“By all means marry. If you get a good wife, you’ll become happy.
If you get a bad one, you’ll become a philosopher.” –Socrates
After I wrote my post about marriage a while back, I received multiple emails asking for book recommendations. I haven’t read a ton of marriage books, to be honest. In fact, I used to be very, very, very, anti-marriage-book. I remember when we had only been married about a year, and Carl brought home this book he had heard good things about. He wanted us to read it together, and I’m sure hoped it would help with some of the many issues we faced early on in our marriage. I read the back of the cover, thought it sounded ridiculous, and got really angry that he would suggest reading it. Looking back, I can see that my reaction was simply the result of not wanting to own up to my own ugliness, my part of the problems.
Anyway, even me, the person who hates self-help books, has found a few really great books over the last seven years. So I apologize for those of you who have been waiting months for me to share a few book suggestions, and hope that you will forgive me. Instead of emails, I decided I’d share a couple of my favorite books with you here.
1.) Sacred Marriage by Gary Thomas This one is by far my very favorite marriage book. I am actually re-reading it right now, because I need a refresher. This is the first book I recommend to friends when we talk about marriage or books, and it is my favorite book to give to newlyweds. In a nutshell, this book examines the idea that God created marriage to make us holy rather than happy. In the first few pages Thomas quotes Francis de Sales, who said: “The state of marriage is one that requires more virtue and constancy than any other. It is a perpetual exercise of mortification… From this thyme plant, in spite of the bitter nature of it’s juice, you may be able to draw and make the honey of a holy life.” I love this quote so much. I feel like so many marriages fail because people assume marriage is going to make them happy, or that when their marriage makes them unhappy something is wrong and it’s time to call it quits. But this shows us the opposite. Maybe the unhappy times in marriage are present for a reason. If the bitterness of hard times can produce a sweet honey, a good marriage, then I want to welcome it. This book is so great for completely changing your perspective of marriage.
2.) Families Where Grace is In Place by Jeff VanVonderen This one is about marriage as well as parenting, but if don’t have kids you could just ignore the parts about parenting. If you are both, this book will change your life. If you feel like shame plays a big part in your relationships, you need to read this book. It is also one that will change your outlook completely.
3.) Love and Respect by Emerson Eggerichs This one I’m sort of torn about sharing. This is the book Carl brought home so many years ago that I threw out and told him to never show me again. A few years down the road, however, we ended up going through this book with a group of people and I learned a lot from it. There are plenty of things I don’t agree with in this book, but the general premise is great. He describes a crazy cycle, where one person hurts another with a lack of love or respect, the other person in turn responds with a reciprocated lack of love/respect, and the cycle just keeps on going. This was exactly what we went through in our early years of marriage, so it was helpful to read a little insight into that cycle. His descriptions, while somewhat annoying at times, have stuck with me. Now when we start to argue, I often picture his descriptions and at the least, it slows me down a bit.
4.) Two-Part Invention by Madeleine L’Engle This isn’t really a marriage book, per se, but it is one of the best books I have ever read. L’Engle gives you a picture of honoring marriage that I have never quite seen, and while there is a lot of sadness shared in this book, it also gives you a beautiful picture of what marriage can be, which is very inspiring.
All but one of these books is a Christian book. I realize that that won’t appeal to many of you, but I think that even if you aren’t a Christian, all four of these wonderful books can teach anyone looking to strengthen their marriage. Let me know what you think if you read any of them! And if you have any marriage books to share with myself and our readers, please leave us a comment.