In the past several years, I’ve had front row seats to seeing some significant marriages deteriorate, fall apart slowly, end suddenly or unexpectedly, and explode into nothingness after stagnancy or seemingly normalcy.

While I am very thankful that my Reality Bites era relationship continues with a wonderful being, the dissolution, troubled waters, or evolution of so many familiar marriages, has undoubtedly influenced, and in some ways changed, my thoughts about marriage, commitment, and cultural/social expectations and pressures.

Of course, there are also those two not-so-small details, of being a wife and mother of young kids who (1) lives in an extreme commuting marriage and (2) travels often as a solo mom traveler with kids in tow, which lend an interesting perspective to marriage, including the purpose and meaning of it.

I lost count long ago how many times I’ve been asked how my marriage survives miles, countries, states, flights, time zones, occasional birthdays or anniversaries apart.  Somewhere along the journey of life, marriage, babies and more babies–which if all mushed together would look like one giant, overlapping venn diagram that resembles my story–I stopped counting the number of times I’ve been asked, what’s your secret?

Listening to Four Hour Work Week Author’s Tim Ferriss’ podcast interview (Is It Time to Kill Sacred Cows in Your Relationship?) with ‘The Tellers’, authors of Sacred Cows, a book that examines marriage and apparently (I have yet to read it) ‘invites readers to question assumptions and conventional wisdom’ about finding partners, marriage, and divorce, made me immediately think of the pile of relationship-themed fiction and non-fiction books that have graced the table next to my bed in recent months.


I could guess that I’m drawn to marriage/relationship heavy books lately because of the happenings around me.  Perhaps it’s just human nature.  Perhaps it’s my academic background.  Maybe it’s my interest in finding my own place in the world with what looks like a seemingly, although increasingly more common, unconventional marriage.

And still, maybe I’ve just needed some “fun,” beach-type reading material after a long year of homeschooling my kids and intense travel.

So without further ado, here are some of the books that I’ve recently read that will have you rethinking marriage, relationships, unconventional marriages, the influence of society and culture on our private lives and personal relationship decisions.  But perhaps above all, these books, which dare I say may not be the ‘smartest’ or most academic of books on the shelves (though are entertaining), will nevertheless leave you asking yourself, ‘Am I living my truth?’

And, maybe only in my case asking, when exactly did I find time to read all of those books?

You Are in the Driver’s Seat of Your Own Happiness.

Can your marriage (or other important relationships) survive extreme commuting, solo travel, non-traditional living arrangements, unusual or usual life circumstances, changes or forces?  Only you (and hopefully your better half) can ultimately know best.  These 7 books may just remind you that you are in the driver’s seat of your own happiness, within marriage/relationships/friendships and beyond them.

1.  Sex at Dawn:  How We Mate, Why We Stray and What It Means for Modern Relationships by Christopher Ryan.  This book will leave you wondering if what you thought you knew about relationships, mating, and monogamy is really all what it is.

2.  Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn.  First off, ummm…yes, the book is soooo much better than the movie.  This book will leave you asking yourself, are you showing your partner who you really are, and is your partner showing you who he/she really is.

3.  Becoming Barenaked by Jenn BareNaked.  This book features real journal entries about a family who sold their belongings and homes, gave up a sizable salary and the traditional American dream to live the full-time travel, RV lifestyle. This book will have you asking yourself, how would your closest relationships with your spouse/significant other, family, children, and friends be affected or changed if you were to follow your truest dreams and live your life authentically, on your own terms.

4.  Fifty Shades of Grey by EL James.  Another book that is better than the movie, but isn’t that the way it usually goes?  This book, although somewhat amusing, incredibly annoying, and disturbing at the same time, is one of those books that you sorta may want to read if only because 100 million copies of it have been sold around the world.  Importantly, this book, even if considered ‘trashy,’ bearing a ‘nasty, misogynist residue,’ and fueled by the manipulation of women’s insecurities, leaves you better understanding why people may find themselves in less than ideal, co-dependent, or abusive relationships, and have you asking whether relationships can be rehabilitated or rekindled through sex.

5.  The Wild Oats Project by Robin Rinaldi.  This book will leave you asking yourself if you are brutally honest with yourself would you give up your relationship (‘give it all up’) as the author did in this ‘real life’ story to pursue desire–and importantly, would it be worth it in the end?

6.  Adultery by Paulo Coelho.  I admit, I was drawn to this book because the author walked 500+ miles of the Camino de Santiago, although the book has nothing to do with that pilgrimage.  At first blush, this book seems basic–an old flame, bored, unhappy, working wife/mother, trying to find happiness years into marriage.  However, this book takes you on a journey looking for answers to what it means to be truly happy, and how to find that somewhat elusive (if not evolving) sweet spot between routine and desire for newness.

7. Wild by Cheryl Strayed.  And yet another book that is so much better than the movie!  A book with threads of destroyed, lost, and found marriages, relationships, identity, this book leaves no stone of self-discovery unturned.  If truth and making your way to the driver’s seat of your own life is what you are after–or wonder if it might be, this book will gear you up to start figuring out yourself and thinking about your most meaningful or influential relationships.

Further related reading on the subject of unconventional marriages and relationships:

Thanks Darren Rowse for the Podcast inspiration to finally put this post that has been circulating in my head to ‘paper.’

Happy Wandering!



Written by Wandermom