Book Review: What Were You Thinking?

Back in February, my grandfather sent me this book after watching an interview with the author. There was no link to the interview, but I thought it would be interesting to read a divorce attorney’s perspective on marriage and relationships after 20+ years helping people get divorced.

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I have to admit, I wanted to throw the book across the room during the first two chapters. The author dedicates the first chapter trying to convince people not to get married in the first place. The premise is, if you never get married, you are guaranteed never to get divorced. Does that seem a little simplistic to you?

If you really do want to get married, the author proposes that you take the relationship for a test drive and live together before you get married. Let’s forget about the research that shows that if you live together you are more likely to get divorced.

The author also throws out three suggestions of how to fix the marriage/divorce explosion:

(1) Informed consent: Require the parties to execute a legal consent form before marriage (with a whole list of risks, including, “You could be lonely.” “You could be stolen from.” You could be publicly humiliated and have your heart broken.”) (page 19)

(2) Legislation mandating that no marriage license could be granted before the age of 25 (or, if you absolutely could not wait, going through a video about marriage like the one at the DMV with people being pulled out of a car with the Jaws of Life)

(3) “Trial marriage” (You register for a marriage license and live together for 6 months. At the end of that period, you can leave the relationship or have the license issued.)

At this point, I found myself rolling my eyes and labeling the author as a jaded celebrity divorce lawyer. (I know, that is so judgmental of me.) However, I continued reading, because I really did want to know if it got any better.

Thankfully, it did.

From chapter four onward, the author gives advice for each step in the divorce process, including how to find and choose an attorney, the judge, alimony, custody, and dividing up the marital property. These chapters gave a brief overview of the process in lay terms, in essence guiding someone through the ups and downs of a divorce. He had some good advice, including how to behave in court, why it is so important to choose a good attorney (your credibility is linked to his/hers), and how to approach cross-examination. There are also plenty of stories about his former cases, which are humorous and appalling at the same time.

The author also includes a chapter on how to use technology to find out if your spouse is cheating. I have to admit, this chapter felt more like advice on how to cheat and keep it a secret (or spy on your spouse). In one bullet point, he is advising the reader that, “The excitement of an affair is nothing compared to the excitement when you caught get,” while in the next bullet point he is advising, “Do not use credit or debit cards to pay for expenses associated with the affair.” (page 70) It felt like he was talking out of both sides of his mouth. It sounded like he was saying, “Cheating is a bad thing, but here is how to avoid getting caught if you decide to do it anyway.”

At the end of each chapter, the author has excerpts from famous people about their marriage advice. By far, the best one in the book was from Dr. Phil (page 169). There were also two from medical doctors who talk about the link between emotional and physical health that were very interesting. Again, the one after the first chapter (from Gene Simmons (of KISS) and Shannon Tweed) was terrible. Although these two have been in a relationship for 21 years, they have never married. Why are you asking for marriage advice from a celebrity who has never been married?? I guess that just falls under the general category of “relationship advice.” But when you are talking about going to the Playboy Mansion without your girlfriend, I am going to discount your advice.

Overall, the book was a fairly pleasant read once you get past the first couple of chapters. I thought his advice about the divorce process was good, and easy for a lay person to understand. Additionally, there were a lot of fun anecdotes about cases he has worked on or heard about. However, I wonder if there are other resources out there that would be helpful without the jaded view of marriage this author sometimes seems to take.

I know that part of my dislike of this book relates to my fundamental disagreement with the author and many of the contributors on the goals/purposes of marriage. In my opinion, marriage exists to make you holy, not to make you happy (though hopefully it brings happiness, too!).

One other note: There were a ton of typos in this book (including “Statute of Liberty”). About halfway through, I actually made a game of circling and tallying them. I reached 30 in the last 130 pages of the book. They were not on every page, but there were definitely enough that I noticed and wondered who was responsible for proofreading this book.

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