Read marriage confidential the post romantic age of workhorse wives royal children undersexed spouses and rebel couples who are rewriting the rules by Pamela Haag Online


Pamela Haag has written the generational "big book" on modern marriage, a mesmerizing, sometimes salacious look at the semi-happy ambivalence lurking just below the surface of many marriages today. The spouses may rarely fight—they may maintain a sincere affection for each other—but one or both may harbor a melancholy sense that something important is missing.Remarkably, tPamela Haag has written the generational "big book" on modern marriage, a mesmerizing, sometimes salacious look at the semi-happy ambivalence lurking just below the surface of many marriages today. The spouses may rarely fight—they may maintain a sincere affection for each other—but one or both may harbor a melancholy sense that something important is missing.Remarkably, this side of the marriage story hasn't been told or analyzed—until now.Meticulously researched and injected with insightful firsthand accounts and welcome doses of humor, Marriage Confidential articulates for a generation that grew up believing they would "have it all" why they have ended up disenchanted. Haag introduces us to contemporary marriages where spouses act more like life partners than lovers; children occupy an uncontested position at the center of the marital relationship; and even the romantic staples of sexual fidelity and passion are assailed from all sides—so much so that spouses can end up having affairs online almost by accident.Blending tales from the front lines of matrimony with cultural history, surveys, and research covert-ops (such as joining an online affair-finding site and posting a personal ad in the New York Review of Books), Haag paints a detailed picture of the state of marriage today. And to show what's possible as well as what's melancholy in our post-romantic age, Haag seeks out marriages with a twist—rebels who are quietly brainstorming and evolving the scripts around career, money, social life, child rearing, and sex.Provocative but sympathetic, forward-thinking and bold, here, at last, is a manifesto for living large in marriage....

Title : marriage confidential the post romantic age of workhorse wives royal children undersexed spouses and rebel couples who are rewriting the rules
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ISBN : 11044107
Format Type : Kindle Edition
Number of Pages : 352 Pages
Status : Available For Download
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marriage confidential the post romantic age of workhorse wives royal children undersexed spouses and rebel couples who are rewriting the rules Reviews

  • Katie
    2019-07-16 13:37

    I received this book for free through the Amazon Vine program.This is the worst book I have read in a long time, in several senses of the word "worst." In fact, the only thing that kept me reading to the end was that I wanted to be able to write a complete review detailing everything that is wrong with it. Starting with the actual writing itself, there were two problems right off the bat. First, as other reviewers have noted, the ridiculously stilted language, which would be one problem on its own, but the fact that Haag misuses words, sometimes to the point of outright malapropisms, is another yet. Also it is clear before you are even half way through the first chapter that Haag is not certain about what kind of book she is writing. Hard nonfiction, with the research to back up her assertions? If that was the goal, the book fails miserably, as the research presented is thin indeed. Creative nonfiction, a kind of meditation on the current state of marriage? As such this book also fails, as the writing is too superficial and glib to be called "creative." She muddies the water further by dragging in her own marriage and her poor husband John, who is thanked in foreward and acknowledgements alike, but apparently is also a fine example of a disappointing, dull, passionless husband. This was a bad idea as it spoiled Haag herself as a sympathetic narrator; I spent the rest of the book feeling vaguely mortified for her husband and child, who also gets dragged in as evidence of kids-as-marriage-killers.If you share Haag's perspective on what life ought to be, you might find this book more appealling. To give you an idea of her bias, she defines being grounded (as in rooted in a stable place) as a negative early in the book. She uses the cliche "(noun) in a grey flannel suit" at least three times in various contexts to describe the horrors of having an average, steady life. She sneers at the idea of "life partners" and marital egalitarianism, but also sneers at "Christian marriages" and their traditionalism. Haag uses the word "stability" as a negative descriptor. She repeatedly uses the term "low conflict low stress" with regard to marriage as though it were a bad thing. In general she seems to believe, not unlike the typical adolescent, that life ought to be one adventure after another, passionate and ever-changing. She believes spouses ought to entertain each other, and that others in your life are essentially dead weight unless they make you "feel alive." If you're thinking "whatever THAT means" then you and I are more alike than you and Haag. If you want to read this book anyhow, you will have to push past her air of snotty incredulity at the miserable lives we mediocre dullards tolerate.As is typical with these "I did research! I read my journal and talked to some friends!" Eastern seaboard, upper middle class elite "lifestyle trend" books, generalizations are made over and over again that have little to no relevance to actual, average Americans. She wants to know if people tend to marry within their same ethnicity, class, etc, and instead of citing actual sociological work that has been done on this question, she spends some time surveying the wedding announcements in the New York Times. Surprisingly, she discovers that wealthy white elites tend to marry other wealthy white elites! It didn't occur to her that perhaps mums and dads wouldn't spend the fee to announce a marriage between Muffy and the local plumber, and that her sample was hilariously limited and biased. Haag assumes that parenting is always done as it is by the most neurotic of the Park Slope set, using words such as "competitive" and "narcissistic prison." She bemoans the isolation of the suburbs and its apparent toll on marriages by giving the example of some friends who have an actual English-style pub built into the basement of their McMansion. Oh yeah, she's got her fingers on the pulse of the average American household, which pulls in around $45,000 per year.Her attitude towards children is bizarre and depressing. One is tempted to take her aside and ask if there's something she needs to talk about, she is so hopelessly down about marriages with children. She intones "have kids will divorce" again and again as though it were a given in her social circle (and thus the world). She claims that the world has become so child-centric it's strangling out marriages, all because some parents she knows don't take date nights and other friend felt like a "eunuch Barbie" while newly postpartum. She is certain that children wreck marriages, but at the same time she seems to have taken on both marriage and parenthood in an attempt to right childhood wrongs of her own, and she assumes that's why everyone else these days does it too. She quotes some Swedish person as saying that traditional family life is "a fossil" in Sweden, something they study as an artifact. What she doesn't mention is that in Sweden, traditional marriage and family is very much alive among the African immigrant community...and that their population is growing while the native population stagnates, making those progressive Swedes into *literal* fossils while the traditional Somalis flourish!Haag's claim that children and child-centrism are taking over the world also begs the question, if so why are so many kids--yes, even in America, yes in your city--going hungry? Going to substandard schools? At risk for violence? Dying of disease and injury? Well those things don't happen in Haag's elite social circle so for the purposes of her book, they just don't happen at all!Meanwhile, we get to hear endless, painful anecdotes of how all the good old bros don't REALLY want to be fathers, and how women can essentially only "find themselves" by divorcing and going after a "bad boy." The misery that is rampant in Haag's sample is not caused by their marriages (though in some cases the marriage may make matters worse) but she fails to notice this. Mostly, the discontent is caused by competitiveness and the belief that everything should be novel and entertaining. It is by this means that divorce becomes socially contageous, too, as man after man in a group decides his wife is an oppressive ***** and woman after woman decides she needs to "find herself" by taking off somewhere and the social glue among friends increasingly consists of griping about how terrible your spouses are.Haag's solution to all this is...well it's not clear. She proposes polyamory, or at least turning the other cheek while your spouse cheats on you. She seems to suggest that wives have a duty to provide sexual entertainment of an ever-revolving sort, or else...the details are fuzzy, here. She considers the topic of swinging, and how it differs from polyamory. She ends with the suggestion that one "live marriage as if you're always on vacation" and to "imagine your first child is actually your second." Well alright then! Are you worried about the effects that 10% unemployment, stagnant wages, chronic overwork, diminishing retirement savings and insurance coverage, and a toxic media culture might have on marriages and families? Too bad. Let them eat cake!This book is a terrible read, not even entertaining as a trainwreck, and the ideas it promotes are unclearly argued, not supported by evidence, and frankly a little bit dangerous. But then again, I think "stability" is a good word when we're talking about family life.

