Marriage is one of life’s great mysteries. What makes a marriage work? What makes it fail? Why do certain couples simply come apart, while others, however patently incompatible, continue to exist together in a twilit half-life, joined by some invisible and unbreakable bond? Marriage is a bargain; a poor bargain for all too many.

Tolstoy’s famous claim that all happy families are alike has been disproved time and again—there are many, many ways of being happy, or at least contented—but his corresponding dictum that each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way is unarguable: the unhappy marriage, in particular, has always been a staple of literature. David and Dora Copperfield, Molly and Leopold Bloom, Charles and Emma Bovary, Jason and Medea, Mr. and Mrs. Bennet, Dorothea and Edward Casaubon, Swann and Odette, Anna and Alexei Karenin, Hester Prynne and Roger Chillingworth, Isabel Archer and Gilbert Osmond, Nora...

 
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