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Pre-engagement reading suggestions


Jason Panella
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So, my lovely girlfriend and I thinking of getting married in the foreseeable future. (As in, not five years from now, but not in 2009.) Before we get engaged, though, we're going to start reading a few books to help us along. A few friends had suggestions, but I came to A&F for more!

I'm looking for books for guys, girls and guys AND girls to read to help prepare them for marriage. Preferably from a Christian worldview. We're both Reformed tradition-wise, if that helps.

I welcome any suggestions, but, since every couple is different, I obviously won't use 'em all. (I do appreciate them though!)

(FWIW, I checked around to see if there were any other threads, but didn't see any. Hopefully there's no 'ahem' needed!) :)

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Even though you are not Catholic I can't recommend John Paul II's Theology of the Body highly enough. I have read parts of it and it is tough slogging but the ideas are so profound. I have been reading Christopher West's Theology of the Body Explained: A Commentary on John Paul II's Man and Woman He Created Them. Itis much easier to comprehend. I wish I had read this 30 years ago.

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Even though you are not Catholic I can't recommend John Paul II's Theology of the Body highly enough. I have read parts of it and it is tough slogging but the ideas are so profound. I have been reading Christopher West's Theology of the Body Explained: A Commentary on John Paul II's Man and Woman He Created Them. Itis much easier to comprehend. I wish I had read this 30 years ago.

Well, we both come from Catholic backgrounds (and have a lot of respect for our roots), so I'll check it out!

Also, I should also point out that we're primarily looking for preparatory commentary on how to be a good Christian husband or wife. (If that makes sense.) Geez, I'm more tongue-tied than usual.

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Congrats Jason!

One of the best relationship books out there is Gottman's Seven Secrets To a Successful Marriage... It's a must-read for ANY couple, IMO. Most of the case studies in the book deal with people who are already married, but the advice in that book is quite different from some of the standard issue relationship stuff and is based on Gottman's 30+ years of counseling couples. One of the reoccurring points in the book is that most "conflict resolution" advice counselors peddle is bunk and that there are many conflicts in the marriage relationship that will never be resolved. This comes as a liberating reality, not some downer, and his advice on how to know which conflicts can be resolved and which cannot, is priceless.

"The things we enjoy are channels through which the divine glory strikes us, and those who love and delight in any good thing may yet learn to love God." --Gilbert Meilaender

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Congratulations, Jason. That's wonderful news.

It's been a long time since I've sought out a marriage book, but my memories of them are that they weren't particularly helpful. That's not to say that helpful ones don't exist. They might. What I would suggest, though, is that you go through a good, thorough pre-marital counseling program that focuses on core beliefs and assumptions, strengths and weaknesses, communication patterns, coping strategies, and spiritual gifts and blind spots. Usually that entails a lot of testing and discussion. Some people view that as psychological mumbo-jumbo, far removed from a Christian approach, which usually consists of "don't have sex until your wedding night, and God bless." It is anything but that. Second, I think it's a great idea to foster relationships with one or more older married couples you can trust, and with whom you can work through issues in your marriage as they arise. This is a role that my wife and I play very frequently with a lot of the young married couples in our church, and it's led to some wonderful interactions and wonderful friendships and, I hope, some better marriages. There's value in having been there and done that and worked through the crap, and if there are people in your church who are willing to listen, to love you, and to share their lives with you in the process, everybody benefits.

Now, don't have sex until your wedding night, and God bless. No, really.

Edited by Andy Whitman
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Thanks for all of the words of advice and encouragement, folks.

We definitely realize that some best-selling paperback is going to make us have a perfect marriage, so that's a good start. Thankfully, Andy, we have lots of married friends

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I have an off-the-beaten path suggestion.

A Grief Unveiled by Gregory Floyd.

When you make your vows, you commit to your wife for the rest of your waking years: for better, for worse. This book is "the worse" part. It's the intimate details of the struggle the author (and his family) went through when one of his sons was accidentally struck by a passing vehicle and killed in front of his house.

Nobody wants to think that it can ever happen to them, but every family struggles at one point, over a major crisis. I found the struggles he carried to be deeply honest, but also a tremendous model as to how we as families ought to act in times of severe testing.

(candid admission: I know the Floyds personally, but didn't expect to be blown away as I did).

Nick

Edited by Nick Alexander

Nick Alexander

Keynote, Worship Leader, Comedian, Parodyist

Host of the Prayer Meeting Podcast - your virtual worship oasis. (Subscribe)

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I have another suggestion: Humanae Vitae

I know when I was a protestant, and from talking to my protestant friends that it is pretty much taken for granted that you will use artificial contraception. Until 1930 Christendom was united in not allowing artificial contraception. I wish someone had at least suggested the idea that artificial contraception has a profound negative effect on the marital relationship and offered an alternative. I didn't read Humanae Vitae until several years ago and it changed my mind. Unfortunately, due to my wife's health issues it is too late practically to have made a difference in our life and marriage. For this I have many regrets.

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I have another suggestion: Humanae Vitae
I second this, and while this writing is from a pope, I find a lot of what he writes here is universal, not to mention easy to understand.

That said, the issue of children is always a tricky issue, and will be different for each household.

If you find yourself in the conundrum of agreeing with the text of the pope's writing here, but don't have the financial and emotional stability of, say, OctoMom, I highly recommend checking out Natural Family Planning. And by NFP, I mean the vastly improved methods that have surfaced in the last two-to-three decades. This isn't the (much derided) "rhythm method" of days of yore, and anybody else who tells you so is simply uninformed. Read about it at Couple-to-Couple League's website: http://www.ccli.org

Nick

Nick Alexander

Keynote, Worship Leader, Comedian, Parodyist

Host of the Prayer Meeting Podcast - your virtual worship oasis. (Subscribe)

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The Lady and I might be able to go book browsing this weekend, so we'll at least be able to get a good idea of what's out there. Is anyone familiar with Emerson Eggerich's Love and Respect? I've heard good and bad things, but a friend from work is offering to lend it to me....