  • Katie
    2019-07-20 15:12

    OK, this is a weird book to read as a married person--you can't help but compare everything to your own situation. The gist of it is that in modern times, there are lots and lots of what she calls "low-stress, low-passion 'melancholy' marriages," but yet we are still too stuck-in-our-ways to try to change the basic framework of marriage. We have so much freedom today relative to the past, that why do we insist on keeping marriage as the same staid old institution with the same old rules as previous generations? Why do we not divorce if we're only sort of content, and not really happy? Why is the idea of non-monogamy still so shocking? Who cares if other people don't like it?That's what the book is about: marriage in this day and age, and how some people have broken the boundaries and why so many others have not. There were some really funny parts, too, where the author joined online communities of married people prowling for lovers and shouted downstairs to her husband, "I'll be down in a minute! I'm busy flirting with my prospective lover!". Her husband knew and approved of all this research, by the way. But it was kind of weird how much she shared about her own marriage! She said some shockingly candid things, about how they had contemplated separation, and about how she counts herself among those in "low-stress, low-passion" marriages.I think the reason so many of us refuse to muck with the institution of marriage is because once you "open that door", you can't really go back. Just by trying to have a conversation about rewriting the rules with your spouse, you could mess things up emotionally. There were anecdotes in the book about couples who had agreed to open marriages, for example, and made specific rules, and even though they followed the rules, in some cases they ended up breaking up because they couldn't handle it. It's something of a Pandora's box. My thoughts are that YES, we should absolutely rewrite the rules for our own marriages if it suits us--but, it is still sort of a scary thing to contemplate (the institution is the way it is for a reason and given the Pandora's box effect, you have to proceed with caution).

  • K
    2019-07-14 12:28

    As I mentioned in a status update, it's very hard to look at this book objectively after reading this incisive review. But I tried, really I did.As the review mentioned, one issue is the book's identity crisis and resulting lack of direction. Is it a sociological study? A memoir? A free-associative blog post? The latter is probably the most appropriate category for the book, since the research is pretty inadequate and the personal asides are too scattered for it to qualify as a memoir. But this is a lot of time and effort to invest into reading a glorified blog post, and I can't say I felt it was worth it.The book actually started out somewhat interesting, if dubious in many respects. Haag begins by mourning the "dilemmas of a semi-happy marriage," one which is "low-conflict and low-stress" but less than thrilling. She implies that, despite her own husband's many wonderful qualities (including, notably, his willingness to tolerate her oversharing on his behalf), her marriage is less than exciting which may have been part of what inspired her to write this book. The book's later focus (overfocus in my view) on adultery in its various permutations and the mental calisthenics aimed at legitimizing polyamory made me wonder if she was living vicariously. Although she'll tell the reader that "the affair is just not in me," she seems quite fixated on the topic of multiple partners. But I'm getting ahead of myself.Anyway, I wasn't sure how I felt about the supposed problem of the semi-happy marriage. Perhaps we all lead lives of quiet desperation, as Thoreau would have it. So what? What level of happiness should we be expecting and demanding from marriage? Can any spouse actually be a thrill a minute when you live with them all the time? If every minute with a spouse is exciting, doesn't that make exciting the new normal, and isn't that an impossible paradox? Is it just me, or are these white people problems?Haag goes on to suggest, or imply at least, that spouses' partnership in everyday tasks kills romance. Um, okay. To the extent that this is a problem, it's not a particularly novel one and it does seem solvable to me. But Haag is building a case for inevitable melancholy in marriage which she then seems to imply is only solvable through mixing it up with new partners, with or without your spouse's consent. Her case, unfortunately, is far from airtight. This is due, in part, to the fact that her research methods (such as they are) are quite unimpressive. Rather than fleshing out the issue with peer-reviewed statistics or at least a wide range of anecdotes with a variety of outcomes, Haag draws the target around the arrow. I don't remember her citing many, if any, examples of couples who successfully circumvented the marriage doldrums even though I know they exist; I've met several and have read professional literature discussing how marital therapists can be helpful in this regard. Haag then discusses another force which she feels is threatening romance in marriage -- the desire to have it all and the elusive "work-life balance." She discusses the "Tom Sawyer marriage" where things have evolved such that the woman is stuck in a demanding career that she's no longer sure she wants while her husband is free to pursue his dream since he no longer has to be a breadwinner. This is consistent with a claim I read in an article long ago -- that feminism liberated men, not women. I actually found this chapter to be the most interesting and provocative, if equally anecdotal and unsupported.After a less interesting (to me) chapter on couples who choose downward mobility, Haag tackles the next threat to romantic marriage: overly empowered children and parents who revolve their lives around meeting their children's needs at the expense of their relationship. Again, not a particularly new problem. Haag discusses women who marry solely for the purpose of having children, in which case it's kind of a no-brainer that their marriages prove unromantic and lacking in staying power. She goes on to discuss spouses trying to escape their marital melancholy through regressive all-guys or all-girls getaways, and then talks for a bit about the different communities married couples choose. And then we get to infidelity, which seems to be the place Haag was headed all along because she certainly spends a great deal of time and detail on the topic. The issue of affairs, and Haag's bemoaning the unpopularity of accepting a spouse's infidelity. Haag, who seems to fancy herself far more progressive, seems to view the desire for an out-of-wedlock partner as inevitable and something which should be accepted, even condoned, on both sides. She discusses the fact that the internet makes cheating far more readily accessible and less prohibitive in terms of effort invested. She goes into a lot of detail about couples who make arrangements for tolerating each other's infidelities -- open marriages, swingers, and what she calls the "hidden world of ethical nonmonogamy." Here too, even more than before, Haag draws the target around the arrow. She offers a plethora of anecdotes from unconventional couples who have happily embraced marital arrangements that allow for cheating on both sides. The overwhelming evidence, Haag seems to suggest, is that couples would be happier if they accepted the reality that boredom is inevitable in marriage and affairs are an inevitable byproduct of marital boredom. So instead of fighting it, why don't we just embrace it? Well, Haag certainly doesn't give us a reason not to. She doesn't share with us anecdotes of couples for whom this unconventionality did not work. Maybe she cherry-picked, or maybe her shoddy research methods resulted in highly biased sampling. Either way, Haag's provocative stance is far from proven.So ultimately what we're left with is this:1. Haag doesn't tell us much that's particularly novel or profound2. Haag fails to support her statements with adequate research3. Haag is promoting a particular viewpoint rather than making a genuine attempt to flesh out all sides of an issueIn other words, a blog post. Provocative, to be sure. But really no more than someone's musings.

  • Christine Trensen
    2019-07-01 19:10

    A lot of criticisms of this book are valid. However, the topic is one that needs to be talked about. Pamela Haag dares say what a lot of other adults - both women and men - do not. I actually admire Haag's bravery in this regard. As a mother of 3 who has felt all the pressures that go with that, and having watched friends, family, neighbors, etc., struggle through their marriages, I was looking for an honest assessment of marriage in the 21st century. And Marriage Confidential is brutally honest.Normally I choose not to read books by Ivy Leaguers. When I read the author biography and the first sentence mentions a degree from Harvard, Yale, etc., the book goes back on the shelf, unbought. I am weary of intellectual elitism and run the other way when I see it coming. But I made an exception for this book, and I'm glad I did.If you worry that the despite the author's degrees from Harvard and Swarthmore she will write at a level for the state-university-educated, your worry will be well founded. I don't think I've read a book in the last ten years that was so impressed with its own vocabulary. This makes the book a slow read, which is unfortunate, because the discussions are so interesting.Yes, the author's samples are limited (which she acknowledges), and the heart-to-heart conversations she has with others in low-stress, low-passion marriages are all from her socioeconomic class: you know the type - in love with urban dwelling, believers that Diversity is the cure for all evils, and so forth. But despite this, the book is relevant across age groups and social classes. I have known plenty of people in the working/blue-collar class who experience the challenges described in this book. They wouldn't describe their feelings with quite so many polysyllabic words, but they'd be saying basically the same thing that Haag says.What Haag is hinting at, without quite saying outright, is that the institution of marriage as we know it doesn't really work for a lot of people, and that we're probably better off admitting that than pretending we don't know what she's talking about because of our upbringing, religious code, and so forth. She explores couples who are looking to make their marriages work at some level while also not giving up things that are important to them. She also dares suggest that perhaps children shouldn't be the rulers of a household and that parents shouldn't subordinate all their needs to the kids' whims. How many of us have thought that but are afraid to say it? A good many, I think - have a look at the children's book GO THE F--- TO SLEEP, and its mega success, for a humorous look at the same viewpoint.Haag isn't telling the reader what to do. She's not saying: You, reader, do all of the following: Decide not to have children. Have extramarital affairs with your spouse's consent. Move into a commune where a fair amount of spouse swapping goes on, and it's no big deal. She IS saying that these are some of the experiments people are trying because they love their spouses and see them as alternatives to divorce, which they really don't want because they love their spouses, even if they're somewhat dissatisfied with certain aspects of the relationship.I applaud this book and was not offended in the least by it. It is written with sensitivity and understanding. It probably isn't for people with deep religious convictions or anyone in a codependent relationship. But it IS for people who understand how complicated and difficult marriage is for just about everyone. But maybe my viewpoint is skewed, too. Like the author, I know hundreds of married couples and would be hard pressed to identify even one that would describe their marriage as blissfully happy.

