A happy marriage is a wonderful thing. Too bad it’s wasted on the happily married.
Some people have been so lucky they have to invent problems in order to have something to say. As in ten pages of The New York Times magazine.
Or, put another way: They’ve been up so long, it looks like down to them.
“A More Perfect Union” by Elizabeth Weil explores what happens when a “good enough” marriage goes poking around in therapy sessions and marital classes.
The story was just engaging enough that I kept reading. I kept hoping. I admit that about halfway through, I began slogging. But I didn’t quit! Surely, I thought, this story will eventually crystallize and yield some gem of wisdom.
Maybe all this gratuitous therapy will lead to a breakup! That would be a nice, ironic twist. Maybe her husband will get tired of talking about the marriage and run off with the sadistic, manipulative, depraved lover from his past.
Sorry. That would be interesting.
No, the story of Elizabeth’s marriage is more like: What wacky gourmet meal will Dan whip up next? Which summer home will they visit? Which set of adoring, affluent grandparents will get the most quality time?
So hard to decide! Plus, there might be some rancor. There might be a sarcastic tone, a sideways glance, a hint of displeasure.
By the end of the article, we learn that yes, the marriage could be better, and that Elizabeth and Dan have opened up new avenues of expression and growth. And – bottom line – all is quite wonderful in their little corner of the universe, thank you very much.
But why am I not surprised? Let’s see…could it be that both Elizabeth and her husband came from stable, loving, intact homes?
Could it be that both Elizabeth and Dan are self-employed free-lance writers, and yet they have the money to raise two kids? In San Francisco, no less. I’d be happy too.
Elizabeth’s tale isn’t all predictable. There’s even a moment during the experiment when Dan utters the word “divorce” for the first time ever. Good golly! (He was talking in the abstract, but still…)
I do take issue with this sentence: “Marital therapy, to me, seemed akin to chemo: helpful but toxic.” Marriage counseling is like chemo? Something tells me Elizabeth has never had chemo. Or cancer, for that matter.
Somehow I doubt Elizabeth’s adventures in “skilled conversations” with her husband compare to, say, coping with a malignant brain tumor. Likewise, people who are now struggling with layoffs, foreclosures, poverty and violence might find Elizabeth’s long treatise of complaints and observations a bit…oh, what’s the word? Petty?
So, here’s some unsolicited advice: Elizabeth, you’re living a charmed life. Relax and enjoy it. A little humility and gratitude goes a long way. Don’t try so hard to be interesting. Do try to be brief.
[originally published by Politics Daily in 2009]