2010 Blog on Books rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Everyone knows there is no shortage of ‘relationship’ books on the market today. Books about dating, mating and separating have lined bookshelves for years.

So it comes with some surprise that someone has come up with a fresh approach to this age-old topic; an approach primarily based on science. Not just science in a cold, clinical, Masters and Johnson style, but a science that takes into account things like socialization, health patterns, communication skills and lifestyle issues.

In, ‘For Bette
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Efox
Tara Parker-Pope's book on the Science of a good marriage, takes a different approach from a lot of the other psychology/how to kind of books out there. Parker-Pope focuses on the years of studies and research on couples and their behavior. Overall, the news is pretty positive. People who are getting married today have a much lower risk of divorce (that 50% of all marriages end in divorce statistic gets blown up in the first chapter) and a good marriage is good for you, emotionally, financially, ...more
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