David's Reviews > Toward Commitment: A Dialogue About Marriage

Toward Commitment by Diane Rehm
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May 24, 12


liked the format. The well-known (at least if you work at American University and have WAMU/NPR radio piped in on hold when you call tech support) radio host and her husband of 42 years write separate essays and then a dialogue on each of a wide range of marital topics (emotional affairs, use of money, parenting, grandparenting, in-laws, religious differences, socializing with others, food.......).

Each has been in therapy quite a bit, and perhaps as a result they default to individual-childhood and family-unit explanations rather than genetics or historical/cohort factors. A striking exception is that they were writing it just as 9/11 happened, and that influences how they talk at the end about the future, but for the most part you could read the whole thing and not know that the 60's or the women's movement happened during their marriage, whereas many and sundry traits are attributed to his having been an only child, to her having had an early "starter" marriage fail, etc.

they're very candid about the struggles and differences they've had, and this is by far the most interesting aspect (their explicit advice for younger couples on each issue is completely predictable -- it turns out that communication about your differences is a good idea). Hard to review such a personal book without reviewing the people, but they certainly don't hide their disagreeable parts. He rationalizes his social anxiety with misanthropy (why bother getting to know new people when they just might let you down by turning out to want to make small talk instead of discussing great art all the time?); she accuses him of narcissism while getting angry and offended about seemingly minor differences (you don't want to eat red meat and drink alcohol anymore? Then you're ruining my life through your selfishness).

All told, I didn't come away from it wanting to spend time with them in person, and didn't learn anything new about keeping marriage going, but I do appreciate their willingness to open up so much and let others be flies on the wall for their look back at one long-term marriage from a number of angles.
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