This book might be even better for single people to read than for married people. It’s incredible. I think it might save marriages as well as start some. Eli J. Finkel presents some research findings, complete with charts and graphs, in a very approachable way that just happens to explode a lot of pop culture notions. He starts with the premise that divorce is up because our expectations of marriage are so high, and reminds us that, on a historic scale, expectations of marriage have, in many ways, never been lower. This is just one of the many fascinating and challenging ideas about The All-or-Nothing Marriage.
Marriage has changed. I know a few couples who are in arranged marriages, a practice which is common enough that people will publicly admit to it, yet still so uncommon that it is very surprising. How quickly we forget that this used to be the norm! Finkel discusses the original form of pragmatic marriage, in which couples depended on one another for their actual physical survival. This was what people expected of each other up until around 1850. Industrialization allowed us to relax a bit about such concerns, making space for the concept of the love-based marriage. No longer would we need to audition each other for our agricultural or home-construction skills; more time for kissy-kissy. Suddenly, around 1965, we saw the advent of the self-expression marriage, in which we expect our mates to help us fulfill all our wildest dreams and be perfect in every way.
This is where the book becomes staggeringly important.
Most divorces are initiated by women now. The figure is nearly 70%. Pause and think about that, because the proportions are nowhere near that for break-ups in regular dating. What is it about marriage specifically that makes so many women want to get the heck out? Partly it’s the natural outgrowth of realizing that you’ve married a bad roommate, someone who exploits traditional gender roles to get free maid service. Partly, as we discover in The All-or-Nothing Marriage, it’s our expectation that marriage needs to be a major factor in our self-expression.
What’s great about this book is that it offers so much perspective and so many attitude adjustments. It also has a section devoted to “love hacks,” tested ways of improving marital satisfaction even when the couple are annoying each other. The All-or-Nothing Marriage is also an optimistic book. The research indicates that the best marriages in our era are better than ever before. A self-expression marriage is something worth striving for, as long as we support our partner’s needs as well as our own.
Speaking as a divorced person remarried to another divorced person, please read this book before you start signing any papers. You can also feel free to leave it laying around in plain view; like The Five Love Languages, it’s the kind of relationship book that men will appreciate, especially because the author is male. Approach the conversation with curiosity and leave space for your partner to respond. May it help you to find your way back to one another.
I've been working with chronic disorganization, squalor, and hoarding for over 20 years. I'm also a marathon runner who was diagnosed with fibromyalgia and thyroid disease 17 years ago.