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The Three Marriages: Reimagining Work, Self and Relationship
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The Three Marriages: Reimagining Work, Self and Relationship

3.87  ·  Rating details ·  1,000 ratings  ·  137 reviews
Drawing from his own experience and the lives of some of the world's great writers and poets, David Whyte brings compelling insights to our three most important commitments—to another, to our work, and to ourselves—to frame a complete picture of a satisfying life.

David Whyte knows there are three crucial relationships, or marriages, in our lives: the marriage or partnersh
Hardcover, 352 pages
Published January 22nd 2009 by Riverhead Hardcover (first published January 1st 2009)
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I was introduced to David Whyte as a guest on several podcasts I follow. He is a wonderful speaker and a consistently excellent interviewee. I have saved these podcast episodes for repeat listens in the future. I love the excerpts he posts on Facebook from his poetry and from his most recent book on the hidden meanings of everyday words. Given all this, and that the topics this book addresses are at the forefront of my heart and mind right now, I expected to like this book a lot more than I did. ...more
Amy Beth
Oct 08, 2012 rated it it was ok
Shelves: gave-up-on
I thought I would like this--the idea of work, self, and relationships all being at their core about similar concerns is a very interesting idea. I just couldn't get through it. The thing that really turned me off is his description of being creative as some dramatic arc that requires great drops and peaks. I don't believe any more that life is made up of some story of going from rags to riches. It's made up of lots of little moments of putting one foot in front of the other. The process is the ...more
Mar 19, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I really loved this one. It's really rambling, unstructured, and at times solipsistic so if you want linear thought and structure, this is not your kind of book. But despite all of that, Whyte is really wise and in a sentence thrown randomly here or there, he can be really inspiring and thought-provoking. The part about the marriage to the self was the most intriguing. I am not sure I agree with his marriage to work--I think that is just for those who get to be poets for a living. I mean, I defi ...more
David Glasgow
Jan 04, 2014 rated it really liked it
Near the beginning of this volume, David Whyte reflects on the paradox of being "serious" about something in one's life:
[N]o serious writer ever thinks about English composition, and if he did it would mean he had temporarily lost his mind or his way as a writer. English composition is for those looking from the outside in. English composition is to real writing as Sunday school is to Moses before the burning bush. (Kindle locations 131-133).
That opening metaphor established, Whyte then gets "se
Apr 14, 2009 rated it really liked it
I read this slowly because it fostered a lot of self-reflection along the way. Whyte's notion of work-life balance as an unnecessary competition between two -- or three -- relationships (work, 'marriage' -- to a partner or a community or a cause -- and ones's self) rings true. It was somewhat revelatory for me to reframe that concept as a conversation between three important parts of who I am, rather than a see-saw with work on the one side and 'life' on the other. ...more
Cole Hoover
Oct 15, 2012 rated it it was amazing
A really fantastic book that challenges the ideas of a work life balance being possible, honest or even desirable if it were possible.

The book weaves in and out of stories from the authors life and the lives of interesting people throughout history who struggled and succeeded in creating not a "balance" but a genuine conversation between their work, self and relationship with another.

It's also about the story of our lives and the collective story of mankind that the universe(or whatever you cal
Elizabeth Bradford
Mar 30, 2020 rated it really liked it
I really enjoyed this book.
I considered a 5 star review but went with 4 because I irrationally hate when any man author tries to explain anything about womanhood to me. Irrational, I know. All I can hope is that his wife and female colleagues had more influence than I realized.
Thank you for an excellent perspective. I truly enjoyed the process of reading this.
Aug 30, 2010 rated it liked it
Shelves: nonfiction, biography
I enjoyed many of the ideas in this book, and it was novel looking at the negotiation of love, work and self through the lenses of Stevenson, Austin and Dickens, but those examples also got in the way of my being able to think through the issues in today's context. ...more
Sean Goh
Apr 04, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: relating, philosophy
A big part of the trouble I was now in, had come, as it often does, in the form of a wonderful compliment.

I rely on a general day-to-day inquiry that comes to fruition by talking out loud in front of an audience. I always feel the invitation made by attentive, listening ears makes the talk as much as any individual giving the speech.

