Sometimes a good book can be a very good friend.
Gilbert uses extensive research on topics such as infidelity and infatuation to challenge common ideas and assumptions:
"...Infatuation is the most perilous aspect of human desire. Infatuation leads to what psychologists call 'intrusive thinking'—that famously distracted state in which you cannot concentrate on anything other than the object of your obsessions. Once infatuation strikes, all else—jobs, relationships, responsibilities, food, sleep, work—falls by the wayside as you nurse fantasies about your dearest one that quickly become repetitive, invasive, and all-consuming....The problem with infatuation, of course, is that it's a mirage, a trick of the eye—indeed, a trick of the endocrine system. Infatuation is not quite the same thing as love; it's more like love's shady second cousin who's always borrowing money and can't hold down a job. When you become infatuated with somebody, you're not really looking at that person; you're just captivated by your own reflection, intoxicated by a dream of completion that you have projected on a virtual stranger."
If anyone has created a more comprehensive yet accessible examination of marriage and the emotional, psychological, anthropological elements that inform us to marry, I have not seen or heard of it.
In one of the most moving vignettes, Gilbert attempts to "at least try to minimize" the odds of divorce by listing her worst flaws to her beloved. These faults include:
"1) I think very highly of my own opinion. I generally believe that I know best how everyone in the world should be living their lives—and you, most of all, will be the victim of this....5) My most dishonorable fault of all: Though it takes me a long while to get to this point, the moment I have decided that somebody is unforgivable, that person will very likely remain unforgiven for life—all too often cut off forever without fair warning, explanation, or another chance."
The wise Felipe assures her that he is aware of her laundry list of flaws and that he loves her still. He then explains:
"When I used to go down to Brazil to buy gemstones, I would often buy something they call 'a parcel.' A parcel is this random collection of gems...Supposedly, you get a better deal that way—buying them all in a bunch—but you have to be careful, because of course the guy is trying to rip you off. He's trying to unload his bad gemstones on you by packaging them together with a few really good ones...After I got burned enough times, I finally got wise and learned this: You have to ignore the perfect gemstones. Don't even look at them twice because they're blinding. Just put them away and have a careful look at the really bad stones. Look at them for a long time, and then ask yourself honestly, 'Can I work with these?" Gilbert continues:
"It's the same with relationships...People always fall in love with the mot perfect aspects of each other's personalities. Who wouldn't? Anybody can love the most wonderful parts of another person. But that's not the clever trick. The really clever trick is this: Can you accept the flaws? Can you look at your partner's faults honestly and say, 'I can work around that. I can make something out of that?'"
For those who are struggling with the question of whether to commit to your romantic partner, and for those who are engaged to marry and looking for informative reading as they plan their wedding, Committed is less of a "how-to" approach to marriage and more of a friend.
This article was originally published at DC Counseling & Psychotherapy Center . Reprinted with permission from the author.