Tag Archives: marriage book review

Happily Book Review: Contrarian Advice for a Great Marriage

On Tuesday, we released another podcast episode on Sex Chat for Christian Wives, but this one was unusual: we hosted a male guest. Kevin A. Thompson is the lead pastor at Community Bible Church in western Arkansas, speaks at marriage and parenting conferences, and has authored two marriage books, including Friends, Lovers, and Partners.

I don’t know how I originally connected with Kevin, but I’ve read his blog for some time and interacted with him online. I’ve been impressed with his willingness to address tough topics from a biblical viewpoint. And he came at it again in his most recent book, Happily: 8 Commitments of Couples Who Laugh, Love & Last.

(Note: I received a copy of this book free from the author, but I promised nothing but to read it. My decision to write this review is entirely my own.)

Kevin starts by discussing our tendency tend to believe that happy and unhappy marriages occur through luck or by getting certain rules right, like “you must find and marry The One.” However, the real way to both avoid divorce and have a happy marriage is to embrace eight contrarian commitments he outlines in the book.

These contrarian commitments are Jesus’ contrarian principles for our lives, laid out in the Sermon on the Mount, the section we call the Beatitudes.

The First Commitment

For example, the first commitment is to Happily Humble Yourselves. Easier said than done, right? And yet, think how many marriage struggles are caused or exacerbated by our lack of humility. As Kevin says, “At the heart of nearly every marriage problem is pride,” but he also points out that “most of the people we meet who lack humility are not arrogant; we are insecure.”

What if we instead had a right perspective of ourselves in comparison to God? What if we understood our value, so we didn’t fall prey to insecurity, as well as our insufficiency, so we didn’t fall prey to arrogance?

What if both of you approached your next conflict with humility? And what if you approached your marriage bed and all the issues surrounding it with true humility—neither arrogant nor insecure? Wouldn’t you listen better, make your requests in a more loving way, pursue help more quickly?

The Second Commitment

Now take the second commitment he covers: Embrace the Hurt. What?! you say. I didn’t get married to get hurt!

Well, are you breathing and in relationship with anyone on this earth? Then welcome to some hurt. In our broken world, that’s how this goes. We will disappoint one another. But that does not mean you cannot have genuine joy, because hurt can result in healing and growth.

Kevin reminds us, “Marriage reveals our flaws and exposes our greatest wounds.” It’s the iron sharpens iron principle, which I discuss at more length in my devotional book Intimacy Revealed. That friction reveals our flaws and gives us an opportunity to improve ourselves and serve others.

Of course, there’s a big difference between the regular, inherent hurt we feel when our differences rub against each another and the pain of abuse. If you’re experiencing the latter, you do not happily endure that. Kevin states that we need to distinguish which pain is a caused by a problem not to be tolerated and which is the result of our imperfection and need for growth.

For those in abusive situations, seek help. Today. Now. Stop reading this blog post and go research abuse resources in your area.

For those in the regular conflict of marriage, Happily‘s prescription is to mourn the emotional pain we feel when let down by others. Which will inevitably happen. But then seek how to grow together through the hurt.

The Commitments & the Beatitudes

As you can see, these two commitments reflect the first two Beatitudes from Matthew 5:3-4:

  • Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
  • Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.

The remaining six commitments do the same:

  • Happily Avoid Both Apathy and Aggression (“Blessed are the meek…”)
  • Happily See Marriage as Bigger than You (“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness…”)
  • Happily Refuse Power Struggles (“Blessed are the merciful…”)
  • Happily Live in Truth (“Blessed are the pure in heart…”)
  • Happily Make Peace (“Blessed are the peacemakers …”)
  • Happily Endure Whatever May Come (“Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness…“)

Maybe some of those commitments surprise you, especially when paired with the word Happily.

Yet what made the difference in my own marriage when it was failing? Yes, I benefited a lot from specific resources that helped me work through issues in our relationship. My ministry is all about providing that kind of resource for couples who are struggling or simply want to improve their sexual intimacy.