  • Jay
    2019-07-14 18:19

    Processing... processing... processing...This book gave me a lot to think about. I really enjoy books that present ideas new to me or challenge cultural norms and this book has lot so that. I had never really thought about ways that the state of marriage could be generalized. It never occurred to me to question what one might give up to keep the rest of the marriage healthy. I've always been intrigued by the "courtly love" ideal from medieval days (which, to my recollection, is that the arranged marriage must be kept intact, but that a chaste love -- an expression of admiration -- between non-spouses was also allowed; was even good).I think the ideas that most touched me is that a lot of people live in a semi-happy life (it's not too bad, but not too great either... matches my observations of a lot of people), that children have really moved to a new position in the family (from a historical perspective), and that while cheating has long been known as unethical, other options could be designed more ethically given sufficient thought. There are lots of other details, too. I will also say that I can understand why people say "Ignorance is bliss." You can't unthink a thought and the ideas in this book have complicated the world a bit. I'm going to have to process these thoughts for a while.

  • Dawn
    2019-06-29 16:26

    Ok, I admit I read about this book in Glamour magazine, under the heading "The Curse of the Just-OK Marriage." Just in case anyone wonders, I consider my marriage awesome in every way, and only plan to read this so I can gloat about what these poor souls are missing.

  • Kristina
    2019-07-04 17:17

    I was turned off almost instantly as the last thing we need in this world is a book that supports the destruction of the family unit – especially one that does it through pseudo-psychology. Marriage is not an institution whose outcome relies on the decisions and acts of others. It is only as good as the two people involved and when one does not take the vetting process seriously, you end up with Pamela Haag’s “Post-Romantic Age” marriage – a marriage of regret, emptiness, and personal failures. Haag misses the mark when it comes to explaining the various kinds of marriages that exist in the world. She tries too hard to put them in a box of her own making instead of allowing them to be what they are – reflections of those people involved in them.Take her anecdotal couple “Peter and Alice” who marry not out of love but because Alice wanted a baby and Peter has good sperm. That’s right, Alice marries Peter not because she is attracted to him or because he makes her happy, but because she wanted a baby. Suffice it to say, their sex life is boring and Alice is unhappy…Um, excuse Ms. Haag, I call foul! This sham of a marriage is not the norm nor did it ever have a chance in hell of surviving or being one of happiness. Yet, Haag blames marriage and not the shallow, stupidity of a woman who was obviously not ready to be a mom let alone a wife. And this is not the first couple she uses to further her “anti-marriage agenda.”There is Bill who married his best friend and has been in a sexless marriage for 20 years. He tells Haag, who has met him on-line, that he is unhappy about the sexless marriage, not because he misses the intimacy and connection with his wife, but because she will not agree to an open-relationship or a swinger lifestyle and threatens to divorce him if he cheats. Again, this sounds bogus! Almost like something one would say when seeking to begin an affair with someone who has no way of verifying the validity of his words. And of course Haag takes this at face value ignoring the myriad of reasons that his marriage my be sexless. Obviously cultivating intimacy takes work and is not as simple as saying, “spread ‘em baby, I’m looking for love!”And the book continues with these kinds of stories. What could have been an honest look at the state of marriage today is turned into a joke. Haag’s sophomoric research and failure to remove her own disdain for marriage from her writing does nothing to help her accomplish what she says is her goal. Like Manning Marable’s book on Malcolm X, too many of her assumptions are unsupported and presented for nothing more than shock value. And it’s a shame too. Marriage is complex and deserves more than a biased exploration.Originally posted at:

  • Nancy
    2019-07-17 18:27

    I didn't finish this book but I have a couple of comments about what I did read.Haag's supposition is that the 1800's gave us the traditional view of marriage. We married because we needed to have a family unit and perpetuate the race. We married in the 1900's out of romantic ideation. Today's marriages are neither traditional nor romantic so what are they? Today's couples are often dual-income or non-traditional. Middle age couples are now asking what the purpose of marriage might be. I agree that with this reasoning, it would be particularly relevant for the couple whose children are raised, don't intend to have children, or do not feel a moral obligation to marry.My issues with the book are two-fold, although related. The author gives different studies but makes interpretations on them that may not have been intended. Although the author claims that online dating is a successful and viable option in today's world, a noted social psychologist, Dan Ariely, has shown different results. This is one example of, what I believe, is faulty interpretation of research.The author also determines that we have become assortative in our spouse choices. We are much to homogeneous. I agree that we are assortative. Surprisingly, I married a college educated, white man with the same religious background as I have. Most likely because I spent my dating years at colleges and universities and in religious pursuits. Of course I married someone much like myself. I would not, however, call our marriage homogeneous or non-conflict. We have many differences we didn't know before we married.

  • WithaK
    2019-06-24 18:31

    I won this book in a firstreads giveaway. I Enjoyed reading sections of this book and relating them to my marriage, and if mine didn't relate, then to other people i know. It's nice to hear about the evolution of marriage as a whole; but where are the suggestions and hope for the reader? It was slightly depressing to have the affairs and failing marriages described so I skipped the open marriage parts because I truly don't need those thoughts in my head! So right now I'll be wondering what a good healthy solution is to some of the issues I could relate to. Wishing all a happy, healthy, respectful relationship with someone truly special to you. I am feeling very good about my marriage after reading this and feeling very sorry for those who give up on themselves or their partner, are a doormat, or partake in an affair. Life is hard enough and too short.

  • David
    2019-07-19 17:15

    Marriage Confidential is a deceptively packaged book - it looks like either an exposé regarding how marriages are more loveless than one would think, or perhaps an exploration of how the elevation of children has resulted in the diminution of the relationship between spouses. It touches on these themes, but is really something wholly different, and this different element is absent from other mass-market reviews of the book.Instead of being the above, what this book is at its heart is a step-by-step argument for polyamory. The author traces through the shared history of the assumption of monogamy, even though a tremendously high percentage of married individuals have adulterous liaisons, and then heads off into the less-well known territory of some open marriages, asexual marriages, and some of the bitter exchanges that are at the core of marital sexual dysfunction. Polyamory is the climactic theme of the book - once you've tossed aside monogamy as an assumption, why wouldn't it be easy to embrace polyamory as a highly satisfactory lifestyle choice?There are a couple of spectacular flaws in the book which I believe substantially weaken its case. For example, at no point does Haag go into detail about the Western cultural assumption of monogamy in marriage, vis-à-vis the actual origin of this presumption. That is, that the single most famous legal text known to the Western world, the Ten Commandments, includes adultery in the "thou shalt not" section. The only mention of Christianity in the entire book is a single paragraph (p 177) describing how [Christians have a] nonchalance and generally noncompetitive equanimity around children. They don't display the level of anxiety I see in affluent secular marriages...I've yet to hear a devout family agonize over whether a child would get into the top professions or schools...It's also an example of parenting relations that don't swamp the marriage or other adult roles. Maybe there's a subtle narcissistic hubris in imagining ourselves so influential over, and hence so burdened by, our children's fates. Maybe children find themselves happy or unhappy, successful or not, of their own accord. But these are marriages circumscribed and defined by evangelical faith, whose consolations are inaccessible to me.Aside from that, no other mention of faith exists in the entire book, and given that (a) the majority of the USA describe themselves as religious, and (b) marriage was certainly a religious concept before it was a secular concept (c.f. the assorted religious groups who do not accept secular marriage as defining a "legitimate" marriage in their faiths), that is a fatal failing in the argument the book makes.Instead of actually confronting how the failure of individuals to live up to the monogamous standard they profess is an exercise in cognitive dissonance and hypocrisy, Haag punts on the subject entirely, and effectively assumes that religion and religious values are a non-issue to the readers of the book. Further, in the words of François de La Rochefoucauld, hypocrisy is "the tribute that vice pays to virtue" - that is to say, that the ideal does not lose its value for lack of instantiation in the real world. Haag attempts to argue in the inexorable style of Dennis Prager, but glosses over far too much in the process. In addition to forgetting to examine religion and its importance and effect, she ignores sexually transmitted diseases, the net effect on child raising and child development, and she handwaves away the very common painful jealousy between partners in polyamorous relationships. An account of the inner lives of married people and their discontents would make a great read; that isn't this book.

