Thursday, June 21, 2012

Book Review: Pamela Haag's MARRIAGE CONFIDENTIAL

I was looking for a non-fiction title when I got this book description for review for Pamela Haag’s Marriage Confidential:
With bracing candor, Marriage Confidential take us inside a world where romantic ideas have given way to a “post-romantic” mood and a fair number of marriages end up “semi-happy.” It’s a world where the husbands of “workhorse wives” pursue the Having It All dream that married women have abandoned; where children have migrated from the children’s table to the centerpiece; and where technology, demography, and economy place unprecedented stresses on marital fidelity. Among other examples of marriage trailblazers, Haag even presents a case for how updated ideas of non-monogamy might be an option for the future.

Uniquely weaving together cultural commentary, memoir, storytelling, history, and research, Marriage Confidential gives us a riveting glimpse of what the future of marriage might look like.

Well, looking at my 21st wedding anniversary, I figured I was the target market for the book. But it turns out I was utterly wrong. I just wasn’t prepared for Haag’s general level of negativity about marriage.

I don’t think of myself as either Puritan or a marriage apologist, but I found the author’s premise shocking: If you’re not 100%, head-over-heels in “romance” with your spouse absolutely all the time, you’re being cheated. Monogamy, Haag suggests, is a trap for the soul. And the antidote for the marital doldrums? It pretty much boils down to this: “Have an affair.”

Having admitted that “having it all,” has morphed into “doing it all” for modern wives, the author still seems to want it all. Seriously.

Haag realizes that many people will see her thesis as “whining.” And she’s right, that was my first reaction. She has a husband who loves her, a kid she adores, a good job. Really, is life so bad? Is a marriage that doesn’t play out like the final scene from a Jane Austen novel every day just “semi-happy,” as the author puts it? I couldn’t help but feel sorry for her poor husband—that would be a lot to live up to.

But then I realized maybe that’s not entirely fair. I consider myself happily married, so I don’t really buy the premise that modern marriage is a broken institution. And I think that’s why the book simply didn’t work for me. Still, lots of people have loved this book, so I guess it’s tapping into some kind of cultural anxiety. It’s just not one I happen to share.

I read this book as part of a TLC Book Tour, and received a free copy of the book in return for my honest opinion. You can find links to other opinions here.


  1. Wow, she advocates having an affair? I wonder if she's been married and, if so, for how long. I don't think this is for me.

    1. Maybe I was expecting something funnier or more ironic or at least hopeful. But unfortunately, it really left me feeling down.

  2. This definitely does not sound like a book for me! Congratulations on your 21st anniversary.

    1. Thanks, JoAnn! It's always good to try something different, but I think I'll go back to my reading comfort zone for a while :)

  3. I'm approaching my 14 yr wedding anniversary and consider myself happily married as well. It's not always perfect (I don't expect that) but it is full of love and respect, and that makes me happy.

    Congrats on your upcoming anniversary! Thank for being on the tour.


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