Tonight we are posting a situation that we faced early in our marriage. As usual, my comments will be normal and Paul’s will be bolded.
Prepping for marriage (Paul): I’m a researcher. You give me a problem and I’ll get to the bottom of it. I’ll present the problem, provide the solution, quote my sources to you and then you’ll have no choice but to bow before a complete, compelling, and (surely) correct answer. At least that’s what I thought back when I was preparing for marriage. I assumed the “marriage problem” (that is, “what will it be like” and “what should I do when X happens” and etc.) was of the same caliber and type as any other Christian dilemma. As such, I figured I’d just get the best marriage books, discover in them the keys to understanding and dealing with Liz (or at least I’d find those covert keys that promised to provide a loving and lasting marriage), and then we’d live in complete and compelling marital bliss. Assuming some standard deviation, I covered my bases by purchasing more than a few “good” (recommended) marriage books. I was sure she’d fit at least one of the marital models as described in them.
And then, she didn’t. Oh there were some familiar themes and theories in her, but they were all rearranged into (according to my sources) very abnormal patterns. “Women are like this” they’d say and “women will respond like this” they’d quip, and “whatever you do, don’t do X, Y, and Z” they’d warn. But I found that Liz was apparently a human anomaly. For example, one source kept telling me to gently rub Liz’s feet when she was distraught. “It will help her stop crying,” they said. Now my parents had never rubbed each other’s feet, and I had a difficult time imagining that the key to keeping her soul (sole??) emotionally stable was located in the nerve centers of her feet. But how could my highly recommended tactic be wrong. So I gave it a try. . .and she seriously didn’t buy it. What gives? Did I need to find, better, more authoritative sources in order to understand marriage? (Too bad this blog didn’t exist then!)
Prepping for marriage (Liz): While Paul might have been amassing books of every kind on marriage, I began to gather advice from all my friends and family who were married. I listened to them describe married life and took mental notes. I filed the notes under categories such as “do this,” “avoid this,” “he’ll be like this,” “this will be hard,” “this will be easy,” and “that’s just crazy talk.” After a year or so (although, we girls have probably been thinking about marriage WAY longer than that : ) of listening and discussing the marriage relationship, I figured that I had a pretty good handle on what was coming my way. I also read some of the marriage books that Paul was plowing through and those, plus all the marriage advice I’d cataloged, made me confident that I had all of the salient information I needed. Employing a little flexibility I would use my knowledge to face the challenge of living with this man (not that it was even going to be a challenge right? It was going to be cake – because we were SO IN LOVE : )
So then we got married. And right off the bat, Paul’s actions conflicted with what I had heard! I was left scrambling, without a frame of reference. As that first summer wore on, I found, to my frustration, that our relationship was NOT following the rules as described by anyone that I had talked to! I concluded that we were weird, that no one would understand us, and started to feel depressed. There wasn’t a book that sounded like our story, and there weren’t any friends who seemed to have gone through what we were experiencing. Our marriage didn’t follow “the pattern” – thus, we were on our own. Up a creek without a paddle (or book!).
So, what good are marriage books anyway? How should we read them? Why ask for advice when it may not even help? How do you prepare for something that is apparently so unpredictable? Is there a biblical method of preparation?
What helpful/unhelpful advice did you receive prior to marriage? And what books were recommended to you (and were they profitable or pitiful?)