Lynn Toler knows marriage. As the judge featured on the nationally syndicated TV show “Divorce Court,” she’s a firsthand witness to the many marriage mistakes Americans make over and over again. Now she’s taken those lessons learned, along with the experience accumulated over the course of her own 22-year marriage and incorporated them into the witty, insightful and hard-hitting “Making Marriage Work: New Rules for an Old Institution” (Agate Bolden, $15.95).
“We needed each other. He is strong where I am weak, and vice versa,” explained the judge of her marriage to Eric Mumford. Toler has two sons and four stepsons and frequently posts about her large, busy family on her Facebook page. “We both had parents who had solid, yet not perfect, marriages. So we both had a script to follow for getting through tough times, and the belief that it can be done. And last, but not least, we believe in it. We don’t expect to be happy with each other all of the time, and when things did get bumpy, we got counseling.”
Toler graduated from Harvard University and got her law degree from the University of Pennsylvania. After a decade practicing law in Cleveland, she was elected judge of the Cleveland Heights Municipal Court in 1993. During her tenure, she was actively engaged in the community, creating innovative programs to help at-risk youth and coordinating resources and outreach to victims of domestic violence. She became the host of “Divorce Court,” the longest-running television court program, in 2006. Her no-nonsense, straightforward advice and rulings have endeared her to legions of “Divorce Court’s” fans.
There are those who think that marriage is an outdated institution: that we have become too selfish, too unwilling to make sacrifices and too misguided by elevated expectations of happiness to make marriage work. But Toler argues that the real impediment to marriage these days is the fact that couples decide to take the plunge based almost entirely on the most irrational of criteria: falling in love. Marriage, Toler says, is too important not to be treated with all the dedication and seriousness with which you should work on a job.
“When society changes, its institutions are exposed to different pressures,” says Toler. “Now that women are legally equal and more economically able, marriage is no longer a must but a choice. The sexual revolution, having allowed more of us access to sex without the requirement of marriage, has removed yet another social pressure that used to propel many down the aisle. Now that childbearing outside of marriage is also more socially acceptable, that’s one fewer reason to make the walk down the altar. Also, we are not as dependent on each other as we were before. Gender roles are no longer so strictly defined. We can take care of our own needs without the necessity of a spouse. Add to that our having access to the entire world right in our living rooms through our keyboards, and we can get plenty of satisfaction in life outside the bounds of marriage.”
Judge Lynn Toler will be appearing at Barnes & Noble, 1805 Walnut Street, for a book signing on Tuesday, Oct. 16 at 6 p.m. The signing is free and open to the public. For more information, call (215) 665-0716.