Marriage Resolutions after reading “What Alice Forgot”

For a book club last month we read, “What Alice Forgot,” by Liane Moriarty, a story about a woman who wakes up with a concussion and no memory of the last ten years of her life. She thinks she’s 29, pregnant with her first child, and in love with her husband. In reality, she’s 39, a mother of three, and going through a mean divorce. Reading about how she navigates this disparity between how her life is and how she feels about it (she still loves her husband and insists they aren’t actually getting divorced) opens up a lot of questions.

What would surprise 17 year old me about my life now?

Or maybe more interesting to think about, what would my newlywed self be surprised about at my life 2 kids and 7 years later?

In the book it seemed like 39 year old Alice HAD everything 29 year old Alice wanted, but she had BECOME a person that 29 year old Alice really didn’t like.

Newlywed Elisabeth would be so proud of Ben’s accomplishments. I’d grin at the thought of living with my two children on campus in Boston while Ben attended this business school.

I’d be shocked that this little online journal turned into a way to support our family during this period.

I’d be happy my pre-teen sisters grew into my dearest friends.

Newlywed Elisabeth would be sad that I still get frustrated about dirty cups left by the sink.

I’d be even more disappointed that I nag this man I adore about clothing on the floor or forgetting the trash.

I’d be surprised by the number of evenings we go to sleep at different times or how much time we spend in the same room, not talking, plugged into our own devices.

I’d be pleased watching Ben read to Lincoln or build with Adelaide and questioning when I saw how short my patience is with my sweet kids some days.

In short, I’d be happy and I’d be disappointed.

One interesting dynamic in the book is Alice’s choice between pursuing her husband (who she’s in the process of divorcing) or her boyfriend, a kind, sweet, principal at her children’s school. One offers a fresh start and a return to those early days of wooing. Another offers a lot of baggage, lots of things to work through, and years of hurt feelings to forgive. But that second one also offers over a decade of memories, of inside jokes, and shared moments (children! their first words! family trips!).

And it has me thinking, how do you get from the stage of giddy excitement at seeing a person, to taking for granted that they come home every evening and sleep in your bed?

I set out to write this post and set some marriage resolutions as a result of reading this book. But I’m not sure what those would be.

  • Let Ben leave as much laundry on the floor without saying anything?
  • Be sure to kiss him goodbye and hello everything he comes leaves and comes back?
  • Go to bed at the same time each night?
  • Stop caring about dirty dishes?

Each one on it’s own seems petty, trivial, inconsequential. But what other things do you change?

Maybe instead something like this?

  • Quality time together for at least 10 minutes each day
  • Weekly date night
  • Use only kind tones

Both set of goals are probably great. Here’s to taking a few more moments to appreciate what we have and not taking those we love most for granted.

P.S. I jotted down these thoughts after finishing What Alice Forgot last week. And since then I read “The Husband’s Secret” which left more of an impact on me. The big takeaway at the end was that relationships are hard but that as you are willing to strip down your ego, the power of shared memories + history with a person make the hard parts worth it. Short version: Relationships are happier as you shed your ego. Get over yourself.

P.P.S. There is QUITE a bit of language in these books (at least in comparison to what I’ve been reading lately). It was jarring to listen to at parts. The Aussie accents, though, are delightful.

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  1. “What Alice Forgot” really made me think a lot about my relationship with my husband, too, and just how easily those little annoyances can become big, almost insurmountable problems when you let them. I listened to a podcast recently that said something about how sometimes you have those days when you get so annoyed by everything your spouse does, and you’re silently grumbling to yourself complaining about how they never do the dishes, they forgot to feed the dog AGAIN, and why do I have to do everything… but if you just change your attitude, stop thinking about what’s annoying and think about all the things you LOVE about your husband instead, suddenly those little annoyances don’t matter any more. I thought that was such a great lesson. I’ll definitely need to read “The Husband’s Secret” too!

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