“And they lived happily ever after.”
We all know better than that.
50% of American marriages end in divorce. But even the marriages that do survive are not always happy. Marriages, just like life, have stages. They change and develop and present us with many different challenges, year after year.
Marriages CAN be very happy and fulfilling, of course, and they often add a lot of joy and contentment to our lives. But it’s important to realize that when you get married, you don’t enter a constant state of bliss. A lot of work is needed to maintain a good marriage, and there are going to be bumps along the way, even in the happiest of marriages.
I’ve been married for 16 years now. I’ve been a mother for the past nine years. I’ve been blessed with a good, stable marriage. I love my husband. Ours is the kind of love that keeps growing and deepening over the years. But by now I know better than to think that a good marriage “just happens,” or that being a wife and a mother is “easy.”
Nava Atlas knows it too. Happily married and the mother of two kids, she too has been blessed with a good relationship, yet she’s smart enough to realize she can’t take any of it for granted. Nava is also bold enough to admit out loud that marriage is sometimes challenging, and motherhood is often exhausting.
In her book, Secret Recipes for the Modern Wife, Nava takes a funny, realistic look at marriage and its different stages. Her “recipes” are not real recipes – they are a clever, witty way to describe marriage and motherhood. I can’t think of any woman who will not identify with this book. It perfectly describes what each and every one of us is going through.
I was 22 when I got married. Reading through the book’s first few recipes, which call for ingredients such as “sugarcoated wedding fantasies,” “6 cups of novelty” and a “small dollop of reality,” I smiled. This is exactly how marriage starts for most of us.
One of my favorite “recipes” is the “What a Turkey Noodle Soup” recipe, that captures what happens to many women, who are perfectly fine with eating yogurt for dinner, yet find themselves in charge of cooking elaborate dinners once they are married. Can you say “resentment?”
Another favorite: “Gender Role Casserole,” that illustrates the transition of most of us – regardless of how career-oriented or ambitious we are – into the role of motherhood. Our careers almost always get pushed to the back burner while we focus on motherhood, at least for a few years.
Other young-mother-recipes address the common issues of motherly guilt, and of putting everyone’s needs before ours.
Fast forward a few years. Many of us find ourselves exhausted, completely overwhelmed, and often full of resentment. Recipes such as “Completely Fried Wife with Toast of Total Exhaustion” and “Bland, Boring Bean Pots” illustrate these issues beautifully.
I pretty much skipped the third part of the book, “Recipes for Disaster,” which address betrayal, divorce and rebuilding your life. Yes, I refuse to acknowledge this could ever happen to me. But of course, it could.
The book’s final recipe, “Happily Ever After Ambrosia,” sounds a lot like my mom, who has been happily married for forty years now. The recipe calls for “The stuff that makes marriage most delectable” and suggests ingredients such as “Affection and mutual respect,” “Security and support,” “Children who turn out well,” and “Lasting love and happiness.”
Clearly, Nava Atlas is a cautious optimist rather than a bitter pessimist. She believes that marriage CAN lead to happiness. She just refuses to sugarcoat the reality of the many challenges we must face along the way.
I loved reading Secret Recipes for the Modern Wife. I highly recommend it. It is not just fun reading for every married woman – it is also a great gift to give to a friend, to your mom, or to a colleague. It is absolutely the perfect bridal shower gift.
Do you believe in marriage?
This article, “Happily Ever After,” is a paid review of the book “Secret Recipes for the Modern wife” by Nava Atlas. In the photo: Happy on my wedding day, 16 years ago.