Dolly's Reviews > Grown-up Marriage: What We Know, Wish We Had Known, and Still Need to Know About Being Married

Grown-up Marriage by Judith Viorst
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's review
Aug 29, 2011

really liked it
bookshelves: 2011, nonfiction, relationships
Recommended for: couples who are married or getting married
Read from August 19 to 29, 2011 , read count: 1

After nineteen years of marriage, I'm convinced that we've done something right. But, and this is a big qualifier, I do recognize that a marriage is something that both need to work at, 'til death do us part. When you become complacent and start taking each other for granted, things can start to derail. By reading this and other books about marriage, I hope that I can continue to remind myself of the importance of nurturing our relationship.

This is a quick read (I actually read this over the course of two days, with more than a week of traveling in between them) and I think that most married couples could benefit from this sage wisdom, advice, and anecdotes.

I have really enjoyed reading Judith Viorst's books - they are candid, refreshing and sincere - and I will certainly look for more at our local library.

interesting quotes:
"There's you and you, and then there's this third thing
Which is the marriage. To it may you bring
The finest strivings of the human heart.
The "I," the "me," the "mine," the self apart
Must yield some portion of its separateness
And say a risky but unguarded yes
To this third thing, this marriage you create..."
(p. 26)

"'Any marriage worthy of the name,' writes psychiatrist Peter D. Kramer in Should You Leave?: A Psychiatrist Explores Intimacy and Autonomy--and the Nature of Advice, 'entails repeated remarriage' --to the same partner--'active choices to stay on in the face of new perspectives on self and spouse.' It also entails the brave, hard work of tranforming these new, and sometimes shocking, perspectives into something expansive and creative, into an opportunity for a husband and wife--and a marriage--to grow up." (p. 46)

"Although we can't, in the midst of a fight, imagine why we married such a rejecting, demanding, selfish, insensitive, critical, domineering, withholding person, chances are that we'll think of a reason later." (p. 170)

[regarding fighting] "...Reach out a hand and say to each other, 'Life is short. We have no days to spare. Let's make up.'" (p. 182)

"The more grown up we are...the better aware we'll be of our good fortune in finding someone to have and to hold, and the harder we'll work to nourish and keep what we've found." (p. 231)

"No man or woman really knows what perfect love is until they have been married a quarter of a century." Mark Twain (p. 233)

"Erikson's study of couples who have grown old together has found that most of the husbands and wives describe 'marriages of lifelong mutual affection, supportiveness, understanding, companionship, and ever-increasing appreciation.' However, when he checked his files, he was startled to discover that some of these very same husbands and wives had--several decades earlier--complained at length about their marital difficulties. Perhaps, Erikson speculates, they prefer to believe, and do believe today, that they were 'devoted from the very beginning.' Perhaps their later-life intimacy has transcended and colored their earlier marital history, allowing them to forget past discontents and recall only a 'long lifetime of marital satisfaction.'" (pp. 250-251)

"Married for decades, she knows, as all of us long-time marrieds know, what it takes to stay married and why it's worth the effort. Not perfect love, and no bed of roses, marriage can nonetheless be the best place to be as we grow older together." (p. 253)

"Says Mrs. Antrobus in Thorton Wilder's The Skin of Our Teeth, 'I married you because you gave me a promise. That promise made up for your faults. And the promise I gave you made up for mine. Two imperfect people got married and it was the promise that made the marriage....And when our children were growing up, it wasn't a house that protected them; and it wasn't our love that protected them--it was that promise.' The promise we make to each other is that we'll protect and preserve our marriage, that we'll feed and watch over our marriage, that we'll defend it against attacks--even our own. The promise we make to each other, and to ourselves, is that our marriage will endure." (pp. 256-257)

"In our efforts to stay married through the disenchantments of couplehood, through the disarrays of parenthood, through the rut and routine of everyday married life, we might try to embrace and enjoy domestic dailiness. Through marriage's 'soars and slumps,' we might try to discover a few sonnets at the supermarket. And when romantic passion succumbs, as it must, to the mundane, we might consciously choose to see married love not merely as what we possess at the start of our marriage, but as a heroic adventure, a magnificent accomplishment that we strive to achieve together over the years." (p. 258)

"The lengths we go to to stay married might include attempting to live by the following precepts, which tend to be more heroic (and a hell of a lot more difficult) than they may sound: Try to be nice to each other even if you don't particularly feel like it. Try to give to each other without being asked. Remember that, like charity, courtesy and charm begin at home. Offer a little more praise and a lot less criticism that you think your spouse deserves. Honor each other's goodwill and good intentions, even when you don't get what you need. Don't expect to get all that you need from each other. Figure out how intimate you can be without suffocation and how separate you can be without alienation. When possible, laugh. When possible, say yes to having sex--with the husband or wife to whom you are married. Keep in mind that fidelity is not in the lap of the gods but a choice that you consciously make, again and again. Compromise. Compromise some more." (pp. 258-259)

"Being happily married means hanging out with each other and never--well, hardly ever--being bored with each other. It means knowing each other well enough to know what lies within the other's heart, and trusting each other deeply enough to, sooner or later, allow ourselves to be known. It means, as one wife told me, 'being loved and valued by the person we married for what we love and value in ourselves.'" (p. 261)
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Reading Progress

08/19/2011 page 117

Comments (showing 1-6 of 6) (6 new)

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message 1: by Kathryn (new)

Kathryn Great quotes! Congratulations on nineteen years together :-)

Dolly Thanks!

message 3: by Jane (new) - added it

Jane Baker great review

message 4: by Dolly (last edited Jul 14, 2016 11:06AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Dolly Thank you. It's been a few years since I wrote this review and it was a good reminder of the importance of nuturing my marriage.

My husband and I are approaching 24 years and are still going strong. We may not have discovered "Perfect Love" (see the Mark Twain quote above) yet, but I feel very blessed to have found a good man.

I cannot imagine sharing dreams of the future, raising a family, or growing old with anyone else. I am a very lucky woman.

message 5: by Kathryn (new)

Kathryn That's wonderful, Dolly! :-) I'm glad these comments popped up to remind me of this book. My husband and I just celebrated our 8th anniversary last month and I, too, am so lucky to have a great husband and father to our kids but this sounds like a great book for us now since we are so focused on the kids at their very young ages it's hard to give our marriage the attention it got earlier on.

Dolly I'm afraid that is a universal truth. Don't be too hard on yourself.

I am glad that I have chosen to read books like this along the way to help me remember to focus on our marriage as well as on the kiddos.

Children grow up so fast. When I look at my parents as they approach their 50th anniversary, I realize that they have spent far more years together without me in the home than they did with me.

While this longevity may be the exception rather than the norm today, I hope that we can follow in their footsteps.

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