  • Jenny
    2019-07-04 13:14

    As an author, I really HATE having to give low reviews. And in fact, I try to look for all the best aspects of a book before I do. But alas, I feel a sense of responsibility to report my honest assessment of the books I read on a site like GoodReads. I really wanted to like this book. On it's face, it's a critical look at the institution of marriage and the ways in which it is currently broken in the "post-romantic era." Haag investigates "melancholy marriages" which are characterized by low-stress, low-conflict, depressing, passionless arrangements that are not divorce-worthy but certainly not happiness-producing. While it did spark many conversations, I have two core issues: -Her writing style is BEYOND pretentious -- to the point of almost condescending. The book comes across as a vocabulary pissing match -- with phrases like "the captor of parenthood," "despite our abstract opprobrium," "peccadillo," "obstinately significant," and "listened gluttonously." One or two per chapter are manageable; one or two per page are just showing off and obstructing her points. -Haag presents absolutely NO solutions to melancholy marriages beyond swinging and polyamory. It's damned if you do, damned if you don't. Damned if you break your marriage, and certainly damned if you try to fix it. In her epilogue she says that this book is a "manifesto for living large in marriage" -- but none of the chapters support that. Rather, they outline how marriages are inevitably (and unavoidably) corroded by time, children and affairs.The one thing I found interesting was how much more frequent "affairs of the mind" are becoming with everyone having such easy, private access to the Internet, Facebook, social media, chatrooms, online dating sites for affairs (the deplorable, etc. Why am I so riled up about this book in particular? Because I think it's an incredibly important topic to broach, and this book is a missed opportunity. I forced myself to finish it, interested and intrigued at times though generally very put-off based on the reasons above. Ultimately I finished reading it with a sense of utter depression about the state of marriage in America.

  • Julie - Book Hooked Blog
    2019-07-20 17:19

    I was pretty excited to have the opportunity to read this one, I'm not going to lie. I love non-fiction, especially in regards to cultures or ideas that I'm not familiar with. Sociology and psychology in particular interest me, and this looked like a good sociological view of changing attitudes regarding marriage. Another reason this one appealed to me is that Luke and I have a very traditional marriage. We're conservative Christians and support (almost) all of the "traditional marriage values". I knew this book would present the polar opposite views, given the "rewriting the rules" tagline. So this gave me a chance to see a different opinion of marriage than what I've been exposed to before.WritingThe writing is well done. The author uses and cites sociological studes appropriate and provides a good critique of the methods used in the studies, as well as their shortcomings. You guys know how I feel about a good citation. This is also one of the few cases in which I didn't mind the author inserting a political and moral bias. From the subtitle that mentions "rewriting the rules", I knew in advance this one wasn't going to be my typical fare. So yes, the book does include several critiques of and a few mildly snide remarks concerning traditional family values, but nothing that I felt affected the accuracy of the research presented or compromised the author's integrity as an objective reporter. I can actually really appreciate books that go against my own personal beliefs when they are handled in an appropriately academic way, without mockery. The author did a good job of this and I enjoyed seeing things from a different point of view.Entertainment ValueWhat was really cool about this book was how much it made me think. I loved reading something so different from what I have read before and seeing where my own opinions diverge and where, interestingly enough, my opinions and beliefs merge well with a very liberal view of marriage.A good portion of the book deals with nonmonogamous lifestlyes (the couples who are rebelling against the rules). This can be anything from an open marriage to a "dont' ask, don't tell" marriage, to hidden affairs, to a swingers lifestyle. Obviously, those were the portions that I identified the least with. I don't share well, and these options are just not congruent with my faith system. And did I mention I don't share well? Regardless of personal beliefs, I just am not sharing my husband's time, affections, passions, etc with another woman. Ain't gonna happen.However, I was really surprised to see (and I think the author might be too if she knew) how similar some of the liberal ideas about marriage and family are to the traditional. One section of the book deals with the issues raised when children are introduced into a marriage, and it was this section that I found myself agreeing strongly with. The author describes the negative affect attachment parenting and the harm that can be done to a marriage by putting your children above your spouse. Interestingly enough, I have been raised with the exact same view the author has: that putting your children before your spouse can kill your marriage. I don't know that liberals and conservatives realize that they are essentially coming to the same conclusion on this. I certainly didn't realize that this was a rising idea among liberal marriages. So those chapters interested me the most.So overall I found the book highly entertaining, in terms of seeing both a completely different viewpoint than me own and in terms of finding common ground that I didn't know existed with more liberal lifestyles. However, I do have to say that, overall, the book was pretty discouraging regarding the posibilities of happiness in marriage. The author takes the position that almost all marriages are somewhat unfulfilling, boring, or melancholy. I realize that most people probably still consider me a newlywed (four years of happy marriage) so maybe my mind will change later on, but I just don't agree that marriage can't be wonderful long-term. I think it kind of goes along with some of my views on depression. I have depression and I will probably have it forever. I'll have to fight it and work hard to keep it from taking over my life, but I am committed to doing that. I'm committed to making my life happy and to doing the things I know I need to do to make it that way. I'm not willing to just give up and roll over and accept a life of sadness and boredom. And I'm not willing to do so in my marriage either.OverallI recommend giving this one a try if you're interested in sociology or changing views on marriage, even if you don't agree with the author's opinions. If you've grown up conservative/evangelical like I have (my parents were actually missionaries with a marriage ministry called FamilyLife), this is a great book to give you a very different perspective on marriage and a good way to see how those values are different and how they are surprisingly similar.

  • Cher
    2019-06-30 13:36

    2.5 stars - It was alright, an average book. Not great, but certainly not bad.I heard about this book on a minimalist blog of all places. I wasn't sure what to expect from it, but it turned out to be a very interesting sociological creative piece that explores how marriage and the perception of marriage, have evolved in America vs globally, and also covers all the different types of marriages one might encounter today.The first half while intriguing, could be a bit slow at times. For obvious reason, I thoroughly enjoyed the sections regarding childfree marriages, and what she calls "downwardly mobile and mutually liberated" marriages. DM&ML are essentially double income couples with minimalist tendencies that are striving for an early retirement so that they can then pursue their passions and hobbies full time and essentially have the time to do whatever they want together vs working and making as much as possible to acquire stuff. That chapter is what initially sparked an interest in the book and of course, I wish it had been longer.The first half also focuses on other marriage types - gay marriage, open marriage, partnership marriage (think friends cohabitating), swingers, stay-at-home dad marriages, Tom Sawyer marriages (stay at home husband with a sugar mama), but mainly focuses on marriages that she describes as being mediocre low stress and low passion - i.e., semi-happily married people. That part drug on a little too long and slowed down the book. She also discusses current reasons why people are choosing to, or not to, get a divorce, and does a comparison of us infidelity non-tolerant Americans vs the rest of the modern world. The second half gets much more juicy with a focus on sex. She basically takes you behind bedroom doors and discusses what your theoretical neighbors are really doing (not literally - it is in no way sexually graphic). She discusses how far more married couples today are accepting of adultery in some form or fashion, and that many couples have created "rules" that allow certain types of extramarital affairs. There are actual websites for married people to date other married people (say what?!). She even goes "undercover" on some of the dating sites to gather more research (her husband was aware and even cooperated). I have never felt more ignorant on a subject, but it was utterly fascinating in the same way that you cannot take your eyes off of a tragedy unfolding in front of your eyes. There truly are a hundred different types of marriages and it is not always obvious to outsiders when a couple does not have a traditional relationship.So after this long, interesting discussion of all of the above, I felt like there was an underlying theme of being more tolerant of how others choose to maintain their relationship, and above all else, being true to what works for you and your partner. As a libertarian, I am all about doing what works for you regardless of what path society or the mainstream may try to usher you down. Then this beautiful theme is doused with gasoline and torched in the end when she wraps it up with a preachy proclamation that everyone should cheat to obtain full marital satisfaction. Having extramarital affairs was presented as the holy grail for true marital bliss. Yeahhhh, that doesn't work for me or my marriage. What happened to all the yada yada about being true to what works for you and yours?? Nonetheless, it was still fascinating and I did learn quite a bit. If you enjoy exploring how cultures change over generations it is worth a read. It is a research-lite study, but that also makes it more entertaining to read. There are even a few humorous tidbits, particularly in the second half.-----------------------------------------------------Favorite Quote: I can imagine a day when middle-class marriages compete over the possessions of "lifestyle", "freedom", and "leisure time" as enthusiastically as they once competed over bigger homes and designer shoes. But for now, joy-of-falling husbands and wives are marital pioneers.First Sentence: Andy is an acquaintance of my husband, John.

