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on October 30, 2000
I think the best thing I got out of this book was the notion that happy marriages are not the exclusive domain of people who had happy, carefree childhoods. Wallerstein's message that the love two people experience in a marriage can be a healing, transforming love was a very hopeful message for those who come from broken and/or abusive homes. I also thought the characteristics of a happy marriage were nicely elucidated by the stories of the real-life couples, their good times, trials and tribulations.
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VINE VOICEon November 19, 2003
The authors bring a rather unusual perspective to the study of marriage -- rather than examining how it has failed or is failing, they examine how marriage can succeed. The book provides a commendable example of a study focusing on success instead of failure. The authors first define a successful marriage, then discuss nine principles common to any good marriage and use several couples as case studies to illustrate and personalize these principles. The book uses a rather small, homogenous, and politically incorrect sample -- nearly all couples were selected by the authors and were lily-white, heterosexual, reasonably honest and cheerful Americans. Of course, many ground-breaking and valid scientific studies have successfully used such small, homogenous and politically incorrect cohorts. The book is not a cross-cultural study, an historical analysis, or a "how-to" guide for "making marriage work," and those whose marriages are in trouble may not find this book much of a substitute for self-analysis or competent counseling.
Since history began, in nearly all societies, marriage has successfully survived despite never-ending pressures from those who have sought to abolish, revolutionize, over-idealize, or trivialize it. Marriage has proven flexible, durable, and critically important to individuals and to societies. Nevertheless, individuals and societies should frequently re-examine and re-explore marriage if they are to gain the most benefits from it -- marriage and success are verbs as well as nouns. Marriage and the family certainly need attentive examination today, since they remain under tremendous stresses from those who wish to change (or destroy) them and from forces causing them to fail at an increasing rate.
The authors have given us a fine example of such an examination. They write remarkably well (no surprise, given Ms Blakeslee's wonderful columns in the NY Times Science Section, which first drew me to this book). They relate how marriage can be enriching, empowering, dynamic, transformative, redemptive, and positive (I found myself cheering on one of the subjects whose marriage succeeded despite enormous psychological problems dating from his childhood). As the husband of a wife whose parents had a successful marriage, as the child of a successful marriage, and as a member of a thirty-three year old successful marriage, I found the principles outlined in this book to be reasonably accurate and helpful. No book could be the last word, but this one is a fine place to start.
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on September 19, 2005
I have read 10-15 books relating to marriage preparation and making sure one is ready to pick and BE a good spouse. This was by far the best. The author reassured me that people who grew up with unhappy childhoods & unhappy parents have as good a chance at a happy marriage as others. It also made me aware of many issues these couples had that I had not considered. This book prompted me to think about what I want from my future husband as a type of marriage, as an emotional partner, as a parental partner etc. MUST READ! I also highly recommend "What you Need to know before you fall in Love" as a good gut check of what is normal in a relationship and what isn't, what areas you need to check on (do you have a meeting of the minds spiritually, financially, intellectually etc), and it has a great chapter on warning signs (are you dating this person to impress your boss, annoy your parents, or get revenge on an ex?). I highly recommend Harville Hendrix's Book "How to Find the Love you Want" for a more in depth look at how our childhood affects our need for love and influences our search for the source of that love.
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on January 31, 2002
When we came upon this book, both my husband and I were in the middle of painful, long, stretched-out divorces. We made the decision to read the book together, yet independently. It was one of the best decisions we ever made. The insights gained from these pages literally pulled us through some very trying times. We both absolutely loved it! Judith Wallerstein is a wise, compassionate woman. After reading the book, both my husband and I understood (too late, unfortunately) why our first marriages hadn't worked out. Neither one of our marriages had the romantic component.
We've been together now for 6 years, and ours is definitely the "romance" marriage. What a difference! This is our second marriage for both of us, but we are determined to succeed this time. So far, excellent! We highly recommend this book to anyone considering marriage. It is important for any young couple to become aware of the consequences of not properly separating from their family of origin. A couple needs to form a new family unit without undue interference from parents.
We feel that what the book shows best is that the success of a couple's relationship has more to do with how strong a "we" they form than any other factor. Neither my husband nor I had a strong "we" in our first marriage. We also both had lousy sex lives. It was reassuring to realize that other happy couples felt that sex within a loving marital relationship is the best sex there is. We agree.
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on January 30, 1997
The authors of "The Good Marriage" have broken new ground.
Instead of offering criteria on how to identify a bad
marriage, Judith S. Wallerstein and Sandra Blakeslee have
discovered through their pilot study the secrets of a good

In this very well written book, the authors conclude there
are four types of marriages and nine tasks that must be
completed in order to have a good marriage. The reader is
allowed inside the couple's marriages as the authors
interview Matt and Sara, Helen and Keith, Fred and Marie
and others.

I began reading this book with much skeptiscm. I was
convinced these couples were deluding themselves - no
marriage can be truly good for any extended period of time.
But I was wrong, although each couple admitted bad times
in their marriages there remained enough romance to carry
them through.

I recommend this book to any adult who really wants to know
how a successful marriage can be a dream-come-true.
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on April 16, 2009
Some relationships in this book appeared healthy. For example, the guy who defied his mother by marrying his fiancé. He was quite young at the time, yet had the maturity to choose his own path, even if that meant upsetting his mother.

