Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Committed, by Elizabeth Gilbert

The Book

I checked out Committed by Elizabeth Gilbert – author of Eat, Pray, Love, out of curiosity. I’d listened to her first book at a timely moment in my life. It was a Godsend.

What I found in Committed were countless paragraphs that I wanted to underline (but couldn’t since the book belongs to the library) because they hit home.

I recommend the book to any woman who is haunted by her exes, who hates them or loves them, who is in love again or wants to be or doesn’t want to be, who is divorced, married, single, widowed, dating, sworn off men, young, old, a mom, a non-mom. I recommend it to any woman who wonders what makes a marriage successful, or if it is even healthy to marry, to divorce or all of the above. That may very well be all women. 

Part of what makes the experience of divorce so dreadful is the emotional ambivalence. It can be difficult, if not impossible, for many divorced people ever to rest in a state of pure grief, pure anger or pure relief when it comes to feelings about one’s ex spouse. Instead, the emotions often remain mixed up together in an uncomfortably raw stew of contradictions for many years,” states Gilbert.

Finally, someone owns up to this publicly. If you have kids, then this is compounded because you have to somehow interact with that person with whom you have so many unresolved issues. And, unresolved they may be forever. It might be a matter of learning to live with it and using that experience towards your next relationship.

Elizabeth Gilbert
She also reminds us that the person we choose (and hopefully chooses us) as a partner at different times in our life defines who we are at that moment. Both people are in it, and no manner of one-sided finger pointing will change that. It’s not easy to acknowledge, but I can relate to it.  

Gilbert mentions a study by the naturalist William Jordan, Divorce Among the Gulls, where he explains that seagulls – a species that mate for life – have a 25% “divorce rate”. Sometimes two seagulls just don’t get along. They bicker and complain and don’t communicate. After a couple of seasons of this, they go off and find other “spouses”.

“And here’s the kicker”, says Gilbert: “Often their ´second marriage´ is perfectly happy and then many of them do mate for life.”

“Imagine that, I beg you! Even among birds with brains the size of camera batteries, there does exist such a think as fundamental compatibility and incompatibility (…). The situation is the same for humans. Some of us drive each other nuts; some of us do not. Maybe there is a limit to what can be done about this.”

This is enlightening, and explains why some people have grand relationships with one particular person but strife-ridden relationships with someone else and yet they are – in essence – the same person. Mix oil and water as vigorously as you want, and you get nothing but oil and water, separated. Mix oil and an egg yolk, beating it smoothly and continuously and presto: mayonnaise! Of course, mayonnaise can also separate if it spoils. But, there are ways to prevent that. 

Gilbert wrote Committed when she and the love of her life found they had to marry so he would not be deported. The glitch was that they had promised each other not to marry – ever - after having both experienced shattering divorces. 

She then decided to study the institution of marriage and the ins and outs of commitment, of infatuation, of maturity, of compatibility, of loving someone because of who they are and not because of who you would like them to be. There is no tidy conclusion to it, as there is no tidy conclusion to relationships or even life. 

I enjoyed it. A lot. Now I’m going to buy my own copy, so I can highlight the heck out of it. 


  1. Timely. Something happened today. 10-20-10. The outcome was less than expected.

  2. I love Elisabeth Gilbert, but I do think that if she had children to share w/her ex-spouse, she would understand that you need to work towards resolution despite what your ego wants. Anything short of that is a cop-out, and a disservice to your children as well as your own personal growth. Resolution of conflict is ALWAYS possible, it is our disbelief in this that keeps us at war w/each other.