  • Stefanie
    2019-07-08 14:20

    As many times as I wanted to pitch this book across the room, I soldiered through to the end to give it a fair shake. I'm glad I did, because I think overall it raises the valid point that not all marriages are going to match. What makes one couple happy is not going to work for another; thus, people should spend less time telling other people what marriage is or isn't or what their marriage should be like and more time on making their own union work.That being said, wow, so glad the author could step down off her mountain and bless us with her voyeuristic insights into the modern version of marriage and her (old) proposed solution to marital ennui. This isn't a book on marriage in general so much as a book on upper middle class and upper class marriage: marriage between individuals with degrees, careers, money, and time as well as the luxury of becoming bored. The marriages in this book don't have partners drawn together or torn apart by hardship, tragedy, illness, or bad luck. They plug along and, shockingly, partners have periods of boredom or they aren't connecting like they used to or they just aren't as happy as they think they should be. Instead of trying counseling, instead of looking inward to see whether personal dissatisfaction is being projected onto the partner, instead of taking time to reminisce about the past, instead of finding a joint project or goal to work on to rebuild a sense of partnership and purpose, the author suggests that the couple come to some open marriage arrangement so that whatever's missing in the bedroom (because why or where else is anyone bored in marriage?) can be fulfilled elsewhere. Huh? Exactly. Oh, but this isn't an advice book. Really. (It strikes me as a bit disingenuous to say here's a problem, here's a solution, but this isn't an advice book, but that may just be me.)The writing is decent and engaging but sometimes overreaches. The fifty-cent words get a tad old. On a number of occasions, a small point is made and then expanded to represent a conclusion too large to be worthy of confidence. For example, the rise in the number of people participating in marathons is, in her view, the result of people wanting to have a hobby that gets them out of the house and away from family. Really? The ever-increasing emphasis on health and fitness in society has nothing to do with it? There's no reference list, just some (not all) works cited in unmarked endnotes. Also, I don't think anyone chases hurricanes across the Oklahoma panhandle (tornados, yes, but hurricanes?), and when Baltimore cheaters say that they have a place "on the water," I do not believe that means that the trysts will take place on a boat; I think it's more likely that the love nest is on property that touches a body of water (as many properties in Maryland do).I've already spent too much time with this book, so I will not go on. I can't recommend it; maybe start reading Dan Savage's column instead for insight into what's going on behind closed doors.

  • Sara Strand
    2019-06-25 15:21

    Just within the introduction I found myself nodding my head fully agreeing and feeling like FINALLY. Finally someone really gets it. The author talks about how a lot marriages become "melancholy" where it isn't bad, but something feels missing leading you to constantly ask yourself, "Is this it?". She talks about how this is really hitting home for the couples who are seemingly living the American Dream- we have homes, we have careers, we have families, we have a spouse, we have everything people hope for in their lives and yet... it's not enough. But why is it not enough? I have had several conversations with friends who are in the same boat and we all wonder why marriages now don't last like our parents or even grandparent's marriages did. The book talks about how back then, marriage was where people start their lives. They got married and then built their lives together. Now, people are getting married after they've gone to school, started a career, maybe you already have a home, or even children. It makes total sense. If we already have all of these things when we enter into marriage, what is there left to build? I also found it interesting that the notion that feminism really screwed us in the end was made. I mean, feminists started with good intentions seeking equality but when they start waving the "We can have it all" flag meaning a home, family, and career they kind of doomed us into unhappiness. Think of every mom you know that works full time and yet is still the main caretaker of the family: how happy are they? Eventually a person is going to burn out. But then think of the stay at home moms you know: how happy are they? They've lost a certain level of independence and freedom as they stay home to care for the children. Either option you look at has pros and cons. I really enjoyed this book and swallowed it up quickly and really covers a LOT of information. I feel like if people who are married read this book and really fully understood that no matter WHO you marry, you'll end up here. Really, the grass might be greener somewhere else but eventually weeds creep in. You just have to be on top of them and cultivate your marriage. Marriage is hard ass work and it never ends. We talk about how you parent your children forever, well you have to put just as much effort into your marriage. If your partner doesn't want to work as hard as you, make them. Inspire them to want it just as much as you do. It's really a fascinating read and absolutely genius.

  • Kate Woods Walker
    2019-07-11 15:17

    With a subtitle that says it all, Marriage Confidential: The Post-Romantic Age of Workhorse Wives, Royal Children, Undersexed Spouses and Rebel Couples Who Are Rewriting the Rules, by Pamela Haag is a comprehensive look at American marriage in the 21st Century.The author is at her best when she wraps up an anecdote-filled musing with a clever quip that brightly illustrates a point. In considering "royal" children, for example, she wonders how the rickety folding chairs around Thanksgiving kids' tables of yesteryear have become today's thrones for tiny narcissists. There's another musing about real estate, and Elvis, and Vegas that packs a punch, though I won't spoil it here.With impressive research, a fine-tuned presentation and some personal revelation, Haag gives us much that is surprising about modern marriages. ("Swingers" are mostly conservative/libertarian; who knew?) She concludes with a lengthy psychodrama-of-sorts about "Jack and Jill," a modern couple trying to explore new territory in the ongoing expedition that is marriage. Although I found this portion of the book to be its weakest, I can see how the telling of this particular story might have served as the impetus to write such a book in the first place.It's a book with a hopeful conclusion, if you are a liberal, a feminist or particularly enamored of truth. If you a Culture Warrior from the right, trying to force America back into an imaginary 1950s model, then this book is the stuff of nightmares.

  • Nicholas
    2019-06-21 20:24

    It's no shock to me that there seems to be as much disagreement on Goodreads about Haag's book as there is. People have very decided opinions about everything she's writing about. And it's her goal to get people to look at those opinions, question them, and talk about where they come from and how they impact marriage. In that sense, she seems to have succeeded, even if what she also did was make people even more entrenched in their respective camps.While I had a couple minor issues with the book, I think Haag is actually quite straightforward in her goals for it. She does not claim to have conducted a straightforward sociological study, though she has read a lot of the sociological literature. The book is a pastiche of genres: part creative nonfiction, part memoir, part study of contemporary marriages and mores. Some readers are uncomfortable with the idea that she mixes these things, but they're also uncomfortable with the basic notion that there is more than one way to do "marriage." As for the writing, I actually thought it was great, and often very funny. She is also unabashedly feminist, and that's fantastic.

  • Lorri Coburn
    2019-07-12 19:29

    Marriage Confidential is an interesting look at what the author considers a trend: couples who have released the romantic ideal. These couples remain in low-conflict marriages that are often sexless. Sometimes they will go outside the marriage for sex, turning a blind eye. It's the marital version of "Don't ask, don't tell." In other cases, they pursue swinging or polyamory. If couples staying together is indeed a trend, it has a lot of benefits. Many people have divorced, pursuing a more exciting, romantic marriage, only to find there's no Prince Charming out there. In the meantime, children are emotionally scarred and couples are financially ruined. Haag includes a variety of studies, some of which conflict with each other. It is difficult to find comprehensive statistics on this topic, so she includes a lot of anecdotal material. She acknowledges that rather than being a scholarly work, much of it's her own observations. She does a good job looking at different angles, but I still think there continue to be many people divorcing based on romantic ideals. This is an entertaining read and it gave me insight into how different couples think.

  • Christine
    2019-06-22 12:22

    I disliked this book largely because it makes sweeping truth claims on the basis of very weak evidence. She does have an advanced degree; she doesn't have one in the field she's writing in. It shows. I strongly dislike pseudo-science.The book could benefit, in my opinion, from a more open acknowledgement of its nature as an argument for married polyamory. There is a large market for it less likely to feel cheated of serious social analysis or less single-focused marital advice. The title seems to suggest broad scope, but the book is quite narrowly-focused.I think if I hadn't gotten the impression it was about various methods used to enrich marriage, then revised that to seeing it as an analysis of existing marriage trends, I might have a slightly higher opinion of the work. I don't really understand why it wasn't marketed (or why she doesn't admit in the text that it is) a pro-polyamorous philosophy of marriage potential. It does a terribly poor job of its advertized work and a great job at something it seems ashamed to admit it is really about.

  • Kama
    2019-07-16 14:11

    The book was okay, mostly from a voyeuristic perspective. I couldn't relate on a personal level and I even had a hard time trying to imagine anyone I know fitting into some of these roles. I find it interesting that everyone she knows is unhappy in one way or another. It seems hard to believe, but maybe we just travel in different circles. I also felt that some of the comments were judgmental, such as a 'typical suburban childhood'. Not sure what is wrong with that, but that is how I grew up and I've been happily married for many years, so maybe I just can't relate. Also, the anti-Conservative comments made it hard to take the author seriously. I guess I like a book that at least tries to seem impartial. While it was interesting to read, I think it could be depressing for anyone happily married and affirming for anyone that is not. I will say that it did seem like the author spent a lot of time researching her topic and presenting some interesting facts, but again, I'm not really sure where she found some of these people.

