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

3.42 of 5 stars 3.42  ·  rating details  ·  457 ratings  ·  122 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 t...more
Paperback, 368 pages
Published April 26th 2011 by Plume (first published January 1st 2009)
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(showing 1-30 of 1,067)
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Dora
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...more
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...more
Darren Standar
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...more
Will
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...more
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...more
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
Ben Davis
This book has some good insights. I read it and thought of a few things in my own relationship, and had to conclude that my wife and I are doing a lot of things right. It also gave me some insight into my relationship as a kid with my mom. I'll condense a few highlights.

Women- be more willing to be intimate with your husbands.

Men- be more willing to show affection to your wives.

Open, frank, frequent communication is the lifeblood of any relationship. There are several ways to enhance your comm...more
Laura
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 2 of 5 stars  ·  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,...more
Molly
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
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...more
John Kennedy
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...more
Nicole
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
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
Emily
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
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...more
Heidi
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.
Saralyn
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
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 4 of 5 stars  ·  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...more
Blog on Books
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...more
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
Kat
I'm in a long-term (7 years) relationship that's had its ups and downs, and I'm a fan of the Well blog, so I found the book fairly interesting and helpful.

Common marital problems are neatly sorted into categories that make them easier to understand, based on numerous studies Parker-Pope cites. Reading about all the studies, like the one that tested women's innate ability to sniff out genetically-appropriate partners from dirty T-shirts (sexxxy), or the one that tested men's resistance to sublim...more
Tim
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...more
Dawn Buffham-Bates
Unlike most other marriage guidance, successful marriage type books, this one is packed with science fact, covering how your brain and heart activity changes, many physical changes such as pupil dilation, perspiration on skin and research from endless test groups.

I like to understand how to do something or make something work more efficiently and successfully, like most people I guess; and I've been married for 15 years. Even though things are wonderful, as with all relationships, it has it's do...more
Sara
Tara Parker-Pope’s new book about love and marriage has been getting a great deal of attention in the media, especially as she challenges the oft-quoted “50 percent of marriages end in divorce.” This perhaps is the hook of “For Better: The Science of a Good Marriage,” those who stop there are missing out. In three parts, Parker-Pope addresses factors which have positive impacts, negative impacts, and some combination of both. The first chapters address the fifty percent statistic, and how it has...more
Aviva
I'm a fan of Tara Parker-Pope's writing at NYT, and found this book written in the same accessible, interesting style. As someone who is married but feels a little paranoid everytime a couple I know divorces, it was quite reassuring to read all the things we do and have done "right."

And yet, I still got bored with repetitiveness in the book, setting it aside repeatedly to read novels that kept my interest throughout. I probably only finished it now because it's due at the library tomorrow and I...more
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