But the key for me and my marriage was, through prayer and intention, living out biblical principles day to day: principles like those found in the love passage in 1 Corinthians 13, the Fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5:22-23, and the Beatitudes as covered in this book. Once you shift your attitude to that of Christ, you can make real progress in your marriage.

Once you shift your attitude to that of Christ, you can make real progress in your marriage. via @hotholyhumorous Click To Tweet

And as Kevin says, those who put in the effort to have a good marriage may feel lucky, but it’s because they put in the effort that yielded the blessings. I recommend this as a book for a couples to read together and discuss, but it’s also good for one spouse to read and put into practice. Check it out here:

And be sure listen to our podcast episode with Kevin here:

Transparent and Transformed: The Unveiled Wife

Unveiled Wife Cover

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At last count, I had 3,567 books in my To Be Read pile. Okay, maybe that’s an exaggeration, but I have so many books I need or want to read that it feels at times I’ll never reach the end. This is my explanation, or excuse, for why Jennifer Smith’s The Unveiled Wife released in March 2015 and I only recently finished it. It was a priority, but I can only read so fast and several books were ahead on my list.

If you’re not familiar with Jennifer Smith, she is a marriage author who runs a site by the same name: Unveiled Wife. She has built an amazing Facebook community, encourages wives regularly with prayers for our husbands, and has spoken honestly and poignantly about her own struggles.

Among those struggles was sexual dysfunction that made her body unable to engage in intercourse for years of her marriage. She and her husband did engage in sexual intimacy, but intercourse itself was off-limits until she discovered the source of her physical problems.

She details this personal story and other marital challenges she and her husband faced in the beginning years of their marriage. Although aligned with God in many ways — being involved with church communities, engaging in mission work, praying together — she ultimately attributes her struggling marriage years to her flailing relationship with God.

The Unveiled Wife may be the most honest memoir I’ve ever read. Jennifer doesn’t hold back in describing what she got right, what she got very, very wrong, and how bad things got in her marriage. From what she described, many people would have placed her marriage in the Not Gonna Make It category. There was baggage in the relationship, concrete problems to resolve, and ongoing misunderstanding and conflict between her and her husband.

I can’t tell you how many times I read her story and thought, That’s my story. Baggage? Check. Concrete problems? Check. Ongoing conflict? Check. In particular, her crying out to God and feeling few answers in return was déjà vu for me. When my marriage was going through the pit, it seemed that no matter how much I told God that I was nearly done, things stayed the same — or got worse.

But I also relate to her unwillingness to let go of God and her husband altogether, because deep down they were who she loved. As John 6:68 says about Jesus, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.” Through the study of Scripture, the wisdom of others, and the opening of her heart, Jennifer came to understand changes she needed to make to have what God intended for her and her husband.

Again, my life mirrors that discovery. It is simply the beauty of the Gospel, lived out day by day, that improved my marriage. By leaps and bounds. As it turns out, God had been answering my prayers. I was just too thick-headed to respond to his subtle nudging, instead expecting some kind of burning bush revelation. Thank goodness I finally listened.

Jennifer’s story relates so well to the marriage memory verse theme I’ve had this month — gaining victory over your past. Whether it’s past abuse, premarital promiscuity, or failures in your marriage, there is hope and redemption, healing and victory.

Thanks to Jennifer, this is the marriage memory verse I want to share today, from 2 Corinthians 3:18: “And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.

Marriage Memory Verse 4-1-16

When Jennifer became transparent before God and sought His answers for her life, her marriage was transformed. I felt that too. And I believe you can feel it as well.

Taking off the “veil” — the barrier you have erected between you and God, your and your spouse, you and other Christians ready and willing to walk with you — is the first step. Then you contemplate His glory — His design, His will, and His healing for your life. God then works in us, through the Spirit, to transform us. Not once, not twice, but “ever-increasing.”

The Unveiled Wife is both real and inspiring. I encourage you to read Jennifer’s story and find hope for your own situation. There are answers, there is victory.

9 Thoughts for Your Marriage & 1 Book Giveaway

One of my favorite marriage bloggers is Sheila Wray Gregoire of To Love, Honor and Vacuum. I often recommend her excellent book, The Good Girl’s Guide to Great Sex, especially for wives embarking on the marriage journey.

