Local Author Elizabeth Weil Takes Us Behind the Scenes of Her New Book
No Cheating, No Dying, the hotly anticipated memoir from Bernal Heights author Elizabeth Weil, finally hits shelves this month after her New York Times Magazine article “Married (Happily) with Issues” struck a universal chord back in 2009—the story got nearly 4 million page views online. In the book, Weil and her husband embark on a series of relationship-improvement projects on their already solid marriage. Her acute insights into their partnership will no doubt trigger thought and examination of your own. Here, Weil answers a few of our burning questions.
Did you ever imagine that your 2009 cover story for The New York Times Magazine, “Married (Happily) with Issues,” would be so wildly popular?
No, never in a million years! It was really a shock. I only started to understand the story's popularity when the tenth person walked up to me and said, "Your article led me to have the most intense conversation with my spouse." Then I got it. Reading about my marriage led other people to talk about their own.
When writing this book, how did it feel to open up the most intimate details of your marriage to total strangers?
Writing intimate details and having other people react to them are totally different experiences. But I knew for the book to work I had to be open. I had a mantra for myself: "Just be totally honest and everything will be okay." We'll see how that pans out.
Who is the ideal audience for No Cheating, No Dying?
People who think their marriages are too good for couples therapy or who don't want to spend the time and money on it.
How many times throughout this marriage improvement exercise did you fear that you might actually tear your relationship apart beyond the point of repair instead of making it stronger?
Only a few, but those times were scary. When a marriage is feeling frayed, you realize how ephemeral the institution is. Sure, there's a document at the court house somewhere. But marriage only really exists because you believe in it.
Do you think the therapy, marriage improvement courses, and books really did help to make your marriage better? Will you continue with these things now that the project is over?
Absolutely—our marriage is better, though not at all in the ways I imagined it would be. We don't have some Platonic ideal of the early 21st century good marriage, with weekly date nights and fully buffed out IRAs. But we have a deeper understanding. I also think we prevented a few future problems. I was joking with Dan the other day that over the course of writing this book we've removed all our marital splinters. I'm sure we'll pick up more over the years, but now we have tweezers and all kinds of other tools to deal with issues before they fester.
In the book, you say, “I did not understand how marriage was supposed to function in times of real conflict.” Do you now?
Oh boy, that's a tough one. I do think I understand it rationally, but I'm not 100% sure any of us hang on to much rationality in the heat of a fight.
Of course all couples are different, but what would you say are the most essential ingredients for a good marriage?
You have to like each other … and keep liking each other every day. And you have to remember that your spouse isn't nearly as predictable as you think he or she is.