Ada Calhoun’s Wedding Toasts I Will Never Give (2017, W. W. Norton & Company), was originally centered on an article she had written for the New York Times in 2015. It went viral because it was written after a fight she had had with her husband, questioning the institution of marriage at its core. It resonated with millions. Like her article in 2015, her collection of anecdotes in 2017 is a how-to book on how to stay married despite all the unexpected angst with which marriage as an institution is riddled.
Written with first-person accounts full of personal anecdotes, quotes from other writers, and conversations she’s had with friends about the state of their marriages, Calhoun offers us different perspectives on marriage and the reasons people stay together despite the cheating, the quarrels, and the monotony that come hand-in-hand with being married to the same person for years.
Although she doesn’t give wedding toasts, when she is invited to one, she thinks about what she would tell the newlyweds that have no idea what is to come, full of blind love and cliched terms the likes of “I will love you forever” and “today, I am marrying my best friend.” We’ve all felt this way and hoped that marriage would cement this love, this unique friendship. However, after 11 years of being married to her best friend and lover, if she did give a toast, she would “tell them they will suffer occasionally in this marriage — and not only sitcom-grade squabbles, but possibly even dark-night-of-the-soul despair.”
In her book, she also candidly discusses the possibility of an open marriage, since both she and her husband found themselves attracted to other people and she ended up kissing someone else. Although they both decide that that would be a terrible idea, because it would complicate their relationship and bring in needless feelings of jealousy, their decision to remain monogamous to each other is fraught with the truism of the inevitability of experiencing sexual attraction to others outside of one’s marriage. While open marriage works for some people, it doesn’t work for everyone. Every marriage is as different as the two people who reside in that marriage.
Calhoun closes her book with two pieces of advice for the rest of us. The first comes from her mother, who told her that the way to stay married is simple: you don’t get divorced. Calhoun insists that stubbornness is the key to salvaging a marriage wherein you can love and loathe your spouse all in the same day for silly things like not taking out the garbage or bigger issues like undermining your parenting efforts with your kids.
Her advice, which she seems to be taking at the end of the book instead of running off to have an affair with the attractive colleague she had previously kissed, is this: “Be nice. Don’t leave. That’s all.”
Of course, this isn’t for everyone. But it’s one perspective that seems to have resonated with many women — and perhaps even men.
What do you think?