The interesting thing about wristwatches as objects of desire is that when advertised for sale, they are always worn in situations of extreme timelessness—climbing a
May 10, 2010 rated it really liked it
It's been about 8 months since I started this book, but I've enjoyed slowly picking through it. It came at a perfect time...when I was (and still am) struggling with how to find peace and balance amidst my crazy residency schedule. It gave me a lot of encouragement in understanding that it usually takes a great deal of hard work and sacrifice to become truly competent at something. I've come to view this time in my life as my apprenticeship, my time to give myself to this work in order to become ...more
Bowie Rowan
I was recently introduced to David Whyte's poetry and fell in love with a few of his poems. Shortly after that, this book was gifted to me. It's a great read. I pretty much dog-eared the whole thing. I would recommend this book to anyone in the midst of a self, relationship, career/calling crisis or period of questioning. His story plus the literary and historical context he provides for his thesis about "the three marriages" is fascinating, often funny, and just really enjoyable to read. I'm pa ...more
Ahn Mur
Mar 15, 2015 rated it really liked it
I came across this book through a Brain Pickings article and, given my constant struggle to find that continuously elusive end-goal of "work-life balance", I was attracted to Whyte's assertion that there really was no such thing. It was validating, and I was intrigued by the idea of striving for something different: fostering the different parts of your life (namely work, family, and self) as discrete 'marriages' and establishing an ongoing conversation between them, rather than berating yoursel ...more
Jun 10, 2019 rated it really liked it
A deep, serious and provoking reflection on the wholeness of our life (our beloved, our work, ourselves) which tries to go beyond the "work-life balance" rhetorics to find more meaningful insights, often coming from the author's experience or from the lives of great personalities. ...more
Dec 18, 2018 rated it it was amazing
It’s not often that I give a book 5 stars. Usually it’s something I read very quickly and can’t put down. This book was different. I really wanted to take my time and take in what was written. Whyte, who is one of my favorite poets, uses the examples of the lives of Jane Austen, Robert Louis Stevenson, Pema Chodron and others to explore the Three Marriages of relationship, vocation and self and asks us to be vulnerable enough to have “courageous conversations” about these three areas of our live ...more
Sep 12, 2020 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
The book reflects that special aristocratic privilege enjoyed by so many gifted, healthy, well-educated, the-world-is-my-oyster white men after World War 2.

My wordsmith soul found the writing—and therefore, the ideas—quite seductive for the first half or so. I was drawn in by the book early on. And I found some of his insights about both knowledge work and the marital relationship resonated for me, as a culturally conditioned middle class Canadian.

But I wondered how it might work for those bor
Kris Muir
Mar 15, 2015 rated it it was amazing
I would add this recent book ["The Three Marriages"] to my list of top 5 books. I recommend you pick it up if you see any value in gaining a deeper understanding that the relationship that you have with yourself, especially in all of its silence and vulnerability, can be as powerful as the relationship that you have with your significant other or the work that drives you. Rather than accept the traditional dichotomy of work-life balance, the author offers an alternative view: "Thinking of work, ...more
Jul 05, 2011 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: Philosophical Intellectuals
David Whyte arrived at this theme when he was under great pressure, with minutes to spare, to address a large audience ... and he had no idea what to talk about. He chose to speak from his heart.

