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For Better: The Science of a Good Marriage Hardcover – May 6, 2010

4.2 out of 5 stars 35 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Marriage today is stronger than it has been in decades, writes Parker-Pope (The Hormone Decision), author of the New York Times's Well blog. Interviewing biologists, neuroscientists, psychologists, and sociologists, she explores the science that can explain why a marriage succeeds—examining such areas as monogamy, love, sex, children, money, and housework—and translates the science into practical advice. For instance, while monogamy is not the norm among animals, it's certainly possible for some animals and for humans to remain sexually and socially faithful to one partner. Further, regular sex should be part of a good marriage even if it occurs less frequently over time. As for conflict, learning how to fight fairly allows partners to air differences without damaging their relationship. Describing the unhappy end of her own marriage, she looks at those relationships at high risk for divorce, such as the pursuer-distancer marriage (with the pursuer usually the woman) and the operatic marriage (characterized by dramatic highs and lows). Although the scientific research adds depth, much of the relationship advice is familiar and commonsensical, but married couples will still benefit from this refresher course. (May)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.


"This terrific informative book on marriage should be given out with every marriage license! There is something here for everyone, gay or straight, newly married or celebrating many years! Highly recommended."
-Susan M. Love author of Dr. Susan Love's Breast Book and Live a Little

"Finally! A real guide to making your marriage work. Tara Parker-Pope gives us all the latest concrete scientific information about how to get and keep life's greatest prize-a good partnership. It's educated; accurate; and honest. And it's a good read."
-Helen Fisher, Ph.D., author of The New York Times Bestseller Anatomy of Love

"Tara Parker-Pope has crafted a jam-packed, lucid survey of the science behind a sound marriage. No wonder she is so popular."
-Mehmet Oz, M.D., host of The Dr. Oz Show and Vice-Chair and Professor of Surgery at Columbia University

"This is science writing at its best. Tara Parker-Pope has as keen an eye for sociological spiderwebs as Malcolm Gladwell. She takes the most hidden-in-plain-sight situation-a struggling marriage-and cleverly follows all the causative strands. Take the transparent properties of sweatpants: until I read For Better, I had no idea that dirty laundry isn't just annoying-for many men, it's literally invisible. 'The explanation for this may be rooted in the earliest days of human couples,' Parker-Pope begins, and with that, you're off on a deep dive into love, life, and the true tale of how German neuroscientists got a handle on hot sex."
-Christopher McDougall, author of The New York Times bestseller Born to Run: A Hidden Tribe, Super Athletes, and The Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen

"Step by step, Tara Parker-Pope demystifies our most entrenched assumptions about love, sex and marital bonds. By translating the latest science into engagingly told, smartly considered insights, Tara has given us a landmark look at marriage-and profound reasons for optimism about the love in our lives."
-Jeffrey Zaslow, author of The New York Times bestseller The Girls From Ames

"A truly excellent exploration of marriage, written in clear and compelling prose, delighting the reader with surprising observations."
-Jerome Groopman MD, author of The New York Times bestseller How Doctors Think

"I couldn't wait to read Tara Parker-Pope's For Better, consuming it in one swoop. Tara takes her rigorous reporting in a field swamped with self-help books and cuts through to the science of marriage, returning with lessons that are counterintuitive: it's the little gestures that matter, eye-rolling is a predictor of divorce rates, and having outside friends can help strengthen a marriage. This is a book that parents will give to their children, groomsmen give to their friends, and spouses will give to each other for a long time to come."
-Jennifer 8. Lee, author of the Fortune Cookie Chronicles

"Tara Parker-Pope's new book For Better is a savvy, practical guide for side-stepping the doggy poop and dead ends that all couples encounter along that zany, zig-zaggy path we travel from 'I do' to 'I can...and will!'"
-Harvey Karp, MD, author of The New York Times bestseller The Happiest Toddler on the Block

"Tara Parker-Pope has written a gem of a book on marriage. It is chock full of rich scientific findings and tips on how the male and female brain can love better and live better together. Reading this book will absolutely improve your marriage."
-Louann Brizendine, M.D. author of The Female Brain and The Male Brain


Product Details

  • Hardcover: 356 pages
  • Publisher: Dutton Adult (May 6, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0525951385
  • ISBN-13: 978-0525951384
  • Product Dimensions: 6.3 x 1.3 x 9.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (35 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #249,627 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
Even though she herself has gone through a dissolved marriage (which is what prodded her to research and write this book in the first place), Tara Parker-Pope is refreshingly optimistic about the state and success of matrimony.

