My favourite marriage books

This little chic juicy couture (Valuevillage) romper is truly one of my favourite purchases for Nora.  I found it a few months before summer and was dying for the snow to melt so I can dress her up in it.  It is more expensive than what I would usually buy her but it was so worth it.

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Romper: ValueVillage for $5.99

Brand: Juicy Couture

This is something ML often pokes fun at me about.  Before I endeavour to do anything, I have to read a tonne of books on it or listen to countless podcasts before I take the first step.  So in true fashion, several years before ML and I got married, I read a bunch of books on the topic.  Below are a few of my favourite.  I still go to them once or twice a year when ML and I frustrate the hell out of each other.

I don’t think it helps that my parents have a really good marriage.   That does not mean they did not fight.  I’ve seen them fight enough times, and my mom even dropped the “D” word a couple of times.  However, in the end, they alway spoke about each other with so much reverence.  They met in university and from that point on, my dad would follow my mom around like a shadow.  She was a pretty, rich and smart girl.  He was a slow, dowdy but persistent country boy. My dad would always say how amazed he was of my mom’s intellectual capacity.  When they were in university, my mom could study a textbook and tell my dad how many commas, or period was on each page.  Her ability to memorize content was remarkable he would say.  But like most smart rich kids, my mom was lazy.  She would always do just enough to pass, get enough good grades so my grandfather would continue to finance her lifestyle but she never pushed herself beyond just “enough”.  As a kid, I remember my mom telling me she would never divorce my dad, even if she threatened to from time to time.  She would say literally in Vietnamese “I know I would never find someone who loves me and you three kids as much as your dad.  There’s no better man out there so divorce and remarriage would be a waste of time.” She would always revere about how kind, hard working and persistent my dad is. ML likes to remind me that my parents are odd and weird for their generation.  Most Asian parents don’t have marriages like my parents so I should temper my expectations.

Anyways, back to my list of favourite marriage books.

  1. The Mirages of Marriage.  This book was written in 1968 and I bought it sometime in 2008 at a used bookstore in Stratford, Ontario.  I’ve had it by my nightstand for years and re-read some chapters once or twice a year.  My favourite passages are “Romance, which most spouses mistake for love, is not necessary for a good marriage. The sparkle some couples manage to preserve in a satisfying marriage- based on genuine pleasure in each other’s company, affection and sexual attraction for the spouse as she/he really is – can be called love” “Love may also be used as an excuse for domination and control. The expression ‘I love you’ has such an immutable place in our traditions that it can serve as an excuse for anything, even for selfishness and evil.”  I am reminded that the last sentence can be applied to parenthood as well.  Some parents use “love” as an excuse to control their children and spouse.

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2. Why marriages succeed or fail by John Gottman.  I like how clinical the book is and how Gottman claims his team can predict the success and failure of most marriages.  The most memorable thing about this book is Gottman’s 4 horsemen of the apocalypse.  These 4 things will ruin any marriage and they are criticism, defensiveness, stonewalling and contempt.  He said these 4 communication styles are the most destructive and biggest predictors of divorce.  Early in our marriage, I definitely found myself being critical and stonewalling a lot.  It was reading this book that made me realize how unproductive it can be.  In the 14 years that ML and I have been together, I have only felt contempt towards him once, it was around the time my brother passed away and I held a lot of people in contempt during those dark days.    I think out of all the 4 horsemen, the one that scares me the most is contempt and I do my best to build a strong connection with ML so that we don’t enter that stage ever.

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3,4 and 5. For Better: the science of a good marriage by Tara Parker-Pope, Men are from mars and women are from venus by John Gray, What your mother couldn’t tell you and what your father didn’t know by John Gray.   It’s been 5 or more years since I read these books and I can’t remember the specific passages that resonated with me.  However, I do recall the things I felt when reading it.  There were nuggets of insights that seemed so wise and simple in these books.  I recall pages that were boring as well but I clearly remember feeling glad I read them.  I think I may re-read Tara Parker-Pope’s book, I remember wanting to recommend it to one of my girlfriend as I thought the author had such a keen sense of observation when it came to relationships.

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