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For Better: The Science of a Good Marriage

3.49  ·  Rating details ·  705 ratings  ·  154 reviews
Groundbreaking scientific news about marriage. And, surprise: It's good news.

We've all heard the statistic: Fifty percent of marriages end in divorce. It's enough to make many couples give up when the going gets rough, thinking that's what everybody else does. But what if it weren't true? What if, in fact, it's not only possible but often easier than you think to save a
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Hardcover, 356 pages
Published May 6th 2010 by Dutton Adult (first published January 1st 2009)
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Average rating 3.49  · 
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Tara
Jul 17, 2010 rated it liked it
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
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Dora
Sep 15, 2010 rated it did not like it
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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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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Summer
I think every married couple could find something helpful in this book. I think every single person hoping to get married someday would find this extremely helpful. And every marriage in trouble would find this extremely helpful. I like how she repeatedly states that there are always exceptions to the rule but for the most part most of the research states a lot of positive for being married.

I found the chapter on the heterosexual compared to the gay and lesbian couples fascinating. Some
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Logan Hughes
Sep 02, 2014 rated it liked it
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 ...more
Katie Kenig
Jul 10, 2015 rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
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,
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Darren Standar
Aug 22, 2010 rated it did not like it
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
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Michelle Bozbay
Nov 08, 2017 rated it really liked it
Really good! Very research heavy but presented in a conversational way that made the information very accessible. I'm giving this book to my sister to read it, she could especially benefit from the chapter on how kids impact a marriage. Very interesting!
Heidi
May 03, 2011 rated it liked it
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.
Anne
Oct 19, 2017 rated it it was ok
Just okay. Nothing revelatory. Sometimes too simplified ("marriage is easy and everyone fits into these nice boxes" kind of mentality), sometimes even sexist. Really she is just gathering other people's research but not drawing any new conclusions. I liked what she had to say about conflict and how to fight well, but again, these are not really her ideas so much as a summary of someone else's. A good book perhaps for people who haven't thought a lot about marriage before, for people who are just ...more
Hannah
Aug 07, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I actually really enjoyed this book. I am more logic-driven and less of a self-help person so this book worked for me. The book's statistics and data went further than sweeping generalizations about marriage and I appreciated the complexity of relationships and family that were addressed in this book.
Rachaelita
May 19, 2010 rated it liked it
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
sharon
Dec 27, 2014 rated it it was ok
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 ...more
Will
Jun 28, 2010 rated it really liked it
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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Laura
Jul 24, 2010 rated it really liked it
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 ...more
Tamra
Jul 13, 2010 rated it it was ok
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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Marjorie Elwood
Nov 04, 2012 rated it liked it
Shelves: relationships
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
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Molly
Jul 26, 2010 rated it it was ok
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 ...more
Rachel
Sep 23, 2011 rated it really liked it
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
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John Kennedy
Apr 12, 2010 rated it really liked it
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 ...more
Cynthia
Oct 04, 2010 rated it liked it
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
...more
Kayla Shanley
May 18, 2011 rated it it was ok
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
Nicole Marie
Sep 16, 2012 rated it it was amazing
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
Emily
Jun 05, 2011 rated it did not like it
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 rated it did not like it
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!
Saralyn
Oct 17, 2010 rated it it was ok
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.
Crabbygirl
Aug 05, 2017 rated it really liked it
i cannot say enough good things about this non-fiction book! it's informative, mostly non-anecdotal (the author does veer into her own marriage towards the end of the book), full of verified data, and has just the right mix of quizzes to keep you participating in the evidence you are uncovering.
i've been readingit, bits at a time, since december. that meant i renewed it at the library. returned it. got it again. renewed again. it's the best way to read non-fiction that can impact your daily
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Greg Stoll
Mar 07, 2017 rated it really liked it
Continuing the neurosciency trend, my latest read is For Better: The Science of a Good Marriage by Tara Parker-Pope. I gleaned a lot of information from it, but I didn’t enjoy it as much as I thought I would. (if there’s anything the last book taught me, I’m not going to try to explain why, because I don’t know!)

Here’s lots of random stuff:

The statistic that “50% of all marriages end in divorce” is misleading – the divorce rate has been going down significantly since the 1970s. Big risk factors
...more
Brittany
Aug 30, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
One thing I have noticed with non-fiction books is that they tend to get repetitive towards the end. This was definitely something I noticed in this particular book, however, I felt like it was done in a very tasteful and smooth manner. I felt encouraged by hearing the same (or similar) points over and over, because they were tied in to the greater context in new ways each time. I felt like the book as a whole gave a good picture of what a marriage should be, but did not state that there was one ...more
Cathy
Sep 14, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: read-2018
This book cited a ton of research on marriage and tried to organize and communicate the research results to readers in an interesting way. Most of the research results are not surprising. For example, research finds your marriage will be stronger if you avoid criticism and contempt of your spouse when you argue with or talk about each other. Research finds couples who argue in a healthy manner have stronger relationships than couples who rarely argue.....etc. Three findings that I personally ...more
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Washington Post Review 1 6 May 24, 2010 12:16PM  

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