Right now the shops may be full of pink hearts, roses, and chocolate treats, but I encourage us all to focus on strengthening our marriages. Our relationship with our spouse is, after all, the foundation of our family and homeschool, as well as a reflection of the relationship between Christ and the Church. Therefore it needs our daily attention.
I have been reminded of that over and over lately. You see, last year was a very marriage-focused year for us. By the grace of God my dear husband and I celebrated our 25th anniversary. My parents celebrated their 50th anniversary, as my in-laws had done the year before. And, providentially, I was inundated with books about marriage, most of which I reviewed.
As a result of all that, here is a list of nine marriage-building books I’d like to share with you.
Now, of course not even all the books in the world will keep our marriages safe. We are all human with hearts full of self-deceit and sin. We all need to be saved from ourselves and each one of us needs God’s Holy Spirit in order to love our spouse as we should. Yet God can use books to help us serve him and avoid sin in our marriages.
So, with a prayer that some of these will benefit some of you, here is a list of helpful marriage resources (with links to my reviews):
The Bible. Even the parts of the Bible that seem to say nothing about marriage can have a profound influence on that most special relationship, because the foundation of our marriages is our relationship with God. As many devout Christians have pointed out, God needs to be at the center of our marriages. We should not be worshipping our spouses, much less ourselves or some abstract idea of marriage; we should worship our God. Once that focus is in place, our marriages can thrive. So, number one: read your Bible; if this is difficult for you, the link has some suggestions.
The Surprising Secrets of Highly Happy Marriages by Shaunti Feldhahn. This intensely practical book shares research about the habits of the happiest couples. Many of the habits are listed in my review, but I highly recommend that every married person buy this book to understand the ideas and to implement them. Feldhahn’s clear suggestions are based on what works in real life for hundreds of happy couples, not on what some counsellor thinks should work based on his or her ideas, secular studies, or personal experience. As expected, research points out that faith plays a significant role in many of the happiest marriages.
The Meaning of Marriage by Timothy and Kathy Keller. In this discussion of what marriage is and should be, the authors repeatedly point us to the Bible to remind us that Jesus—and nothing and no one else—gives us meaning and significance; that our natural self-centeredness is the essence of sin; and that the cure for the self-centeredness and neediness that attack our marriages is God’s salvation. Basically, the Kellers write that the gospel teaches us about marriage, and marriage makes us rely on the gospel. My review focuses on studying this book with a group, but it is equally good to read individually or as a couple.
My Beloved and My Friend by Hal and Melanie Young. This is yet another Biblical marriage manual, focusing specifically on the friendship between husband and wife. Its goal is to tell us How to be Married to your Best Friend without Changing Spouses. I have learned that unfriendly or careless attitudes can very easily sneak into life, especially during times of stress, and especially in marriage. Before long, we wonder what’s wrong, and often the simple fact is that we no longer treat each other with ‘the same tolerance, grace, forgiveness and trust’ that we show to our other friends. That is the problem this book seeks to address.
The Marriage You’ve Always Wanted by Gary Chapman. Chapman states that the goal of marriage is the deep, total union of a couple on all levels—intellectual, social, spiritual, emotional, and physical. With such a lofty goal, it’s no wonder that he encounters many ‘problem’ marriages. In fact, it’s a wonder he has encountered a single good one. Chapman’s book is practical while also discussing background causes—as well as solutions—for common difficulties. However, this book is not only about marriage; it’s also about living a Christian life because that is the foundation to meaningful Christian marriages. Chapman helps people think about their own sins rather than their spouse’s, and he says: “Discipline yourself to live with a clear conscience toward God and your mate.”
The Good News About Marriage by Shaunti Feldhahn is not a marriage manual at all. Instead it is a thorough analysis of all the available marriage data with the surprising and heartening conclusion that most of the things our culture ‘knows’ about marriage are false. That’s right. It’s not true that half of all marriages fail, most marriages are unhappy, it takes years of painful work to fix a bad marriage, remarriages are unlikely to succeed, and Christians’ divorce rates are the same as unbelievers’. These ideas are debunked and instead, Feldhahn’s research gives hope about marriage, especially Christian marriage. That hope can give struggling marriages a life line and thus help to save them. I have compared Feldhahn’s two books with Chapman’s.
Pure Love by George Van Popta. This little gem is not a marriage manual either and is far more inspiring than most of those. Van Popta has gathered all the joy and emotion of the Song of Songs and distilled it into a series of 24 beautiful sonnets. All of the previous books would make excellent engagement or wedding gifts. Save this one for the wedding, though.
Married Mom, Solo Parent by Carla Anne Coroy. I read this book years ago and still recommend it. If you have an absentee husband, whether because of the military, work, ministry, health, hobbies, or personality, Carla Anne Coroy’s Married Mom, Solo Parent will show you how to make even that work for good. Carla Anne is both practical and sympathetic, but nowhere does she encourage a solo parent wife to feel sorry for herself or to take her discouragement out on her husband. Rather she encourages a lonely wife to live as God would have her live, even in difficult circumstances.
Money and Marriage by Matt Bell. Since many marriages face trouble because of money issues, it may be worth your while checking out this book. However, the problem with this kind of book is that it could lead to more difficulties than it solves unless both spouses agree on whether or not to read and implement it. On the other hand, if a couple agrees to read it together, it could make all the difference in the world.
So which one of these 9 should you pick?
As mentioned above, the Bible is foundational to marriage. If you can manage only one book, read the Bible, and if you choose any of the other books, read the Bible first. And then, if you are looking:
- for practical help, try The Surprising Secrets of Highly Happy Marriages; My Beloved and My Friend; The Marriage You’ve Always Wanted; Married Mom, Solo Parent; or Money and Marriage.
- for a better understanding of marriage and how it works, look at The Meaning of Marriage and The Good News About Marriage.
- for inspiration straight from the Bible, read Pure Love.
Finally, if you are dissatisfied with your marriage, remember Ann Voskamp’s profoundly simple discovery in One Thousand Gifts, “By giving thanks for the life you have, you get the life you want.” We humans don’t know how it works, but there it is: obeying God’s commandment to be thankful will give us a lot to be thankful for.
It is my prayer that this list of encouraging resources will bring increased contentment to many families. May God bless each one of you for his glory, for the security of your children, and for the joy of your marriage.
For more encouragement, visit Saturday Reviews, Booknificent Thursdays, The Book Nook, Raising Homemakers, Titus 2 Tuesday, Works for Me Wednesday, Mom to Mom Monday, Monday’s Musings, Missional Weekend, R&R Wednesdays, From House to Home, Homemaking Mondays, Good Morning Mondays, Make Your Home Sing Mondays, Faith Filled Fridays.
Disclosure: As usual there are no affiliate links here. Most of the links above are to my reviews of different quality marriage resources, many of which I received in order to review them.