  • Suefly
    2019-06-25 15:31

    I had high hopes for The Marriage Confidential. While Ms. Haag raised some valid points about the meaning and reality of marriage for people, the 'people' appeared to me mainly cut from the same cloth. Über-educated, high achieving and bitter. I was hoping for less of her somewhat angry and biased point of view and more of an academic view point (clinically removed).I agree that there is no one type of marriage, but she seemed to rely heavily on one type of couple, rinses and repeats. Ms. Haag, in my opinion, made herself appear to be bitter, unhappy and a bit spoiled. I would have preferred a more generalized look at marriage from different walks of life rather than the same type of couple repeated in different vaiations. The lesbian up-weirdly mobile couple, the two income no kids upwardly mobile couple, the stay at home father, up worldly mobile couple, etc...She did raise some valid concepts, but I just could not get past her tone. She appears, avian, to me, to strongly hate her plot in life. Her bitterness was hard for me to push beyond.

  • Liz De Coster
    2019-07-02 15:24

    Interesting, but not as broad or as insightful as I'd hoped. Haag has clearly done research, but seems to rely primarily on anecdotes and personal stories to make her points. Ultimately this weakens her arguments, given that she's drawing from a fairly small and homogeneous (affluent, educated, etc.) pool. Additionally, her discussion of couples who are "rewriting the rules" refers almost exclusively to couples exploring variations on sexual non-monogamy*, and she spends more time exploring infidelity than "royal children," so the subtitle appears to be a bit of a misnomer. If you've already read or are familiar with other works on this topic, Haag does add an interesting personal perspective, but I wouldn't start here.* While I don't have issue with the discussion of sexual non-monogamy, it struck me after those chapters that there are other ways to rewrite marital expectations that are not discussed.

  • Destinee Sutton
    2019-07-08 18:25

    Leading up to my wedding I read through a few "things to know before you get married" type books. I should have just read this one. It's not a particularly amazing book or anything, but it's got the down and dirty on middle class marriage malaise. Much has been made of Haag's "rebel couples" who are in sexually open marriages, but that is not something I can ever imagine being okay with. I was, however, very interested in the counterculture couples who chose to be nonchalant parents or downwardly mobile.

  • Jaime
    2019-07-12 20:07

    The author has a strange writing style and makes some pretty sweeping assumptions, drawing conclusions that I feel can be explained quite differently to what she claims are the reasons for the failure of low-stress marriages. I found I didn't have the same patience she does with people who give up because they're bored (or lazy?). Vague dissatisfaction is not a valid excuse for being disloyal, unfaithful, or a quitter, and even less so when the stability of children is at stake. I rapidly lost sympathy amid all the rationalizing.

  • Johanna
    2019-07-20 18:35

    This is a great book. Really. It's nonfiction and looks at what it means to be married. The book is heavily geared toward white, upper middle class marriages. It is interesting, funny, and thought provoking. Dan read it too, which frankly, never happens.

  • J.R. Forasteros
    2019-06-19 16:25

    Marriage Confidential by Pamela Haag is one of the most thought-provoking and insightful books I’ve read in a long time. It deserves more than a single review, and I plan to interact with Pamela’s ideas in much more depth later this year. But I couldn’t spend a whole month talking about marriage and not include this book; it’s simply done too much to shape my conversations about marriage. So for now, you’ll have to make do with this review.Pamela identifies a particular sort of marital melancholy that contributes to as many as 60% of divorces: the low-stress, low-conflict marriage. She suggests the melancholy arises not from the institution of Marriage itself, but from our particularly modern incarnation of that institution:To the outside observer, there is nothing “really wrong” with these low-stress, low-conflict marriages… Maybe all unhappy marriages aren’t all unhappy in their own unique ways; maybe in a lot of cases they’re unhappy owing to choices, attitudes, and sensibilities of our time that we share.As a trained historian (PhD from Yale), then, Pamela sets out to explore how Marriage has changed throughout history, with special attention to what Marriage has been for the past few decades and where it could go next. In her words:Click here to visit Pamela Haag’s websiteMy ambition isn’t to recommend or endorse any particular path or marital lifestyle (this is by no means an advice book), only to jog our thinking out of the familiar rut of Divorce or Sticking It Out, and to propose that we enlarge our sympathies, reduce our judgments, and think in a spirit of open-minded adventure, curiosity, fun, and imagination, about where marriage might go…Pamela calls the Modern incarnation of Marriage the “Romantic Marriage” – hers is the framework I’ve used in my sermon and recent post on how Marriage has changed.The Romance Script is already dying, and new, equally untenable, Post-Romantic forms are rising to replace it.Having established what got us to where we are, she then outlines in three sections various incarnations of the Post-Romantic Marriage, highlights couples who are escaping the Marriage Melancholy.Part I – The New Normals of Career and MarriageHow to lovers end up as just “partners”?Pamela first charts out how Marriage often looks more like a career than a romance. Ironically, these Life-Partner marriages owe their form to the success of feminism:The most basic and striking thing about a “Life Partners” marriage is that we have unprecedented equality and affinity with our spouses in education, career and work, temperaments, worldviews, life experiences, and earnings potential than ever before.Far too many of these Life-Partner marriages end up loveless. Their most fiendish incarnation Pamela names the Tom Sawyer Marriage.In these marriages, the woman not only shoulders the lion’s share of housework and parenting responsibilities, but also earns more income than her husband. She’s literally doing everything while her husband does nothing or “pursues his dreams”. Pamela observes:The Workhorse Wife: an unintended consequence of feminismThis places Tom Sawyer husbands among the biggest jackpot winners of feminism. They have achieved its ideal of liberation more fully than have their wives. They have unchained themselves from the breadwinner constraints of masculinity and embraced a feminist-inspired pursuit of their dreams without the artificial encumbrances and expectations of gender rolesThe Life-Partner Marriages usually result from chasing the Jonses – both spouses work ever-longer hours to achieve a lifestyle or maintain a certain standard of living that matches their peers.Pamela highlights an alternative she christens the “Joy of Falling”.These are couples who intentionally maintain a lower standard of living, who prioritize time together and equal opportunities to pursue dreams (instead of one spouse sacrificing for the other).This entire section is a refreshing and much-needed voice in the Church. We should be leading the charge against the American Dream, prioritizing Sabbath over salaries, family over finances and community over houses.Part II – Parenting MarriageWhat happens when kids take the place of the spouse in a marriage?Pamela begins by pointing out that children are both a blessing and a curse in marriage:As recent research has concluded, while children give many of us a reason to marry, they may also make us unhappy in marriage, and even push us toward divorce. This is one of the paradoxes of the parenting-centric marriage, in which parenthood is both the inspiration for the marriage and its apparent downfall.Our cultural understanding of children’s role in our lives has shifted massively in recent years:Children hold a different place in the inner life of a marriage today. As we become “just parents,” children are in some ways the new spouses. They occupy the psychological and sometimes literal space previously occupied by the spouse, or the marriage itself.Pamela argues that such a recentering of marriage on the child rather than the couple has forced spouses to seek fulfillment elsewhere: our man caves and girls’ nights out. Pamela suggests that these cultural phenomena reflect adult inabilities to be full, functional adults in their own marriages:These can become a dangerous escape from the “real world” of a loveless, kid-centric marriage.Adult fun, prerogatives, and privileges have been marginalized if not discredited in the parenting-centric family, so we go underground with our selfish desires… We don’t have good role models for a responsible married adult who has meaningful, complex friendships, passions for civic causes or other nonmarital, nonparental engagements, and who feels entitled to assert those prerogatives.Again, Pamela illustrates solutions that hew closely to biblical principles.She laments the loss of community built into the very architecture of suburbia and elevates couples raising children in communities, who are – as she says, “Raising Children in Public Again”Some marriage pioneers are seeking ways to do marriage with children in communities again, and are rejecting the “you’re the world to me” romantic impulse toward self-containment and privacy.Living in community, sharing all aspects of life together, has been part of the Church’s ethos since the beginning. We’ve only lost it recent years, as a reflection of our synchronicity with suburbia.Part III – New Twists on Old InfidelitiesAshley Madison is a website that sets up affairs. Thanks for that, Interwebs.The final two sections are easily Pamela’s most controversial, if only because her observations grate against what we want to be true. In considering marital infidelity, she observes that while it’s “not the norm, it is normal”.In a low-conflict, low-stress marriage, the affair can be a grimly useful tactic as a transitional object, a bridge between marriage and divorce. Otherwise the trains run on time, dinner gets cooked, clothes gets washed, so why change? The catalyst must be ever more powerful and extreme to jolt the marriage out of its cozy but melancholy equilibrium.Over and over, Pamela displays infidelities that aren’t about lust, but passion. They’re a break from the drudgery of “everyday life”.Even this film wasn’t brave enough to follow through on its premise; it falls back on monogamy (SPOILER!)One unexpected word that crops up with surprising frequency in my eavesdropping is bubble. They want a “bubble” in their otherwise bedraggled lives, an escape “from mortgage, children, wife, and job…” They seek a world suspended within the larger, settled atmosphere of a marriage, like a bubble that floats in that gelatinous red goop inside lava lamps… Many a marriage and job get ditched, I’d wager, for want of a sabbatical.Pamela’s words bring the movie Hall Pass to mind, though even that film didn’t have the courage to embody its premise fully.Though this isn’t something the Church particularly wants to discuss (who does, after all?), the price of not talking about it is too high. I asked myself over and over as I read through this section, Can’t we do better than this? Can’t we provide a more compelling picture of marriage, a holistic picture of fidelity that captivates those trapped in Marriage Melancholy?The bar isn’t very high – we just have to be better than “bedraggled”. A Gospel-oriented marriage ought to be far superior. So what’s our problem?Part IV – The New MonogamyPamela suggests taking a mistress/paramour might cure Marital Melancholy.Pamela closes with a shocking yet inevitable suggestion: that we abandon fidelity as the ground of Marriage, and instead embrace a sort of radical truth-telling she calls “ethical honesty”. Such a model of Marriage would – in her description, allow for mistresses and paramours, though she’s careful to distinguish these roles from either swinging (it’s not for entertainment, but intimacy) or adultery (it’s honest). She calls it “a more ethically evolved version of an open marriage”.Pamela shares her own journey towards her picture of marriage with a commendable, courageous candor. She readily admits it’s an experiment whose outcome is uncertain.This is the logical end of Pamela’s exploration and certainly seems to be a more practical, workable model of Marriage than the adultery culture.But Pamela – as she states in her introduction – isn’t writing from a confessional perspective. She’s exploring Marriage as a purely human institution. So while her vision of Marriage might seem practical (and compelling) to some, those of us who hold that Marriage is a divine as well as human institution can’t follow her. As such, this final section will be the most problematic for many of us.Nevertheless, even as we disagree, we ought to listen carefully to Pamela’s words.The Church’s inability to proclaim and embody a more compelling vision for marital fidelity ought to be a huge problem for us.As a Christian, I should be no less motivated by the brokenness I see in Marriage. And I should be no less courageous in rejecting those scripts in favor of something better.Pamela has seen the failures of both the Romantic and Post-Romantic scripts. She’s not afraid to cast about for something better.In envisioning a marital fidelity that’s grounded not in the practice of monogamy but in ethical honesty, it’s a staggering leap of faith.Though we disagree about the future of marital fidelity, Pamela and I absolutely agree that saving Marriage is going to require a lot of faith.ConclusionsWhere even to begin? Pamela’s most basic and helpful insight is that Marriage is not nor has it ever been a static institution. If Marriage is stagnating (and the evidence is hard to ignore), it’s our fault.In the gloaming of the romantic age, we’ve valorized marital mediocrity, and called it realism; we’ve vilified marital ambition, and called it selfish. Consequently, at a time when marriage could be anything, we very often expect it to be less… It’s obvious to me that not only can the estate of marriage change, it will change. It’s a question of how, not if.Reject every suggestion Pamela lays forth, and this insight remains: Marriage is what we make of it. We can choose to be married on purpose, to take control of our marital destiny and do something with it.Passivity may in fact be the most damaging and damning enemy of Marriage.One of the peculiar characteristics of a low-conflict, low-stress melancholy marriage is that it chews up the clock. You know you should be doing something to fix your problems, but the quotidian life of the marriage works so smoothly, and is so cherished, that you don’t want to abrade it with honesty. So problems persist and accumulate in a corner and, before you know it, years have passed and you’ve been in the same pleasant but passionless status quo for that entire time.We would do well to follow Pamela’s example. Instead of assuming Marriage is a static, unchanging institution, let’s recognize that it’s cultural. For those of us who have heard the Gospel of Jesus, let us be every bit as bold as Pamela in choosing to engage Marriage, to shape it into something life-affirming and beautiful. The way it was intended to be.Bottom Line: A staggering, insightful book that challenges us to take very seriously how we approach Marriage. Marriage Confidential ought to be kick-starting some serious, vital conversations.

