Why We Stopped Reading Marriage Books

Blogs are not a good place to get marriage advice.
Despite sometimes writing about marriage, I personally don’t read blogs about the subject unless it’s to pick them apart.

The Internet is a great source of horrific marriage advice. Instead of going there and being inundated with nonsense, I recommend that you get your marriage advice directly from your spouse, not some credentialed celebrity pastor, not some well known author or speaker, not some mommy-blogger with too much time on her hands. Those folks don’t know you or your spouse. They don’t know your needs or your spouses needs. They know only themselves and some generalities that have been spread around since the beginning of time. 

The assumption of so many blogs seems to be “my husband/wife enjoys this, so yours must too.” They will offer advice like “look good” for your husbands and get your wives flowers once a week. While the advice isn’t always the worst, it doesn’t always apply to everyone. My advice? Do not heed such general and reckless advice. 

It reminds me of those old magazine articles about what women should do for their husbands. Have drinks ready. Fluff his pillow. Get the children cleaned up. It’s not bad advice necessarily, but if you step out and suggest that it’s perhaps a bit stringent you must be a radical. You might even hate your husband.

So much of this bad advice comes from complementarian circles. I’m not anti-complentarian, I’m anti-bad advice. Honestly, I don’t want my wife to do all those things for me. That is just not the way I want to be served. Just because we are complentarian doesn’t mean that we should assume men and women are cookie-cutter and all marriages are going to look the same. 

There are many books out there as well that carry lopsided advice. One is called Love and Respect. The basic premise of this book as I understand it is that men need respect from their wives and women need love from their husbands. Now, again, this is not completely untrue. But it does seem a bit overly simplistic. Not all men want just respect and not all women just want love. Love and respect are not mutually exclusive things. Nor is the desire to have one or the other determined by gender.

Unfortunately, when some of these suggestions are taken to their logical conclusion some people can get really damaged. If your husband doesn’t like make up or your wife is not the flower type, you can be left out to dry when truly trying to find help for your relationship.

Worse still is that some of the suggestions almost become rules. It’s not simply advice, it becomes law. And the authors will often find some obscure scripture (out of context) and say “see, the Bible agrees!”

Sometimes, they will take a verse not out of context, but apply it in a horrible way. “Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed.” becomes “confess all lustful thoughts you ever have to your wife.” This is a horrible thing to do, especially if you have a very sensitive wife. It becomes worse when  you’re expected to describe them in detail. This not only may horrify your wife, it makes you dwell on thoughts that you should probably just repent of and move on.

If I could narrow down most good marriage advice it’s this: treat each other with kindness. Be respectful, be loving, both of you. You should both be loving and respecting the other. Treat each other with common decency and humanity. Above all else, spouses should be learning as much as possible about each other. Find out what your spouse likes, asked detailed questions, then strive to do those things. Find out his or her love language. Seek to fulfill them in the way they request, not the way some book or blog tells you.

Learn about your spouse’s personality. Are they an introvert or an extrovert? Do they need time alone or do they unwind with people? Does he need to talk things out or does he need to be alone to figure out his problems? Maybe your wife likes gifts, maybe your husband likes for you to serve his plate. Maybe he likes to do things for himself and can’t stand to be waited upon. Maybe he does not want to burden you with superficial things like makeup. Does he really care? Don’t just assume that he does because a book or magazine told you he does, ask. Make him think about it. He is probably just going along with what other men have told him is attractive and has never really thought for himself about the subject.

It is a cliché, but communication is the key to good marriage. It’s important to communicate constantly so that you have an idea of your spouse’s desires and needs. Realize that they will change over time, but if the communication lines are open you will never miss those changes.

Marriage books will not prepare you for those changes. You read it, you accept it as law, and then you think your marriage will be static and perfect. But you grow and your spouse grows. In different seasons of life you two will always be changing and what was at one time indispensable is now completely unnecessary. Likewise, new needs will spring up and you will find yourself serving your spouse in ways you never imagined. You must communicate to know these seasonal changes.

Maybe I’m too hard on the books and blogs and other marriage related paraphernalia. Read them. Discuss them. Take them with a grain of salt. If something doesn’t sit right with you, make it known. Communicate. Communicate. Communicate.

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Music and Art Monday April 3rd, 2017

No new music and no new art, but I do have a book recommendation. 

I just finished reading The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand. It took me forever to finish because I got bored with it one third of the way through and quit reading it. How many times can she use the phrase “head thrown back”? Why is everything angles and light? Why are all of her characters so simplistic and one-dimensional? 

Almost a year after putting it down, I decided to plug through and finish it. I must say the rest of it was worth the effort. 

If you don’t want to read all of it, I at least recommend reading the third and final part. This is the real meat of the story, the summation of all the previous long and boring parts. This is the section where all of Rand’s philosophy shines through and makes you step back and contemplate life for awhile. 

When Roark delivers his final speech, it makes you want to create. When I finished it I immediately wanted to write. I didn’t care what everyone else felt about my writing, I just had to write.

It makes one step back and consider just how second-hand everything we do in life really is. How much do I produce, and how much do I simply borrow and steal from others? The conclusion is startling. 

Rand’s writing style is a bit romantic and over the top with gold and light, but when she pours out the philosophy it’s a pleasant punch to the gut that leaves you thinking “she’s right, she’s idealistic, but she’s right.” 

Every book of hers can be condensed and never lose the punch. Atlas Shrugged is her magnum opus and is oft recommended, but it too can be concentrated down to a few chapters and never reduce it’s meaning. 

So go pick The Fountainhead up, maybe it won’t take you an entire year to read. Or maybe I will, but only because you are savoring it.