Book Review: Marriage Shock

Posted On: January 21, 2013

marriage shock

Relationship expert Dalma Heyn asks not what is good for marriage but what is good for women in marriage—a question, she finds, that promises a much different answer and more fulfilling lives.

You complete me. Happily ever after. Many of us buy into the pinnacle of what the ultimate commitment is about – marriage. If we can experience culture shock when we travel or relocate, how about marriage shock?

I seem to have stumbled upon this book at the National Library – resorting to reading relationship books due to the dire lack of sex books. This is not a new book. Published in 1997, Marriage Shock questions what happens to the fun-loving, passionate single gal upon marriage. This woman transforms or is reduced to the status as a wife–a woman who unconsciously represses her own needs, wants, and vitality “for the sake of the marriage.” It explores the ways in which wives can overcome deeply ingrained social and personal expectations and flourish both as wives and as individuals.

I felt this book really belaboured the point. I was looking for take-aways – what should wives do to get over their shock upon marriage; what could these women do about finding themselves again; and how might their spouse support them? Not much. It’s all in the last chapter. So if you find yourself reacting like I was – nodding your head listlessly at the same points being phrased in different ways throughout the books, rolling your eyes and wondering when there will be any take-aways – you might like to just skip to the last chapter.

I am recommending this book because I actually can see the value in more women understanding what is happening to them upon marriage without even their conscious awareness. Too often, women remain silent, dismiss themselves for fear of rowing the boat and do herself or her relationship no favours at all.

On page 161 of this book, it says:

“It is lies and pretense about our erotic selves that go so deep we no longer notice. Pretense about our pleasure – its intensity, its rthymes, its idiosyncratic sources – is woven into our daily actions and expectations as wives like the threads in a patchword quilt. We lie to ourselves about it as well as to our husbands.

If we understood how dangerous it is to our psyches and our relationships to edit our words, our thoughts, our actions, would we begin telling the truth, piece by piece, thereby, in the words of Rich (Adrienne Rich), “opening the question of other ways of handling our fear”?

If we saw that the real danger in “sheltering” our husbands in the death of pleasure in our relationships with them, would we continue to respond to an ancient voice droning on about false dangers, threatening that we’ll lose it all if we dare to be real.”

So the take-aways by way of what one can do includes:

1) By admitting she (The Witness) exists – “by understanding why she was created, and what and whom she serves”

2) By realising she lives on in us;

3) By speaking the truth of our experience to our husbands and our friends;

4) By bringing our husbands into this experience of marriage shock so they too can watch what happens and how.

The book ends by advising that “women in the most satisfying relationships feel free to expand, want, explore, be themselves, pursue their own stories – and, not surprisingly, they are in the least conventional marriages.”

Book Description

Released in 1997 at a time when American women were initiating two thirds of all divorces, the controversial, bestselling author of The Erotic Silence of the American Wife explores why the institution of marriage is failing them and what can be done. Marriage Shock will promote a vigorous debate over how husbands and wives can reinvent our most rigid institution so that both spouses will have marriages in which they can thrive.

Purchase this book here.


Dr. Martha Lee is Founder and Clinical Sexologist of Eros Coaching. She is a certified sexologist with a Doctorate in Human Sexuality. She provides sexuality and intimacy coaching for individuals and couples, conducts sexual education workshops and speaks at public events. For more, visit or email

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