  • Ingeborg
    2019-07-14 12:19

    Between 1 and 2 stars. Shallow!

  • Melissa
    2019-07-16 19:36

    This is the type of book that The Husband would see me reading (probably in bed, no less) and his response would be to promptly roll his eyes while making some wisecrack about why a book about the state of marriage today needed to be written in the first place.(Actually, there's no guessing about it; he really did all of the above.)Me, I love this sort of thing. Maybe it's the former psychology minor in me, I don't know. Doesn't matter. That's why we're still (at least in my opinion) a good match after a mere 22 years together (almost 19 of 'em in holy matrimony).The premise of Marriage Confidential is that most of us married folk are in lackluster, ho-hum relationships. Not exactly much of a surprise there, I suppose. (When The Husband caved and asked what the book was about, and I answered with that, his response was, "No shit.") I tend to agree. Haag refers to such marriages as "low-conflict, low-stress," with the majority of us looking at our spouses at the end of our boring same-old day and wondering if this is as good as it gets. (Um ...yeah. Hate to break it to ya, but it kind of is.) As the author's best friend says, "It's just unrealistic to think that the person you talk to about hiring a plumber is going to be your big love affair." (pg. 9). I love that quote. According to the book jacket,"Marriage Confidential articulates for a generation that grew up believing they would "have it all" why they have ended up disenchanted." So, how did we get this way? Haag offers several theories and ideas that make a great deal of sense. And I admit, I expected the usual platitudes of "we're working longer hours than ever, we're spending more time on Facebook talking to people we daydreamed about in high school instead of connecting with the real-life people right next to us, raising kids is a bit stressful and it's hard to maintain a marriage while texting from the carpool lane," etc. etc.All true. According to Haag, a few other interesting - and thought-provoking - factors are at play:1. We're marrying clones of ourselves. Opposites no longer attract. We're marrying people who are, generally, from the same social class and in the same tax bracket as we are. If we didn't meet our spouse at college (as The Husband and I did), then most likely he or she attended a comparable school (i.e., one of the Ivy League institutions, a state school, whatever).2. Compared to couples just a few decades ago, people are waiting longer to get married. In that time, they've completed their education, traveled, launched careers and businesses, had other significant love interests, bought homes. The notion of "building a life together" is very, very different today than it was for generations past. There's less that ties a couple together today in that aspect than there was in the past. 3. Women are increasingly in much more high-powered careers than men, which can rock the marital dynamic. (This is the "workhorse wives" part of the title.) 4. Approaching parenthood as profession. "I didn't absorb motherhood tricks by osmosis....What did come easily to me, almost naturally, were my good student, type A professional skills. The decline in marital happiness linked to new parenthood is probably exacerbated by the metastasized professional temperament many of us bring to it." (pg. 94) 5. Attachment parenting. If we're velcroed to our kids 24/7, that doesn't leave much space for one's spouse now, does it? Taken all together, that's a pretty depressing and almost insurmountable list ... so perhaps, yes, this might be as good as it gets. And for most of us in "low-stress, low-conflict" marriages, they're not BAD marriages. They're just a bit ... boring. Lackluster. So what are the options? You can accept it, work on what you can, but ultimately realize that this is what it is. You can get divorced, which isn't exactly cheap, especially given the economy these days, and is particularly disruptive if one has kids. But what if there was a new model, a different way of approaching the institution of marriage? Haag offers some ideas from "rebel couples who are rewriting the rules" as well as her own. She discusses the concept of term limits for marriage. A couple would agree to be married for, say, 7 years. If things are still working out when the warranty on one's nuptials expires, great! Pass go, and continue to stay married. If this isn't what you'd expected, then fine ... move on, no harm done. Kind of like buying a new car when the old one has too many miles on the odometer, I suppose. Think that's radical? Keep reading into the second half of the book. That's when Haag introduces her reader to more than a few couples who are engaging in "ethical nonmonogamy." These are folks who have lost that lovin' feeling for their spouses but who, for a variety of reasons (financial, children, professional, social) don't want to get divorced, as they might have in years past. They care deeply about their spouse, but things in the bedroom have gone stale. What to do?Fortunately, there are numerous options. We're talking alternative arrangements like open marriages, swinging (in all its permutations, and apparently, there are more than a few) and "marriage sabbaticals." Websites abound for people interested in meeting similarly bored and like-minded folk. Happily-married Haag, using the alias of "Miranda" and with her husband's knowledge, signs up to take a walk through what is definitely a wilder side of many people's lives. Husbands and wives recruit potential "girlfriends" and "boyfriends" for spouses who aren't getting what they want from the marital relationship, just as if one went to a headhunter (um ... guess that's probably not the best term here) for a potential new job.And these activities are part of more people's lives than one might imagine. Marriage Confidential has been criticized by some on Goodreads as being a tad light on the research, and I tend to agree. (To reach the conclusion in #1, that we're marrying clones of ourselves from similar demographic classes, etc., Haag's primary research methodology seems to have been perusing the wedding pages of The New York Times and tabulating demographic information contained within.) Haag also talked with therapists and other professionals, as well as her own network of friends. She also brings her own experience as a wife and mother into the pages of the book, and even her friends' infidelities aren't off-limits for dissection here.So, whereas I can understand how some might feel cheated (pun intended) at a book that isn't weighty enough insofar as the research, I'm not sure that's how Marriage Confidential is supposed to be viewed. I wasn't looking at this as a scholarly tome that I would have studied in my Work and Love class in college (and yes, I really did take a college class called Work and Love. One of my favorite and best classes ever.)Rather, I looked and read Marriage Confidential as a book that is more along the lines of a casual conversation and exploration about why marriage is in the state it is. Marriage Confidential is like sitting down for coffee with Pamela Haag, being told that a friend's cousin's brother's stepsister is a) having an affair with the spouse's permission, b) taking a marriage sabbatical, and/or c) some combination of the above and aforementioned alternatives, and then going back to one's life and bedroom and saying, "Huh. Who knew?"Or, maybe, the total opposite: going back to one's bedroom and saying, "Damn, there are way more people like us [regardless of how you define 'like us'] than I ever thought possible."Happy Valentines Day, you crazy kids.