That was one I was about to recommend! I agree that the passage in Ephesians doesn't cover EVERYTHING there is to know about marriage, but it is a very helpful lens through which to view married life.

Also: My wife and I used "Intended for Pleasure" as our preparatory sex book, and "Handbook for Engaged Couples" by the Frylings for our pre-marital counseling discussions. Both were VERY helpful to us.

In case you were wondering, my name is spelled "Denes House," but it's pronounced "Throatwobbler Mangrove."
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Jason, I never read any of the books mentioned in this thread but commend you for exploring these options.

Don't forget about Jeff's thread, which is also full of "essential" books that I've somehow managed to never read. ;) But that doesn't mean they're not worth reading.

"What matters are movies, not awards; experiences, not celebrations; the subjective power of individual critical points of view, not the declamatory compromises of consensus." - Richard Brody, "Godard's Surprise Win Is a Victory for Independent Cinema," The New Yorker

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No time like the present.

No, trust me

"What matters are movies, not awards; experiences, not celebrations; the subjective power of individual critical points of view, not the declamatory compromises of consensus." - Richard Brody, "Godard's Surprise Win Is a Victory for Independent Cinema," The New Yorker

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Maybe, although my 10th anniversary is approaching, and we're blissfully ignorant of the material in those books. Just sayin'.
It's true that the institution of marriage has existed for a long time without any how-to books. My grandparents were married for 40+ years and were one of those old world arranged marriages. My grandfather came to this country in the 1920's, got established and then went back home to get 'em some totally random village woman-- my grandmother. They were fairly happy. I think.

I've read a LOT of the relationship books, not because we've "struggled" at all (15 years), but primarily because I am a tinkerer and inquistive by nature and always want to learn how to make things better-- first and foremost with myself. Most of the books out there tread very familiar water and are a collosal waste of time. The "Christian" ones, to me, are even worse in this regard. The Gottman book i mentioned is revelatory, so is David Schnarch's "Passionate Marriage" (dealing mostly with the crucible of sex inside marriage and the concept of character differentiation-- vital, vital stuff) and Dr. Harley's "His Needs/Her Needs". Harley is an evangelical, but he doesn't lean on the tired bible prooftexting. In fact, I'm not sure he even refers to scripture at all in that book, but his concept of the relational "Love Bank" and the notion of making "deposits" or "withdrawals" from your partner's account, is simple but extraordinarily insightful.

The fact is, couples who love each other and are committed to the relationship are going to discover many of these realities in one way or another, just through the process of living together. But some of this info, particularly the books I mentioned, can save you and your significant other a lot of time banging your head against the wall.

"The things we enjoy are channels through which the divine glory strikes us, and those who love and delight in any good thing may yet learn to love God." --Gilbert Meilaender

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  • 1 month later...

I found a used copy of Love & Respect at Half Price Books a few weeks ago, and have been slowly going through it. Like the other two guys said, some of the theological tom-foolery is definitely off-set by what Egghead (I can never remember how to spell his last name) says. It also regurgitates the same material up for 300 pages (it's maybe 130 pages of material), but it really is a useful read for me.

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I second Grep P.'s recommendation of the Gottman literature. My wife and I found it particularly help during our first year of marriage, and I think it would work well before marriage as well.

And let me throw in a recommendation for a sex book: 'The Gift of Sex', by Cliff and Joyce Penner. It's based on a lot of clinical research, but comes from a Christian perspective. They strike a good balance by being straightfowared but without being insensitive to the nature of the topic. The Penner's also have a specific pre-wedding sex book, but I found it awkward.

So you ladies and you gentlemen, pull your bloomers on...

-Joe Henry

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I'm not much of a fan of any books on the subject, really. My wife is the sort of person for whom most self-help and relationship help bounces off. To be fair, I am the sort who collects information and "wisdom" on the off chance that it might help. Sometime. So I'm quite the piece of work myself. And in this is the wisdom of relationships in a nutshell, particularly while still in the planning stages for engagement. You are wierd and eccentric in some odd ways (as she will soon find out, but later, once hitched). She is wierd and eccentric in some ways by your lights and experience as you will find out soon enough. No amount of reading books is going to help with that. That's not to say that you shouldn't "study" ahead. Gary Chapman helped me (live seminars, never read much of his stuff; seminars and books are pretty much the same for most of these guys).

Relax. Get to know her. Don't hide from her, but don't just gush everything about you either. Enjoy this time. And the next. It's half the battle and a world of help when things get tough. And they will. ENJOY THIS. ENJOY WHAT COMES NEXT. ALL OF IT!

"During the contest trial, the Coleman team presented evidence of a further 6500 absentees that it felt deserved to be included under the process that had produced the prior 933 [submitted by Franken, rk]. The three judges finally defined what constituted a 'legal' absentee ballot. Countable ballots, for instance, had to contain the signature of the voter, complete registration information, and proper witness credentials.

But the panel only applied the standards going forward, severely reducing the universe of additional basentees the Coleman team could hope to have included. In the end, the three judges allowed about 350 additional absentees to be counted. The panel also did nothing about the hundreds, possibly thousands, of absentees that have already been legally included, yet are now 'illegal' according to the panel's own ex-post definition."

The Wall Street Journal editorial, April 18, 2009 concerning the Franken Coleman decision in the Minnesota U.S. Senate race of 2008.

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