Book Club Review and Discussion – Dan Savage’s The Commitment

To say this book changed my life would be an understatement. I read it, for the first time, while traveling through India in a group of friends and my (then) 19 year old brother who had never left the US before. The entire trip was a life-altering experience.

I read this book at a time that I was trying to figure out my relationship, what I needed from one, what I expected from my partner, and all those icky, adult sorta things you eventually have to face up to.

The first 60 pages of this book were interesting, insightful, and humorous. Then at the very end of page 63, this book promptly beat me over the head with awesome. Dan and his brother Bill end up going bowling while on vacation and they have a discussion about why Dan doesn’t want to get married. Billy has been with his significant other Kelly for an extended period of time and they refuse to get married. Billy says, “I don’t want to get married because I don’t believe that my life can be made complete by any one other person…I don’t believe my the myth that all my social, emotional, or physical needs can all be met through one person.”

These few sentences made me totally reconsider my perspective on relationships.

And he goes on to say, “…the presumption that every day, for the rest of your life, you will share the same bed with another person, and that it will never grow dull or oppressive. The proponents of this lifestyle will say that the more you get to know this person,the longer you’re together, the deeper your erotic and emotional bond will grow. That might be true for some people but it isn’t true for everyone.”

This made me realize I wasn’t abnormal.

I had always sucked at monogamy. I didn’t like it. I got bored. Even when I was happy with my partner, I was fantasizing about (and wanting to fuck) other people. And I was realizing that I wasn’t the only one, I was “broken” as a woman that I didn’t want monogamy or marriage or a fluffy white dress.

Savage goes on to have a marvelous discussion of what the purpose of marriage is. Beginning on pg 125, he pretty much destroys every argument gay marriage opponents have offered. It’s pretty embarrassing for James Dobson et al.

At which point, Savage gets back to his discussion with Billy in the bowling alley and has a rational, reasonable, and intelligent discussion about open relationships. Holy crap, people who aren’t bat shit insane about the subject. After the Mo’nique incident, you’d think open-relationships would be on par with using kittens as baseballs. 

Billy says, “It’s a logical extension of not buying the myth of completion. That myth requires couples to pretend that they find no other person on the planet attractive in any way. That’s one-hundred-proof, copper-plated, rock-ribbed bullshit.”

Thank you Billy Savage for articulating something I couldn’t conceptualize. 

The discussion of monogamy and nonmonogamy continues to discuss a relationship which ends in divorce because the wife wants to experiment while the husband does not. This is a frequently mentioned problem in Savage’s advice column. While Savage doesn’t endorse cheating, he doesn’t criminalize as much as society normally does. It certainly made me reconsider my perspective on cheating and monogamy.

Overall, I thought this book was amazing the first, second, third, fourth, and however many other times I have read it. My copy is well thumbed and tea stained. For anyone thinking about relationships in any way, this book is a must read.

Brit’s review. HDW’s review. Another review from a non-blogger.