Here he examines the three prongs of relationship to another person, relationship to self, and relationship to work. His premise is that all three areas needs to be healthy and in balance in order for life to work optimally. Thoughtful, philosophical and intellectual, these are basically essays as he exp
antoanela  safca
Apr 21, 2016 rated it it was amazing
I just finished this book and I almost feel like starting it again. I even underlined whole passages, which I never do on any books. I don't think David Whyte is for everyone, I didn't warm up to him immediately either. He can wonder quite a bit, jumps from story to story, I found myself reading some paragraphs twice. And then I'd find myself almost hit over the heat with some mindblowing obvious truth that has been wondering my mind too, but his clear, simple and vulnerable voice has made me vi ...more
Wells Hamilton
Aug 19, 2014 rated it liked it
Worth the read, but it meanders a bit more than his other book, "Poetry and the preservation of the soul." I liked it and it gave me much to think about. This is better than pseudo-science self-help; it uses literature and poetry to examine the soul and its relationship with itself, our career calling, and another person. Whyte offers some answers and guidance, but this is more of a story of his own self-examination, and the forces that pulled famous writers to make momentous decisions in their ...more
Anthony Cheng
Dec 02, 2015 rated it it was ok
Needed an editor to put this book in a logical structure i.e. work, marriage, and self. Instead, it jumps around haphazardly, using a mishmash of poems, personal anecdotes, and stories about historical figures to make its points. I kid you not, there is a four page break in the middle of the book to list Robert Louis Stevenson's bibliography. Despite the oddness, the central thesis ('the three marriages') is spot on and there are good insights throughout, if you can sift through the prose to fin ...more
Cathy Smith
Nov 27, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
One of the best personal development books I've ever read. Whyte is a poet, a marine biologist and a spiritual student. He has an incredible ability to convey the deepest meaning in a way that brings new insight. Focusing on three committments we all make --to self, to another, to a vocation, Whyte describes how to creat a rich life's journey with fulfillment and self expression. I actually listened to it as an audiobook, read by Whyte himself. Highly recommended. ...more
Jan 17, 2016 rated it it was ok
Shelves: philosophy
I think this was just an excuse to write a book detailing the lives of some of his favorite authors. There are good ideas in here, but it's tedious getting to them. Maybe just read the introduction and conclusion. I think you'll get the main points without protracted chapters about Robert Louis Stevenson's love life. ...more
Feb 12, 2016 rated it it was amazing
A really fascinating book I never heard about, but I asked a friend her favorite book as of late and this was her choice. Once I realized this was not a traditional self help format and more of essays/memoir/poetry I loved this. It demands you read it slowly, otherwise it's easy to miss how beautiful the writing is. There's lots of good poems throughout too. ...more
Ward Bell
Sep 19, 2009 rated it really liked it
The surprise of recognition on every page. He's a far better poet ... but this remains a fierce and unsettling work of great beauty and insight. Ex: why "Work-Life" balance is non-sense. ...more
Dec 14, 2020 rated it really liked it
My last encounter with David Whyte, Crossing the Unknown Sea, left me wanting more of his magical prose, those words that ebb and flow as surely as the tides. I would probably read a treatise on sheep farming if Whyte wrote it; after all, the closing paragraphs of Crossing the Sea - the "loves and affections [that] cannot be held in some limbo inside us...[that] have set off on a voyage from far inside us to find their homes in the clear light of day" (p. 244) - are still ringing in my ears many ...more
Trey Hall
Aug 09, 2019 rated it liked it
My best friend has shared some of Whyte's poetry with me over the years, and I've invariably experienced it as asking a question or describing an experience that invited me to broaden my vocational frame, or cast it totally off for a real one, or to root more deeply than the surface level of existence that I'd been subsisting on. I confess to having to work a bit harder than usual to find that invitation in this book, which felt, at least for the first two-thirds, a bit gauzy, a series of person ...more
Marielle Anne Ignacio
Apr 22, 2020 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2020
This book explores the idea of building a well-integrated life, one that is fruitful and fulfilling because of the individual's courage and resolve to keep the conversation flowing between his three major life commitments - that to the self, one's partner, and to one's work.

To be honest, sometimes the book is a little hard to read because the author used both the practical and the poetic in order to illustrate the meaning of life in a more holistic way. However, it was quite a stretch for my min
May 14, 2017 rated it it was amazing
P 30: "Perhaps the most difficult marriage of all -- the third marriage beneath the two visible, all-too-public marriages of work and relationship -- is the internal and often secret marriage to that tricky movable frontier called ourselves: the marriage to the one who keeps changing at the center of all the outer relationships while making promises it hopes to God it can keep. What is heartbreaking and difficult about this inner self that flirted, enticed, spent time with and eventually committ ...more
Chloe Noland
May 13, 2020 rated it really liked it
I hung on to this book for a little bit too long, because it was a library book that has been stuck with me since the pandemic started. Having said that, it gave me a chance to get frustrated with it, reread it, and eventually come to really love it. Whyte is a writer above all things, and much of the advice he has to give in this book is geared towards writing and writers. However, his explanation and touting of the three marriages is useful to anyone trying to find a balance between their prof ...more
Sep 08, 2017 rated it liked it
The central argument of this book is that, rather than talking of "balancing" work and life, and so setting them against each other, one would do better to think of three "marriages"—of spouse, of work, of self—and of those marriages in conversation, informing each other: a "marriage of marriages."

It does not deny the unsolvable arithmetic problem that an hour spent at work is an hour not spent at home, and an hour spent nurturing your relationship with your spouse is an hour not spent turning
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Poet David Whyte grew up with a strong, imaginative influence from his Irish mother among the hills and valleys of his father’s Yorkshire. He now makes his home in the Pacific Northwest of the United States.

The author of seven books of poetry and three books of prose, David Whyte holds a degree in Marine Zoology and has traveled extensively, including living and working as a naturalist guide in th

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