Sunday, September 14, 2014

After I Do, a novel by Taylor Jenkins Reid

What happens when the person you’ve married and vowed to spend the rest of your life with, is the one person that you can no longer stand to be in the same room? 

Lauren Spencer goes off to UCLA and during her second year, meets Ryan Cooper. They’ve both noticed each other in their “normal places” when Ryan waits for Lauren in the dining hall stating “Are you following me or what?” They joke with each other over dinner that night, go out with each other the next, and become a couple – young, happy, and inseparable.  They meet each other's families, and two years after graduation, they marry. The author tells the story starting with an event that occurs in present day, then goes back to retell of their meeting, courtship, and early years in marriage. By the time you get to the present, you can feel the tension and the impending doom of their relationship. 

“We can’t drop it. I’m not going to drop it. We’ve been dropping it for months now”

Constant bickering, resentment, a lack of communication, and the stress of realizing that they are no longer in love with each other has caused them to collapse. 

“We aren’t fighting about the hot water or the Dodger Stadium parking lot. We aren’t fighting bout money or jealousy or communication skills. We are fighting because we don’t know how to be happy. We are fighting because we no longer make each other happy.” 

They realize that they need to do something. They decide to live apart for one year, and during that time, try to move forward and see where they go. They agree that they can both date other people, but should keep contact between them minimal. After custody of the house and dog are decided, Ryan moves out. 

Lauren realizes two things immediately – she’s incredibly lonely, and she doesn’t know how to be an individual without Ryan. The story really follows Lauren throughout the year, reconnecting with her sister, her mother, her brother, and other friends from work. She is forced to grow and learn how to survive on her own. While she understands that she can live on her own, the question is, does she want to? While I don’t want to go too far into the rest of the story line, I can tell you that there is a resolution at the end of the year.  

The underlying message of this book is a good one: you need to communicate with your partner. You need to be an individual and learn to be independent in order to be happy in a relationship. You need to ask for what you want and need, and compromise on what the other person wants and needs. Through the story, you hear wisdom and bits of insight into how others make it work. 

“Raising kids is hard. Taking care of a family is hard. And I think sometimes it gets to one or the other of us. Right now, it’s getting to both of us at the same time, which is not good”

“What are you going to do?”

“I’m going to get over it, that’s what I’m going to do…I’m going to find a way to be nice to my partner, and I’m going to bed. That’s what I’m going to do.” 

Sometimes, you just need to get to the end of the day, and get over it. Period.

Grandma's presence in the book is amazing, and has some sage advice: 
“Marriage is about commitment. It’s about loyalty. It’s not always about happiness. Happiness is secondary.”

And this:

“If you had a cocktail party, and you had left him to his own devices, and you had flirted with other men and he’s seen it, or he had flirted with other women and you’d see it, if you had spent a few weekends apart from each other sometimes, given each other some space now and then, maybe you wouldn’t need a whole year apart now. That’s all I’m saying.”

Gramma’s always have the best words of wisdom, don’t they?

Having just been married, I can tell you – all of the underlying messages are true. We’ve had our “bumps” because we lived sin for eternity before finally getting hitched. What really works? Being an individual while being a couple. Talking. Fighting. Making-up. Sticking with it. Always. Remembering why you fell in love with the first place, and not the irritating things that make you want to scream. Compromise.

This is the second book I’ve ready by Taylor Jenkins Reid, and let me tell you, she can tell a good relationship story. They’re not the things that fairytales are made of – they’re real, honest, sometimes painful, and yet, endearing. Whether you’re in a relationship or not, married or single, go read this book. It’s worth it. 

Find it on Amazon, Barnes and Noble and other retailers! 

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