Liz and I wrote this together – just so you don’t give the post a cursory glance and assume that because you don’t see any bolded text that I was a bum all day and let Liz do the heavy lifting : )
So, the purpose of our post wasn’t to disparage marriage books. Please, don’t go and gather them from your shelves, make a pile in your yard and set them on fire. Despite our initial disenchantment with these books, the truth is that Liz and I have been helped by the ideas found in many of them. Our post with designed to explore the proper uses of marriage books and advice.
Before you pick up a book, you have to realize that you are not in the process of researching marriage per-se. Rather, you are in the process of researching a person—the spouse God has given you. This is why the marriage vows start with “I take you….”
You have to be the one to “write the book” for you and your spouse.
The material you use might not be original to you, but the arrangement of this information will be unique. Thus, the perspectives found in marriage books (the material) are only valuable as they apply to you as a couple. Marriage is not a one-experience-fits-all kind of relationship. Marriage is diverse because the people who get married are diverse—no one person is the same and neither will any marriage be the same. From books and advice you want to figure out “how to think” and from there you can decide what to do.
When picking a book to read, realize that there are different types of books: principle books and practical books. The principle books are applicable to a broader audience and are easier to test for truth. As they appeal to scripture, one can ascertain the validity of each principle. Principle books are concerned with “how you think.” Practical books are more concerned with everyday marriage issues and solutions. They give ideas on “what to do” or “what to do when” or “if you do this you have a death wish” type of marriage issues. These answers will be hit or miss for you. What works for one couple does not necessarily work for another and what’s “life or death” for your friend’s marriage, may be merely a nice idea for your marriage. This is why relying on marriage books (or advice) during your first years of marriage might be discouraging. It might be difficult to determine what is and what isn’t helpful to you as two unique people learning to live together. To be sure, there are some books (more recent) that bridge these two—e.g. What Did You Expect? by Paul Tripp—but the practical side of these is still hit or miss.
So, obviously you want to pick up principle based books first (I mean after you’ve studied the scripture for yourself—goes without saying). Let them renovate your thinking as you assess and apply their Scriptural support. For example, instead of focusing on “what do I do when my wife cries” (rub their feet, quick!) focus on what/how you should be/think when they cry. Start with books that explain how the husband and wife should love each other, give mutual honor/respect, and be a servant leader or strong helper of their spouse (respectively). With that grid in place, sift through the mountain of practical advice and see if it will show love, give honor, and serve the spouse that you married. Most of all, communicate your ideas with your spouse. They’ll let you know if feet rubbing is necessary for their spiritual/emotional development.
In the end, Liz and I went through our books and advice and took the time to evaluate them from both a personal and biblical standpoint. We reminded to ourselves that we were unique. Thus our marriage would be unique, and that was ok.
NOTE: Some of the practical books are based on faulty philosophical ideas. Don’t assume that the philosophy is scriptural just because the practical advice “worked.”
NOTE: All the a fore mentioned ideas will also apply to parenting advice and/or books. Fair warning : )