  • Heidi
    2019-06-24 13:18

    I was super excited to get Marriage Confidential in the mail in hopes of reading something fun and maybe even a little inspiring to help keep my marriage alive. I will be honest I am not sure I can be objective in writing this review because of how I feel about marriage and how she feels about marriage. After the first few chapters I realized this author and I have nothing in common and I found it almost impossible to read her book let alone able to understand her writing style. I felt like I was reading a first year college students research paper on marriages and the student was trying to come up with large and ridiculous words to describe peoples emotions and actions. Here is an exmple I found stange as well as other reviews of this book. "Emily loves to play `family,' and in this game, she ventriloquizes her parents' marriage." I think a more accurate word would be role playing. Most children role play what they see and hear and that is why parents should always be careful what they say and do because our children learn by watching us.On page 117 She says "The strength of family values is weakness of marriage, once it opts to have children. By this I mean that marriage as marriage, rather than as synonym for "parents" or"parental responsibilities," has withered into a forgotten or at least ancillary bond. Marriage may either be adult centered or child centered, but fewer are truly family centered in the sense that they harmonize marriage, "parenthood and adulthood." I feel by making a bold statement she needs to have proof to back up her remarks, which she has none of.On page 126 Pamela Hagg mentions "In Japanese, the word for "Hell" translates loosely into "No Space"." My husband speaks fluent Japanese and I asked him if that was true and he said " No it would translate Ground Prison, Earth Jail or Spirit Prison among other things." I started to wonder how much research was done when writing this book and how much hearsay or personal opinion is used in place of research. Most of her stories are very negative about marriage and at one point even saying "We do not normally mate for life after our first marriage." Meanwhile, Haag goes on about how "good old boys" do not really want to be fathers and woman can only "find themselves" by divorcing and finding the "bad boy". Haag devotes at lest 60+ pages on infidelities and why people stray today and that Haag feels the reader needs to turn the other cheek while our spouses cheats or at least that is what is implied by what she wrote. Page 17, Hagg writes about 3 options a disenchanted melancholy spouse has: Option 1: realize you are asking too much from your marriage and deal with it.Option 2: decide marriage just isn't for you "renounce the estate of marriage in general as oppressive, futile or archaic."Option 3: renounce your spouse that he or she was wrong for you and become a serial monogamist, convinced the next spouse will work. Haag also states in her book "Marriage Kills Options." I was hoping to read one happy story about marriage and how the couple made it work though the good and the bad times but instead I was bombard with negative views on marriage, stay at home wives,men and children making the book almost unreadable.Haag also mentions most marraiges that end in divorce are found in the bible belt while New England area are less likely to divorce but than goes on to devote an entire paragraph to "Things I admire about the "Christian marriages" I encounter, for lack of a more finely calibrated shorthand,is that they seem to maintain a nonchalance and genuinely noncompetitive equanimity around children." They don't display the lever of anxiety I see in affluent, secular marriage, so their exercise of "Family Values" has a different effect."At one point in the book she brings in the problems of her marriage and being a parent. I feel if you are going to be a writer you should be objective you should never bring your own problems into your writing. I truly feel sorry for her husband and son because I wouldn't want everyone I know reading about my marriage, sex, children and my thoughts on divorcing my spouse. I feel people should be open with their children but it doesn't need to be broadcasted to the whole world.This book tries so hard to be edgy and conversational but instead it comes off sounding like an upper class elitist snob who can't understand why some people are happy in their marriage, why women would want to be stay at homes mom and be truly happy, and why sometimes marriage is hard work it can't be full of passion all the time. Sometimes you need to work hard in a marriage and guess what, that's ok. 9 years of marriage and not every day has been non stop passion and not every day we are happy but its the little things in life that can make someone fall in love with their spouse all over again. A simple smile, a hug, and a kiss when no one is looking. That is what keeps the passion alive in a marriage not being "Slammed up against a wall when you get home from work."As mentioned in the book and I do not feel I am sleeping next to a "Toaster".Again I had a very hard time being objective while reading this book so its more of a commentary of the book than a review. The ideas in this book are unclearly argued and not supported by enough evidence and her bias are clearly shown and she doesn't seem to fully understand the Women's Movement, as it was to give women the right to chose. The choice to stay home and raise a family and be happy or the choice to work and be happy, those choice to be married and the choice to be single. Either way it is a choice for us to be happy and we should not judge women on the choices they make, as we have not walked in their shoes.I gave the book 2 stars out of 5 because this book wasn't my type of book and other might find it interesting.

  • Heather
    2019-06-23 12:17

    This is one of those books that’s hard for me to evaluate. It’s very interesting. It’s well-written. Do I agree with it? Some of it, yes. Most of it, nope. I love her voice in this. Even when I am strongly disagreeing with her statements, she makes me smile. Her anecdotes about discussing her research with her husband crack me up at times, as do her occasional off-hand comments. Yes, I would agree with her that most marriages are what she calls Semi-Happy Marriages. Then we have the Life Partners marriage, where the marriage works more like a business relationship than a romantic partnership. Or the people who are married Co-Parents, and not much else. Or the Tom Sawyer Marriage, in which the wife works her ass off to support her husband, who is a perpetual student, or always between jobs, or an artist/writer/musician in search of his muse. Her basic argument is that the Romantic ideal of marriage is over. We’re in the Post-Romantic Age.I’m not so sure I agree. Sure, marriage has long been hailed as the final chapter in the romance story. And they lived happily ever after … But I highly doubt it ever really worked that way, in most cases. Humans are humans, simple as that. We take each other for granted. We get comfortable and lose the passion. It doesn’t mean we should do things like have an open marriage or an affair or whatever. Living with others is hard. You can’t be selfish if you want a marriage to work.Anyway, I’m getting on a tangent. Basically, I don’t necessarily agree with her thoughts on what’s wrong with marriage, how to adapt to the current age, etc. She makes some interesting points, and makes them well. If nothing else, she got me thinking about things. Not in my own marriage, which I’d call Mostly Happy – and my husband would agree. (Yes, I asked him.)The writing is generally good, but a bit too academic for me. There is frequent use of words that I believe most everyday people will have difficulty understanding. Yes, there is a nifty thing called a dictionary, but most people don’t like having to stop frequently to look things up. That said, I love her voice – although her occasional (but too frequent) praises over her own studly, near-perfect husband get old fast.Still, it’s an interesting, well-written book that makes one think. While I wouldn’t necessarily say my life is enriched by having read Marriage Confidential, I don’t feel I wasted my time on this book, either.