I agreed to review this book after reading an interview where Pamela Haag, author of “Marriage Confidential: Love in the Post-Romantic Era,” explains her views on feminism and marriage. I was excited to read it because I thought that it would finally look at the very personal side of marriage in a way that explored how to make marriage work for the individual. But that is NOT what this book is about at all.
Haag writes in the book’s introduction that her “first goal in this book is to give voice to this yearning, and to the low-conflict, melancholy marriage, and to show the millions of us who are in these ambivalent marriages that we’re not alone” (xII). But what is immediately apparent is that Haag is looking for justification. She is seeking a reason to explain why she is (1) not happy with her husband (2) too scared to change her life (3) a bad mother. In other words, when a women who is unhappy in her marriage and disappointed in her life choices writes a book about the trouble with marriage as a whole, all you get is a book that reads like a list of multiple reasons to cheat.
I was turned off almost instantly as the last thing we need in this world is a book that supports the destruction of the family unit – especially one that does it through pseudo-psychology. Marriage is not an institution whose outcome relies on the decisions and acts of others. It is only as good as the two people involved and when one does not take the vetting process seriously, you end up with Pamela Haag’s “Post-Romantic Age” marriage – a marriage of regret, emptiness, and personal failures. Haag misses the mark when it comes to explaining the various kinds of marriages that exist in the world. She tries too hard to put them in a box of her own making instead of allowing them to be what they are – reflections of those people involved in them.
Take her anecdotal couple “Peter and Alice” who marry not out of love but because Alice wanted a baby and Peter has good sperm. That’s right, Alice marries Peter not because she is attracted to him or because he makes her happy, but because she wanted a baby. Suffice it to say, their sex life is boring and Alice is unhappy…
Um, excuse Ms. Haag, I call foul! This sham of a marriage is not the norm nor did it ever have a chance in hell of surviving or being one of happiness. Yet, Haag blames marriage and not the shallow, stupidity of a woman who was obviously not ready to be a mom let alone a wife. And this is not the first couple she uses to further her “anti-marriage agenda.”
There is Bill who married his best friend and has been in a sexless marriage for 20 years. He tells Haag, who has met him on-line, that he is unhappy about the sexless marriage, not because he misses the intimacy and connection with his wife, but because she will not agree to an open-relationship or a swinger lifestyle and threatens to divorce him if he cheats. Again, this sounds bogus! Almost like something one would say when seeking to begin an affair with someone who has no way of verifying the validity of his words. And of course Haag takes this at face value ignoring the myriad of reasons that his marriage my be sexless. Obviously cultivating intimacy takes work and is not as simple as saying, “spread ‘em baby, I’m looking for love!”
And the book continues with these kinds of stories. What could have been an honest look at the state of marriage today is turned into a joke. Haag’s sophomoric research and failure to remove her own disdain for marriage from her writing does nothing to help her accomplish what she says is her goal. Like Manning Marable’s book on Malcolm X, too many of her assumptions are unsupported and presented for nothing more than shock value. And it’s a shame too. Marriage is complex and deserves more than a biased exploration.
*This book review is a part of the TLC Book Tour. I received a copy of the book from TLC.