We live at a great time when so many resources exist to help marriages with a variety of challenges, including the sexual arena, and it’s worthwhile to put “Read a Marriage Book” on your to-do list.
That said, there’s a good way and a bad way to read marriage books. If you go in with the wrong expectations or without an attitude of discernment, you could come away disappointed or learn something counterproductive. So let’s talk about about how to read a marriage book.
Recognize there is no magic bullet.
A magic bullet is “something providing an effective solution to a difficult or previously unsolvable problem” (Merriam-Webster). And oh, how we wish there was a magic bullet to resolve all of our marital conflicts, misunderstandings, and challenges. But there isn’t.
Hey, I could increase my blog traffic and book sales substantially if I chose topic titles like “10 Surefire Ways to Take Your Sex Life from Boring to Breathtaking!” or “Resolve Your Sexless Marriage in Three Easy Steps!” Except I don’t want to lie to you.
Even when the solution is simple and straightforward, putting it into practice can be difficult. You have to overcome bad habits, establish new routines, stick it out during that time between planting and harvesting (which can feel like forever), and pray your spouse responds they way they should.
You should know you’re running a marathon and not just around the block, so you can prepare yourself accordingly. Mind you, it’s well worth the run! But it’s not easy.
Thus, any resource that guarantees following a system will produce the exact result you want is like that diet that says you can lose 10 pounds in one week and never feel hungry. Yeah, right. That doesn’t mean the diet, or marriage program, is a bad idea. It might yield good results, but recognize it’s unlikely to cure all of your marital woes by next Tuesday.
Don’t discard the mostly good for the little bad.
Too often, readers take an all-or-nothing approach to marriage resources. Once they discover something they disagree with, they write off the whole thing or read the remainder through a negative or suspicious lens.
Is there any marriage resource with which I’ve agreed 100% of the time? That would be a big no. Even my own stuff written years ago, I’d probably write differently today. Meaning the only resource I don’t disagree with is the Bible!
Or wait—I do disagree with the Bible. I simply decide in that case I must be wrong and need to adjust my thinking, not the other way around.
But if you get a marriage book in which 80-90% of the advice is good, it’s a wonderful resource. Ignore the 10-20% and focus on how much good stuff you’re getting, some of which you can put into practice and reap the benefits.
Read for what you can do to improve your marriage.
You know what marriage book would be a fun read? One that talked about what a terrific wife you are and then recounted all the problems your husband is bringing to the marriage—basically concluding, “It’s not me. It’s you.”
But hey, even if your husband is 90% the problem, you have 10% to fix. And the reality is that you cannot change your spouse. You can only influence them through what actions you take.
So when you read a marriage book, look for what messages you need to hear that help you improve your relationship. Take ownership for your part. And where you recognize your spouse is indeed the problem, figure out how to influence the issue rather than solely laying blame on them.
Remember that marriage books largely assume good will.
Most marriage resources presume two good-willed spouses who love each other—even if they don’t currently like each other all that much—and want a better relationship. This is not to say that they haven’t said and done things that are hurtful and undermine their ultimate goal.
My husband and I said terrible things to one another when our marriage was bad, many years ago. We wish I could take those things back, but we were both coming from places of deep emotional pain and lashing out carelessly. That said, we were both good-willed people who loved each other and wanted a better marriage. We just didn’t know how to get there.
If you have a good-willed spouse, a marriage book could help you achieve an important breakthrough, improve a struggling relationship, or simply add greater intimacy to an already good marriage.
But if you are in an abusive marriage, you need much more than a marriage book! Get professional help. Leave immediately if your safety is at risk. Find resources not about marriage but abuse in marriage. And if you’re not sure about your situation, check out Family Life’s Are You in an Abusive Relationship? list of questions.If you are in an abusive marriage, you need much more than a marriage book! via @hotholyhumorous Click To Tweet
Understand that gender doesn’t explain everything.
A number of resources say “men are like this, and women are like this,” and yeah, there’s some truth to that, generally speaking. But it’s an oversimplification that ignores other factors like personality, talents, background, values, and more.
If just the words “man” or “woman” explained everything, then all women would be alike and all men would be alike, and how boring would that be! I suspect your chose your husband because he was a particular kind of man, and you like his unique aspects. (Okay, mostly. You could do without the way he picks his teeth after supper.)
We can misjudge our own husband if we presume a statement about male stereotypes applies to him when it doesn’t. And he can misread you by presuming every female stereotype applies to you.
How do you avoid getting the wrong impression? Ask your spouse.
When you read a statement you’re not sure about, open up a conversation with your beloved like, “Hey, I was reading about how men are ____________, and I’m wondering if you feel like that’s accurate for you.”
I’ve been surprised by the answers I’ve gotten from my husband with this approach. Sometimes, he confirms the statement, and I learn something new I hadn’t recognized before. Other times, he says it doesn’t describe him at all. And then there are times when it’s kinda-yes but with clarification. Regardless, by the end of the conversation, I understand my husband better. And isn’t that a good goal?
You may be thinking by now: With all these potential land mines, what’s the point of reading marriage books or even blog posts?!
Because they often have great advice that can sincerely help your marriage.
I have personally benefited from numerous books and blog posts, as well as podcast episodes, video courses, and devotional products. Various marriage authors have illuminated areas I need to attend to, information about my spouse he had difficulty explaining, and actions that can improve our relationship.
And hey, Hot, Holy & Humorous and my books have a long history of helping married couples in their bedrooms, with many emails to prove it! I know firsthand that marriage resources can make a difference.
But approaching marriage resources wisely will make a real difference in what you get out of them.
What other advice would you add for how to read a marriage book or other resource?