Derek Sivers

Committed - by Elizabeth Gilbert

Committed - by Elizabeth Gilbert

ISBN: 0670021652
Date read: 2010-01-07
How strongly I recommend it: 2/10
(See my list of 320+ books, for more.)

Go to the Amazon page for details and reviews.

If listening to someone think out loud about marriage for 12 hours interests you, you will like this. Since I was newly engaged, I did.

my notes

When you are pushed by circumstance to do the one thing you have always most specifically loathed and feared, this can be, at the very least, an interesting growth opportunity.

The more I learned about something, the less it frightened me. Some fears can be vanquished, Rumpelstiltskin-like, only by uncovering their hidden, secret names.

Where I come from, the person whom you choose to marry is perhaps the single most vivid representation of your own personality. Your spouse becomes the most gleaming possible mirror through which your emotional individualism is reflected back to the world. There is no choice more intensely personal, after all, than whom you choose to marry; that choice tells us, to a large extent, who you are.

The emotional place where a marriage begins is not nearly as important as the emotional place where a marriage finds itself.

Plant an expectation; reap a disappointment.

In German, zwei means “two,” and zweifel means “doubt” - suggesting that two of anything brings the automatic possibility of uncertainty to our lives.

She had dared to ask for happiness, and she had dared to expect that happiness out of her marriage. You can’t possibly ask for more than that.

Marriage becomes hard work once you have poured the entirety of your life’s expectations for happiness into the hands of one mere person. Keeping that going is hard work.

An “autonomistic marriage.” They created their own wedding vows, speaking during the ceremony about the absolute privacy of their union, and swearing that Edwin would not dominate his wife in any way, nor would she take his name. Moreover, Lillian refused to swear eternal loyalty to Edwin, but stated firmly that she would “make no promises that it may become impossible or immoral for me to fulfill, but retain the right to act always as my conscience and best judgment shall dictate.”

This is the singular fantasy of human intimacy: that one plus one will somehow, someday, equal one.

Research has also shown that people are far more susceptible to infatuation when they are going through delicate or vulnerable times in their lives. The more unsettled and unbalanced we feel, the more quickly and recklessly we are likely fall in love.

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.

Any actual relating is impossible during such a state of pitched fever. Real, sane, mature love - the kind that pays the mortgage year after year and picks up the kids after school - is not based on infatuation but on affection and respect. And the word “respect,” from the Latin respicere (“to gaze at”), suggests that you can actually see the person who is standing next to you, something you absolutely cannot do from within the swirling mists of romantic delusion. Reality exits the stage the moment that infatuation enters.

I refuse to burden Felipe with the tremendous responsibility of somehow completing me.

(Cheating:) What often happens, though, during so-called harmless friendships, is that you begin sharing intimacies with your new friend that belong hidden within your marriage. You reveal secrets about yourself - your deepest yearnings and frustrations - and it feels good to be so exposed. You throw open a window where there really ought to be a solid, weight-bearing wall, and soon you find yourself spilling your secret heart with this new person. Not wanting your spouse to feel jealous, you keep the details of your new friendship hidden. In so doing, you have now created a problem: You have just built a wall between you and your spouse where there really ought to be free circulation of air and light.

Her suggestion would be that you come home and tell your husband or wife about it. The script goes along these lines: “I have something worrying to share with you. I went out to lunch twice this week with Mark, and I was struck by the fact that our conversation quickly became intimate. I found myself sharing things with him that I used to share only with you. This is the way you and I used to talk at the beginning of our relationship - and I loved that so much - but I fear we’ve lost that. I miss that level of intimacy with you. Do you think there’s anything you and I might do to rekindle our connection?”

Prenup: It’s better to set your own terms than to risk the possibility that someday down the road unsentimental strangers in a harsh courtroom might set the terms for you.

Mutual meekness can make for a successful partnering strategy, if it’s what both people want. Conflict-averse couples prefer to let their grievances dissolve rather than fight over every point. From a spiritual standpoint, this idea appeals to me immensely. The Buddha taught that most problems - if only you give them enough time and space - will eventually wear themselves out.

I love him and therefore I want to protect him - even from me, if that makes sense. I didn’t want to skip any steps of preparation for marriage, or leave anything unresolved that might reemerge later to harm us - to harm him.

I presented to him a list of my very worst character flaws, just so I would be certain he had been fairly warned.

People always fall in love with the most 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?

Maybe all our marriages must be linked to each other somehow, woven on a larger social loom, in order to endure.

Married men live longer than single men; married men accumulate more wealth than single men; married men excel at their careers above single men; married men are far less likely to die a violent death than single men; married men report themselves to be much happier than single men; and married men suffer less from alcoholism, drug addiction, and depression than do single men.