However, I questioned the healthiness of others. For example, one couple felt that without each other, they'd panic as if being sucked into a black hole. Feeling emotionally incomplete, they latched onto their partners hoping their partners would save them...kind of like a drowning victim clutching a floating device for dear life.

But a drowning and desperate person doesn't make a good partner. I've been on the receiving end of a relationship like this & it felt very suffocating. I eventually left this relationship and am glad I did. The author may view this type of relationship as good, but I saw it as suffocating.

The chapter that completely turned me off, though, was the one on infidelity. The author asked "good marriage" couples their views on infidelity. These couples said they'd be okay if their partner cheated as long as the affair was brief and resulted out of loneliness - like being apart due to a long business trip.

So, sneaking around, breaking mutually agreed upon vows, and lying to your partners face is okay as long as you invent a good enough excuse? That sounds desperate to me.
I believe good character should matter more than good excuses that disguise poor character.

Take one woman who cheated on her husband. When asked if she felt any remorse, the woman LAUGHED and replied, "Not at all."
When asked how the marriage was going at the time, she replied, "It was fine. But the moon was full, and my husband was 5,000 miles away."

Now, I've heard some pretty lame excuses for cheating...but blaming the moon?
I wonder how casually this woman would've reacted if, while she was away, her husband had an affair, too. After all, he was also 5,000 miles away. Would she find HIS infidelity funny enough to laugh about? More importantly, if he knew of her affair, would he find it funny? Would he still consider the marriage a good one?

In another example, a wife feeling depleted by her husband's breakdown and depression said, "I gave myself the present of a brief affair with a much younger man."
I wonder, though, if this generosity extended to her husband, too...allowing him to also seek out "presents" whenever he felt drained by his wife. I'm guessing like the previous example, this marriage was "good" based on how ignorant the husband was.

Both of these women, as well as other women in that chapter, spoke of committing adultery as a perfectly normal way to treat someone you love...but it's not normal or loving.

Trust is a precious gift someone can give you. Instead of handling that precious gift with care, they took advantage of it for their own selfish gain. If people can behave this selfishly and still be considered a "good marriage" couple, that's setting the bar pretty low.

On the bright side, the author does advise against cheating., however, I disagree with her reason. She says marriage involves sacrifice and one sacrifice is settling for a tamer sex life. Well, if you phrase monogamy like that, who in their right mind would choose it?

Monogamy doesn't have to be tame. On a surface level, you can add excitement with different positions and locales. On a deeper level, you add excitement by being vulnerable enough to trust your partner with your deepest desires.
So monogamy is as tame or as creative as the couple who makes it.

As a single person, I like reading self-help books that model healthy behavior for long-lasting relationships. Unfortunately, this book wasn't helpful.
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on December 5, 1997
This book was the turning point for my husband and me. We were struggling to make sense of our different expectations of marriage after 15 years. He seemed complacent and resigned to the status quo, until he picked up this book. From it, he learned that although no marriage is perfect, there are ways that it can be developed and strengthened. "The Good Marriage" made us both realize our marriage had some helpful qualities, yet could be so much more for each of us. He actually has recommended "The Good Marriage" to his friends! Now, that's saying a lot for a book about marriage. The bottom line: It gave us hope.
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on May 3, 2003
I strongly recommend this book to single people wondering what kind of mate would really be best for them. Ignore those dating manuals and read about the real thing -- the day-to-day relationship that has to be maintained after the wedding. As a woman, I found it fascinating to read so many men's accounts of marriage: how much they love and need their wives, how much a good relationship means to them. Most of us grew up thinking of blissful romance as the only model for marriage, but Wallerstein carefully shows that marriages take many forms. I can't recommend this book highly enough.
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on July 23, 1998
I approached this book with some skepticism, but I found it to be an interesting and relatively quick read. Wallerstein seems to have carefully done her research, asking insightful questions and inspiring interesting discussions not only with those she happens to be interviewing but also between the spouses as well. Her categories for the marriages (romantic, rescue, companionate and traditional) were interesting, and she made it clear that many marriages' characteristics draw from the different areas. However, although romantic and rescue marriages seemed to apply to couples of all ages, companionate and traditional marriage categorizations were strongly dependent upon the age of the spouses. Not surprisingly, companionate marriages were nearly universally between people in their 30s, and traditional marriages between those older. Clearly, the expectations of a person when entering a marriage will help determine what kind of marriage it will be, and I don't think t! his was adequately addressed in the book. It would have been interesting to read an in-depth discussion on whether the definition of "good" had changed over time.
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on January 29, 2000
I experience my midlife crisis which can potential end up in divorce. The author describe marital problem in the first 100 pages as if she describes my OWN problems (and my wife's) For example: one must loosen the tie with your parents to perserve one's own marriage.
Another thing that I learn from friends who marry for 15 years or more and from this book is that--no lasting marriage is a fairy tale, all have problems. Differences between lasting marriage and divorce is that one must identify and solve problems before they get out of control
Well researched, packed with practical facts, and easy to read book. Recommend without reservation
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