I read a lot of books about marriage. Some are scientific, some are anecdotal, some are gimmicky, some assume if I'm reading that my marriage is already in trouble (and it's my parents' fault), some are optimistic, some are fatalistic, some prompt me to start conversations with CM, and some get tucked away in the back of my brain for the future.
Whenever I drop this into a conversation, long-married people seem to find it universally hilarious. The idea that reading about marriage might help me to preemptively protect my own prompts much eye-rolling and wry chuckling. Maybe it's evidence of my youth and naïveté—I'm fairly confident that in my parents' entire 38-year marriage (yes, 38!) neither of them has ever picked up a marriage self-help book. But then again, they've also never experienced the shockingly swift unraveling of the one relationship they thought was indestructible. I have. I know that fragile sometimes masquerades as strong, that red flags can look like good omens from close up, that "till death do us part" does not guarantee lifetime happiness. I know, and CM knows, too.
So I read. I read now, while we're solid, loving newlyweds, in the hope that I'll build habits and patterns that will carry us through someday in the future when we're shaky and hurting. I read about other marriages, and in so doing I spend time analyzing ours—what's great about us, what we could do better.
Lately I've been worried that we don't spend enough time really talking to each other. We talk on the phone multiple times a day, of course, particularly when we're apart, but those conversations mostly consist of stories from our days, work talk, to-do lists, etc. During our engagement, we worked our way through a book of 100 questions to discuss before marriage (in lieu of pre-marital counseling, which is hard to do when the bride and groom are on separate continents), which helped us get to know each other even more deeply than we had in the first three years of our relationship. Now our conversations are mostly pedestrian, and although I treasure the day-to-day I also wish for the occasional profundity.
Yesterday over breakfast CM started telling me all about a book he's reading, called Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking. He's finding it fascinating, and I realized as he was telling me about it that I didn't really know exactly what makes someone an introvert or an extrovert. CM has always identified himself as an introvert, but I didn't think I could even accurately define the word. This led us down an internet rabbithole which ended with both of us taking one of those personality tests online, a short version of the Myers-Briggs. I had taken one in college, I know, but I couldn't for the life of me remember the result. Well, according to the test (and the one we took after that, just to be sure), it turns out we're both introverts. In fact, we both got the same type: INTJ (that stands for introversion, intuition, thinking, judging—you can read a description of the type here).
I, for one, was shocked that we were identified as the same type. I've always thought we were similar as in compatible—we like the same stuff, we get along easily—but that we processed and reacted to things totally differently. After a thought-provoking discussion of our results, I'll admit that I seem to have gotten that wrong. We are so much more similar at our cores than I thought we were, and though it might seem silly to take an internet quiz this seriously, I am finding great joy in discovering our alikeness. This one conversation, simply illuminating something that was already true, has caused a real tilt in perspective.
So I think I'll keep reading, and analyzing, and asking questions, and demanding truth and depth. And though it may be naïve of me, I'll continue to be delighted when I discover just how much I don't know.
Interested in some light marital reading material? Might I suggest:
No Cheating, No Dying: One couple tackles a year-long marriage improvement project. Here's a teaser.
Spousonomics: All about using economic principles to make marriage better and more efficient.
Committed: An exploration of the history of marriage by the author of Eat, Pray, Love.