A woman who has managed to keep her vibrant career thriving even with three kids, and who sometimes takes her children with her on overseas business trips, said, “Just go for it. It’s not that hard. You just have to push against all the forces that tell you what you can’t do anymore now that you’re a mom.”

The percentage of women who never reproduce in most societies is usually much higher than 10 percent - and that’s not just today in the developed Western world, where childless rates among women tend to hover around 50 percent. In the 1920s in America, for instance, a whopping 23 percent of adult women never had any children. The number can get pretty high. But it never goes below 10 percent.

“sparents” = spare parents. On hand wherever help is needed, in anybody’s family whatsoever. There are people I’ve been able to help, sometimes fully supporting them for years, because I am not obliged, as a mother would be obliged, to put all my energies and resources into the full-time rearing of a child. There are a whole bunch of Little League uniforms and orthodontist’s bills and college educations that I will never have to pay for, thereby freeing up resources to spread more widely across the community. In this way, I, too, foster life. There are many, many ways to foster life.

“Wifeless Marriage” - which is to say that nobody in our household will exclusively play the traditional role of the wife.

It's a luxuriously innocent fantasy: that one is entitled to have unmixed feelings about one’s own life.

“flooding” - the point at which you get so tired or frustrated that your mind becomes deluged (and deluded) by anger. A surefire indication that flooding is imminent is when you start using the words “always” or “never” in your argument.

They claim they can predict with 90% accuracy whether a couple will still be married in five years merely by studying a fifteen-minute transcript of typical conversation between the husband and the wife. (For this reason, I imagine that John M. Gottman and Julie Schwartz-Gottman make terrifying dinner guests.)

You can measure the happiness of a marriage by the number of scars that each partner carries on their tongues, earned from years of biting back angry words.

“Let’s just be careful of what we say to each other for the next few hours,” he said. “These are the times, when people get tired like this, that fights can happen. Let’s just choose our words very carefully until we find a place to rest.” Nothing had happened yet, but Felipe was floating the idea that there are, perhaps, moments when a couple must practice preemptive conflict resolution, arresting an argument before it can even begin. So this had become a code phrase of ours, a signpost to mind the gap and beware of falling rocks.

He can create a familiar habitat of reassuringly boring everyday practices for himself anyplace, if you just let him stay in one spot. He can assimilate absolutely anywhere on the planet in the space of about three days, and then he’s capable of staying put in that place for the next decade or so without complaint.

I have one of the most easygoing relationships you could possibly imagine, but please do not be fooled: I have utterly claimed this man as my own, and I have therefore fenced him off from the rest of the herd. His energies (sexual, emotional, creative) belong in large part to me, not to anybody else - not even entirely to himself anymore. He owes me things like information, explanations, fidelity, constancy, and details about the most mundane little aspects of his life.

(Walking in India with beggars everywhere:) I felt poisoned by the constant repetition of the word “NO” coming out of my own mouth again and again: an awful incantation.

Wedding is not just to ‘satisfy’ other people. Rather, you have to hold your wedding guests to their end of the deal. They have to help you with your marriage; they have to support you, if one of you falters.

“I’m Brazilian.”
“But what does that even mean?”
Felipe laughed. “Nobody knows! That’s the wonderful thing about being Brazilian. It doesn’t mean anything! So you can use your Brazilianness as an excuse to live your life any way you want. It’s a brilliant strategy, actually. It’s taken me far.”
“So how does that help me?”
“Perhaps it can help you to relax! You’re about to marry a Brazilian. Why don’t you start thinking like a Brazilian?”
“By choosing what you want! That’s the Brazilian way, isn’t it? We borrow everyone’s ideas, mix it all up, and then we create something new out of it.”

No matter how modern and sophisticated Felipe and I might feel, I feared we would step onto the assembly line of marriage and soon enough find ourselves molded into spouses - crammed into some deeply conventional shape that benefited society, even if it did not entirely benefit us.

Every couple in the world has the potential over time to become a small and isolated nation of two - creating their own culture, their own language, and their own moral code, to which nobody else can be privy.


The budget oasis of the Atlanta Hotel in Bangkok. The Atlanta is a wonder that must be seen to be believed, and even then it cannot really be believed.

The Hmong have never really belonged to any of the countries in which they live. They remain some of the world’s most spectacularly independent people - nomads, storytellers, warriors, natural-born anticonformists, and a terrible bane to any nation that has ever tried to control them.

Luang Prabang is an exquisite place that has somehow managed over the centuries to wedge forty Buddhist temples onto one small slice of real estate.