For Better—APW Book Club Meetups

Let me sum up this month’s APW book clubs for you in two sentences:

  • Everyone agrees that correlation does not equal causation.
  • Lots of booze.

We’ll dive into a proper discussion of For Better: The Science of a Good Marriage, by Tara Parker-Pope tomorrow, but for now let’s dive into the pictures, and sum ups of what happened in some of the many meet-ups.

{Chicago book club: shot by Christy Tyler Photography}

Sidenote: it’s pretty crazy to think of all these groups of smart women meeting up all over the world on the same day to have similar conversations, isn’t it? Several people asked me how it felt to be responsible for all of it… and all I can tell you is that I don’t really know. It feels like this bizarre phenomenon, like herding cats, but not like something I started (even though I did). But what the hell? Let’s celebrate it, right?

{Edinburgh meet-up, shot by Lauren McGlynn Photography}

First up, a meet-up that it kills me I was not at, because it took place in one of my favorite cities in the world: Edinburgh. This was written up by Kirsty of A Safe Mooring, and also of our Wedding Graduate section (She cut her hair. It’s super cute, right?

We chatted about the book a bit, and it sparked some interesting conversations about divorce rates, how we argue with our partners (apparently instead of saying “you forgot to buy milk”, we must say “I am sad that we have no milk”. Hmm), and so on. I had bought a copy of the book second-hand from Amazon, and when it arrived someone had already filled in their answers to all the questionnaires, which was bizarre and hilarious in equal measures. But the consensus among those of us who had read the book was that it was pretty dry and, erm, kind of dull. So instead we talked about our lives, our weddings, our families, school, work, religion, the hideousness of the majority of Scottish wedding photography and how to make skirts out of men’s t-shirts. We also drank cocktails out of jam jars, which I highly recommend. It was so fun to meet such a variety of intelligent, interesting, beautiful women whose paths would perhaps never otherwise have crossed – it’s like APW leapt off the screen and came to life. (More here. Though the editor is secretly disappointed that so many cocktails and so little whiskey was drunk. Not whenever I make it into to town!)

Next up, London. If we’re being frank, I’m slightly miffed that I wasn’t there. It seems almost rude that London is holding parties without me, but still. They do look like they’re having fun, right? Alicia sends the following report:

If I’m honest, I think none of us were really that into the book —but then again that sometimes makes for as good a discussion as anything! We felt that there were a lot of sweeping generalizations that didn’t hold true to our relationships or to those of people we know (e.g. some of us pretty much never ever do housework so that whole chapter was kind of out, lots of sweeping statements of ‘homosexual/heterosexual couples are like X…’). I gather many others have had some of the same issues.

We had a good discussion about sources of emotional support within and outside your couple—particularly the difference between what you’d like versus the reality. For instance, in the London meet up we were all ex-pat North Americans (different from last time where I was the only one from the US and the others were Brits). So for some people, they would like to have closer relationships with people outside their couple but they weren’t really able to because they were in a new country, felt shy, were having trouble finding work etc. and so therefore felt more insular with their partner by circumstance rather than by choice.

{Houston! Taken by Elissa R Photography}

Then, Rachelle and the Houston meet-up pointed out that maybe the main APW problem with the book is that it wasn’t exactly written for us. She reports:

We met at the private Investor’s Pub at Saint Arnold Brewery where my almost-husband works. Shannon and Tim brought chips and dip, I brought homemade pretzels and Elissa brought her camera. We talked about the book first and agreed that after about the third chapter, the whole thing sort of dissolved into an extended Cosmo quiz. There were parts we liked, like how the author dispelled certain myths about divorce statistics, but we didn’t like the focus on gender stereotypes and heterosexual relationships. Shannon brought up a good point, that maybe since we (the APW book club) are probably a bit out of the mainstream a book based on studies of “normal” populations may not apply to us exactly. Overall we were all disappointed in the book and while we didn’t think it was horrible, it wasn’t what we had expected or hoped for.

{San Francisco! Taken by a security guard!}

{SF, allegedly by Emily Takes Photos but she’s in it, with APW Lauren and Allison Andres}

In San Francisco, they barely discussed the book, but would like you to know that they consumed four bottles of booze, thankyouVERYmuch.


In DC, the  most epic of the APW book clubs, with somewhat regular cocktail nights, had a rooftop party with a lot of Bloody Mary’s and mimosas. Sarah reported:

When our chatting finally turned to the book, the general reaction was “What?” While there were bits each of us appreciated, for much of the group the “science” seemed to be a bit … off. It did, however, provide a springboard for a discussion about the intricacies of our own marriages, and trading tips on how to better handle ourselves (and our partners) in difficult situations. One bit that rang especially true for a few of us was the general negativity (in both the book, and the real world) of reactions to young (age) marriages, and how it impacts our perceptions, our emotions, and our relationships. Issues that weren’t really addressed by the author (birth order, family situations, area demographics) seemed to us to play bigger roles in our relationship dynamics then “access to the internet” and the other broad generalizations the book covered. When it came down to it, we all agreed that while knowing the science can be helpful, knowing our relationships and our partners is best.

Maggie from Cincinnati reports:

We met at one member’s house and stuffed ourselves with potluck treats and also enjoyed playing with the 2 adorable dog “mascots.” We had a blast. A thoughtful, intelligent, but also laugh-out-loud blast. We discussed every question and then some (including an analysis of “the sound you uterus makes when it screams” – you had to have been there, for that one). I feel like the major breakthrough for me was when we agreed that: at times in your life, if your relationship ain’t broke… you should just enjoy that and not create problems where there aren’t any. We also focused a lot on friends and boundaries: how much is it okay to share with others? How much should remain private? We all seemed to feel that it’s important to have an outlet of some kind (online or IRL), but also to respect your partner’s privacy – and to ask them what level of “dishing” makes them uncomfortable, and vice versa.

{Chicago is adorable: shot by Christy Tyler Photography}

Cindy sent in the following report from Chicago:

What can I say about the Chicago meetup? A bunch of lovely ladies showed up at my house on a really hot day with wine and food (including Guinness & Bailey’s cupcakes – yum!) and we had a great time.

General consensus was that the science in the book was questionable at best, and maybe the author really just wanted to absolve herself of any guilt about her own divorce. We found the book way too focused on gender roles, and we really resented the way she seemed to say some things would inevitably lead to divorce. Like the eye rolling! Universally, it seems, we Chicago ladies are eye-rollers and we whole-heartedly believe that we are not doomed to split up as a result.

We spent probably half the time talking about dealing with the things that drive us crazy about our partners, and specifically about chores. A lot of people related to the author’s point that regardless of how chores are actually divided, women tend to be stuck with thinking about who’s gonna do what and how those things should be done ‘right’. (As the token lesbian, I had to admit that we rarely fight about housework and I couldn’t relate to this particular dilemma. Not to worry, we have plenty of our own.) (Editors note: doesn’t apply to David and I either, and we’re straight.) What we seem to have concluded is that the key to dealing with it is to accept that you do things differently from each other, remember that no one can read minds, and communicate, communicate, communicate about whatever’s pissing you off.

And with that, let’s kick it to the pictures!



{Denver, plus a mom, by Christy of Moodeous Photography}

We’ll be back tomorrow with more discussion of the book. And next week we’re announcing an easy summer book club read… mostly just to facilitate a nice summer cocktail. You’re welcome.

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