In "For Better," Parker-Pope writes about marriage from a strictly scientific vantage point, using medical studies and research findings to probe into what makes love and marriage work. She looks at what research has to say on a variety of topics, including:
* How marriage affects your health (married folks' are healthier and live longer);
* How to make conflict work for you rather than against you (and why the first three minutes of an argument matter the most)
* The science of passion, romance and commitment
* How children and parenting affect marriage
* How the division of housework plays into a marriage--and what women need to learn if they want their husbands to help
* How finances affect marriage ("debt is the number one source of marital strife for newlyweds")
* How researchers can tell which marriages are destined for trouble and which will last based on ten innocent questions about how the spouses met.

The thing that struck me the most as I read through much of the research was how it makes sense. It makes sense that you don't roll your eyes at your spouse when you're arguing. But the statistics that support that? Wow. Eye-rolling is one of the greatest signs of contempt, and contempt is the greatest predictor of divorce. When you have research to back these kinds of things, it makes it all the more real.

And there were so many others, such as the fact that studies have shown that merely holding her husband's hand reduces a wife's stress levels.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I read the book in a day. It caught my eye at the book store but when I happened to read all the way through, I realized the 3pgs I read at the book store were the meat of the book. Overall, it's a good book to inherit or buy bargain but it's length comes from somewhat repetitive information. The beginning comparing humans to other mammals is by far one of the more interesting approaches to comparing divorce to whether or not other mammals successfully mate with the same mate for life. I feel some parts were just common sense and some parts, esp. the ending were more of marriage counselor jumble and less of the science approach that made me pick up the book in the first place.
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Format: Hardcover
Here's a compilation of the best ideas for helping your marriage both survive and thrive. After writing about marriage in a number of journals and periodicals, Tara Parker-Pope has assembled a helpful all-in-one resource for anyone who cares about marriage.

Well-written, informative, and definitely not "weird science" --- this book is carefully notated and fully indexed, gathering the best ideas and information into one volume. Clear sharp prose, all meat, very little fluff!

Having studied marriages and families for more than two decades, I'm glad to recommend this helpful, encouraging new book!

Dr. David Frisbie
The Center for Marriage & Family Studies
Author of "The Soul-Mate Marriage" and 10 other books
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Format: Hardcover
I was interested in this book for the science - and there is, surprisingly, a lot of good science which has been developed. Parker-Pope does well with the material. She knows her way around the use of statistics, and is careful to qualify them. I did do a bit of skimming.

There is one thing she should have warned the reader about. If, for example, certain modes of discourse are predictive of a successful marriage, it does not NECESSARILY mean that if you imitate them, it will turn a bad marriage into a successful one. It is kind of like the uncertainty principle. What is a good predictor when behavior has not been tailored to a set of findings, will not necessarily be a good predictor if behavior is consciously adopted as a result of those findings. Still, it can't hurt, and probably would help, to try to learn from the science.
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Format: Hardcover
Everyone knows there is no shortage of `relationship' books on the market today. Books about dating, mating and separating have lined bookshelves for years.

So it comes with some surprise that someone has come up with a fresh approach to this age-old topic; an approach primarily based on science. Not just science in a cold, clinical, Masters and Johnson style, but a science that takes into account things like socialization, health patterns, communication skills and lifestyle issues.

In, `For Better: The Science of a Good Marriage,' author and New York Times' `Well blog' columnist Tara Parker-Pope explores a wide variety of factors that determine success (or failure) for today's married couples. Everything from the initial meeting to body language (including the killer rolled eyeballs), frequency of sex, and married vs. single vs. divorced health patterns for both men and women is fair game here. From hormonal studies to extra-marital affairs, the concepts are explained with the kind of backing that goes beyond the opinion style of similar books to a well backed set of facts (many of which are counter-intuitive) to support each revealing position. Meaning... we're talking research.

Parker-Pope brings together an impressive array of studies and statistics - from lab experiments on mice and chimps, to census data trends to a wide swath of studies (Berkeley, NYU, Vanderbilt, Mayo Clinic, etc.) to create her models of the new married class. Dozens upon dozens of studies are translated in a well organized fashion to examine the factors that create lasting marital love; the nitty-gritty of why some relations work, others don't and what can really be done to improve a couple's chances of overall success.
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