She recently released another book, 9 Thoughts That Can Change Your Marriage, which she discussed a bit in her guest post here last Thursday. Today I want to give my own take. Is this book worth getting? Who is this book for? Should you read 9 Thoughts?

9 Thoughts For Your Marriage

9 Thoughts That Can Change Your Marriage is written for Christian wives—whether they are heartily struggling in their marriage, wanting to improve a lackluster relationship, or simply hoping to strengthen an already solid bond. Sheila walks the reader through nine separate ideas about marriage that are likely different from the pat answers you’ve heard in the past.

Take, for instance, her chapter on being a peacemaker rather than a peacekeeper. I’ve known marriages with a lot of peacekeeping that were stale and distant or where resentment brewed underneath for one of the spouses who had restrained their opinions — and really, themselves — for years. Sheila tackles the erroneous presumption that absence of conflict means peace.

When it comes to sex specifically, Sheila’s chapter on how having sex and making love are not the same thing, highlighting the problems we’ve had in moving sex from spiritual and emotional intimacy to purely physical pleasure. Yes, of course it should feel good, but sex as God designed is so much more.

Sheila gives specifics on where we’ve gone astray and how to reclaim sexual intimacy for your marriage. She gets practical with the differences in how men and women approach sexual arousal, challenges with low libido, and the damaging effects of pornography. She talks about how to address sexual pain and make sex pleasurable.

What else will this marriage book give you that others won’t?

I most appreciate how Sheila makes things simple without being simplistic. When I get a question here on the blog, usually with a much fuller explanation of the scenario in the original email, there’s almost always no single answer. Our lives are complicated, and we exist in twists and tangles of daily challenges. Yes, of course it’s a simple principle to “love one another,” but it’s not that we don’t understand the commands so much as needing help knowing how to do that in our own lives—and simplistic answers don’t help.

Instead, Sheila provides stories that demonstrate what she advocates, practical tips to apply in your own marriage, and an encouragement to connect with God in prayer and with godly people to carry out the best for your marriage. Tougher stuff in some ways, but well worth the effort. And by giving real-life examples, you see it’s completely do-able.

One last note: When you’re reading a marriage book, don’t sweat it if you don’t agree with 100%. Take the golden nuggets and apply them to your life. Study up on some of the things you’re not sure about and decide for yourself. Even let go those details you vehemently disagree with. Hey, I think Sheila and I could have interesting debate about the exegesis of Ephesians 5:23 (and half of you just fell asleep…), but I agree with her overall conclusions about what a healthy and submitting marriage looks like. And her tips are excellent. That means I can take all the golden stuff and not worry about the little specks we might see differently. You can too.

I’ve known a few couples in my life who seem to float through marriage on a fluffy, happy cloud. But for the other 99.9% of us, marriage is work—not of the toil-and-tribulation kind so much as reap-what-you-sow work. Sheila (and I) promote being intentional about your marriage, putting real effort into growing and deepening your relationship. 9 Thoughts is a great resource to help you be intentional in your marriage about resolving conflict, making peace, finding happiness, enjoying intimacy, and more.

9 Thoughts Book Cover

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Is what you believe about marriage getting in the way of a GREAT relationship?

When you’ve put into practice all the usual advice, but your marriage still falls short of the intimacy and joy you want, what then? Are patience and perseverance your only hope for a better relationship?

Author and speaker Sheila Wray Gregoire says, “Absolutely not!” The solution to a happier relationship is not found in being a more patient, more perfect wife, but in taking responsibility for what you can do—and especially for how you think about your marriage. She challenges you to replace pat Christian answers with nine biblical truths that will radically shift your perspective on your husband, your relationship, and your role in God’s design for marriage.

With humor and honesty, Sheila invites you to believe that God wants to bring oneness and intimacy to your marriage—and challenges you to partner with Him in that process by changing the way you think.

And to one lucky commenter, I’m giving away a copy of 9 Thoughts That Can Change Your Marriage (ebook or paperback in the U.S. or Canada, ebook outside the U.S.). Just leave a comment with ONE thought that has positively changed your marriage!