Book Review – Marriage, a History

Here at After The Yes we like to focus on things that can help you prepare for and enjoy marriage—particularly so-called traditional marriage arrangements. Today we’re going to deviate from that content, but only slightly. Meet the book that gave me agonizing thoughts about using the word traditional in this blog. For the sake of my audience I stuck with the word traditional, it’s still an easy way to convey the image of a 1950s style marriage, which is essentially where mainstream marriages have their roots. Good communication means using the right words to communicate the desired meaning, and that includes words that are technically wrong. Fact is, a 1950s style marriage is one of the quickest blips in the history of marriage customs.

Marriage, a History is one of the most fascinating books I’ve read. It captured my attention from cover to cover, and I’m still going through all the sources in the appendix. It’s well written, easy to read, and while it’s a bit long it uses all of that length in a way that nearly feels abridged. So with all that said you may be thinking that this will be an easy and solid recommend right? Well no, solid yes, easy no. Whether or not I recommend you read this book comes with a heavy dose of caveats and asterisks.

Unlike the books we’ve reviewed so far at After The Yes, Marriage, a History isn’t written to immediately address some psychological, relationship, or sexual problem. This is a book of academic interest first and foremost. I do think this book offers a way to improve your marriage in unexpected ways though. By going through the history of marriage and seeing where certain traditions began, and why they were adopted or dropped, we can build a road map of a traditional marriage that makes sense in the present day and that will make sense down the road. This is especially useful for those of you who just agreed to get married but aren’t entirely sure what that life looks like for you.

Marriage, a History clocks in at 315 pages of main content, and that normally would be a days read for me. But the effective length of the book is enlarged by how densely packed the information on each page is, and the nearly 100 pages of citations that follow the main content. This brings us to the big recommendation caveat. If your time is limited, or you have more pressing issues to get through, this book is firmly in the project category—something you casually read over months rather than finish with gusto in days. The information in this book wouldn’t be immediately useful to relationships in trouble. It’s also not going to do anything about that sex life you’ve been wanting to improve or help you get a better job. There’s a lot of ways to improve as a person and to make your marriage better and this book isn’t meant to do those things.

What it can do is help you make your marriage yours, consider the traditions you’d like to incorporate from the ground up and build a system of shared work that gives you an edge in the modern economy while preserving your other desires of married life—like children and companionship. Like I said, especially useful for those of us starting anew or starting over. Yeah, that’s actually, that’s the biggest and firmest circumstance for recommending this book. If you are starting fresh, or starting again, get this book and get it now. Read it cover to cover, have your partner read it cover to cover. Take notes, challenge assertions, look up citations.

Marriage, a History can also help solve one of the biggest issues I see with new couples looking to get together forever, they have no clue what they want their marriage to look like in 15, 10, or even 5 years. They treat it as if they were just being extended roommates, and I largely blame that on our lack of relationship education—we actually used to teach this in public schools and we desperately need it as a society.

It’s also an easy recommendation for anyone who thinks factoids like: separate bedrooms in households didn’t arrive until the mid 20th century, there are cultures that consider sharing a meal tantamount to sexual intercourse, or progressive eugenicists of the early 20th century laying the groundwork for sex ed, are academically interesting enough to read about.

That’s really all there is to this review, if you’re settled enough to be curious by all means buy Marriage, a History today.

I am not a paid reviewer. My content comes from me and I was not solicited in any manner for this review. My thoughts and opinions are my own.

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