Gilbert on Marriage #1


Marriage & Expectation

Meeting the Hmong women that day in Vietnam reminded me of an old adage: “Plant an expectation; reap a disappointment.” My friend the Hmong grandmother had never been taught to expect that her husband’s job was to make her abundantly happy. She has never been taught to expect that her task on earth was to become abundantly happy in the first place. Never having tasted such expectations to begin with, she had reaped no particular disenchantment from her marriage. Her marriage fulfilled its role, performed its necessary social task, became merely what it was, and that was fine.

By contrast, I had always been taught that the pursuit of happiness was my natural (even national) birthright. It is the emotional trademark of my culture to seek happiness. Not just any kind of happiness, either, but profound happiness, even soaring happiness. And what could possibly bring a person more soaring happiness than romantic love? I, for one, had always been taught by my culture that my marriage ought to be a fertile greenhouse in which romantic love can abundantly flourish. Inside the somewhat rickety greenhouse of my first marriage, then, I had planted row after row of grand expectations. I was a veritable Johnny Appleseed of grand expectations, and all I reaped for my trouble was a harvest of bitter fruit.

p. 43, Committed (2010)

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Marriage & Infatuation

Felipe didn’t answer for a long time. Then he said, “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 that the miner or wholesaler or whoever is bullshitting you puts together. “I used to get in trouble because I’d get too excited about the one or two perfect aquamarines in the parcel, and I wouldn’t pay as much attention to the junk they threw in there. 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, “Can I work with these? Can I make something out of this?”

“It’s the same with relationships, I think, 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? Can you look at your partner’s faults honestly and say, ‘I can work around that. I can make something out of that’? Because the good stuff is always going to be there, and it’s always going to be pretty and sparkly, but the crap underneath can ruin you.”

p. 129, Committed (2010)

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I am enjoying the insight from Elizabeth Gilbert’s sequel to Eat, Pray, Love. More excerpts to come.

Explore posts in the same categories: Books, Life

2 Comments on “Gilbert on Marriage #1”

  1. fefe Says:

    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’? Because the good stuff is always going to be there, and it’s always going to be pretty and sparkly, but the crap underneath can ruin you.”

    Although we are aware of this, we forget. It’s good to be reminded 🙂 Thank you for sharing this.

  2. shirleen Says:

    yups. i like the sharing too. gonna get the book!


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