I’ll admit it: I’m a sucker for a good women’s magazine quiz.
Perhaps that’s what first attracted me to Tara Parker-Pope’s book For Better: The Science of a Good Marriage. The book is packed full with relationship quizzes, but not the “is your man a bud or a dud?” type. Instead Parker-Pope borrows questions from actual scientific research so you can measure the level of egalitarianism, the balance of housework, or the frequency of sex (as compared to the norm) of your relationship.
Essentially what Parker-Pope has done is create an easily-readable lit review of credible relationship research. She sprinkles in the quizzes to keep us interested, but the real star is the research itself. Examining marriage through science allows you to access your own relationship in a clinical way that seems safe. If it’s science, it’s less emotional, right?
Parker-Pope is an engaging writer with her own interest in understanding the ups and downs of relationships (she began researching this book while going through a divorce). She takes what could be a dry topic (science research) or an overly emotive one (marriage and happiness) and manages to strike a healthy balance.
Ever wonder what science has to say about your relationship and housework, parenting, money, gender balance, health, or your probability for divorce? This is the book for you.
If the book has one fault it’s that Parker-Pope fails to acknowledge the shortfall science experiences in explaining love. Sure, Oxytocin levels surge in the early stages of a relationship, increasing feelings of attachment. But that doesn’t explain why those hormones surged in that special way for that one special person, instead of for the others you’d dated before.
A friend, who has been married close to 40 years, once reminded me that marriage is part method, part mystery. Parker-Pope does an outstanding job highlighting what science has to say about the method. The rest is mystery.