At the end of Elizabeth Gilbert’s memoir Eat, Pray, Love, she met and fell in love with Brazillian-born, Bali resident Felipe. They knew they were in love and would be together, faithfully, forever, but both had absolutely awful marriages in their pasts, and were completely against marriage. Committed finds them at a turning point in their relationship – the United States homeland security decides that Felipe simply can’t come in and out of the U.S. every three months like he’s been doing for a few years, and if Liz and Felipe want to be together, they have no choice but to get married. So what does Gilbert, who is terrified of marriage, do? She undertakes the duty of researching marriage in order to get familiar with the institution, to understand what about it she is so averse to, and to find a way to make her own marriage one she can be fully happy about and thankful for. She examines the history of marriage, how marriage affects different types of people in different ways, what marriages have been like in her own family, and her own prejudices about the institution of marriage. Ultimately, she comes away with the understanding that love is complex and wonderful, difficult but joyful, all at once, and that her own marriage can be whatever she and Felipe make it to be.
Okay, first of all, I have to say one thing up front: I am fully and unequivocally in love with Elizabeth Gilbert. I know that opinions about Eat, Pray, Love were all over the board, especially in the blogging world, but I cannot adequately express how much I loved that book. I just felt such a kinship with Gilbert… I really connected to her, for some reason, what she said and how she said it truly resonated with me and I just loved reading about her journey. So, clearly, I have a little bias when it comes to Committed – I expected to love it, and I actually did.
I, too, was skeptical of marriage before I got married. Not skeptical to the point where I didn’t want to enter into it, but skeptical because I’ve seen the result of my parents’ disastrous marriage – and I know that when they got married, they were totally in love. I’ve always tried to figure out, among my friends’ and family members’ relationships, what makes some couples work for the long haul and others just can’t make it happen. I love my husband and I believe in our relationship, but before we got married, I thought of divorce as something that just happened to you. I feared that one day, I would wake up and we just wouldn’t work anymore. Now I think that is certainly possible, and in some marriages perhaps that happens, but for us we both work hard to make sure that we have a strong marriage. Really, we are still newlyweds (2.5 years), so I am probably just speaking from a place of ignorance more than anything else at this point. But I will say that my views on marriage have changed a lot since before I got married. So that’s one reason I loved Committed so much.
What I liked about it the most, I think, is the examination of Gilbert’s own experiences of marriages and her analysis of how her own prejudice and preconceived notions were tarnishing her ability to see how she could have a happy marriage of her own. Upon examining her parents’ marriage, her grandmother’s marriage, her sister’s marriage, and the history of marriage, she really was able to develop her own ideas about what she wanted for her own marriage. The conclusion she came to really stuck with me – marriage is so individual. Each of us brings our own stuff into a marriage, good and bad, and it’s up to each couple to make things work for them. Some figure it out, some do not. I personally plan to learn from the marriages I’ve seen succeed and the marriages I’ve seen fail – I think that my husband and I both have stuff we have to figure out, and it will take years of practice for us to establish a pattern and a marriage that works for us. But I do believe in our ability to do it.
Ultimately, marriage is about love. This is what Gilbert finally understood, as she married Felipe, the love of her life. Marriage does not have to be a certain way, it is shaped by the individuals within the union. But really, it’s all about love. Love for each other, love for your family, love for your common goals, and for your own individual aspirations – this is what Gilbert got out of her research, and that’s how she and Felipe started their own marriage.
I know that this book isn’t for everybody, but I really liked it. I continue to adore Elizabeth Gilbert and will read anything else she writes. 🙂