The Sex-Starved Marriage: Boosting Your Marriage Libido: A Couple's Guide
Michele Weiner Davis
Simon & Schuster, 2003
224 pp., $24.00
By Lauren F. Winner
In Search of the Good Marriage
A few days after I got engaged, my mother presented me with a Barnes & Noble gift card, which a colleague had given to her. "You can have this gift card," she said, "but you must promise to buy that book that was just on Oprah, the one with the list of questions engaged couples should discuss." I knew just what book she meant—The Hard Questions: 100 Essential Questions to Ask Before You Say "I Do" had become a minor sensation. So I took the gift card. Mom said I could use the change for a mystery or a magazine or a cappuccino, whatever I wanted, so long as I didn't leave the bookstore without The Hard Questions.
The Hard Questions—ranging from "Who prepares the meals?" to "What if one of us is attracted to someone else? Superficially? Deeply?"—is just one of a truckload of books designed to help couples get married well, be married well, and stay married well. Many of these marriage books, like other staples of the self-help genre, codify their wisdom into a simple program comprising seven (or nine, or 100) easily digestible (and often alliterative) rules. To wit, The Good Marriage, by Judith Wallerstein and Sandra Blakeslee. Wallerstein, who is best known for her studies on the impact of divorce on kids, optimistically asserts that good marriages are possible, and suggests nine steps couples should take to protect their nuptials. "The first task in any marriage … is to separate psychologically from the family of origin" (don't give your mom a key to your new marital home). Step two is "building togetherness and autonomy, … [that is,] putting together a shared vision of how you want to spend your lives together." Good marriages have a strong sense of "we," but, following Kahil Gibran, good marriages also have space in their togetherness. Then comes having children, coping with crises, and "build[ing] a relationship that is safe for the expression of difference, conflict, and anger." Tasks six and seven are to "create a loving sexual relationship and to guard it so that ...