- Paperback: 304pgs
- Publisher: New Growth Press (October, 18, 2010)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1935273612
I’ve read a few books on marriage now that I’m actually married (notably The Mystery of Marriage and What Did You Expect?) but I think so far I might like this one the best. It is definitely the most practically minded and accessible of the ones I have read. If I were to do premarital counseling, this is definitely a book I would suggest reading.
The book itself has a conversational tone and style. It is well organized and clear in its presentation of the material. Winston Smith breaks the book out into three sections:
- God is in the Ordinary Moments
- Extraordinary Love in the Details of Marriage
- Staying on the Path
The meat of the book is in that middle section. Smith sets the stage well in the opening section by an illustration of a fairly ordinary moment with his wife that involved some miscommunication which led to an argument and hurt feelings and frustration (pg. 4-5). Helpfully, he keeps returning to this example and uses it to flesh out many of the things he is saying. In light of his discussions, he continues to go back to this opening illustration and add interpretive layers. This I think is a strength of the book.
Another strength is that each chapter is begun with a bullet point overview of what the chapter discusses and closes with discussion questions. While I may need to go back and refresh my memory on some on the concepts from Paul Tripp’s book on marriage (which is very similar to this one) because of the chapter summaries, that task in regards to Marriage Matters is much easier. This feature even allows my wife and I to discuss the questions at the end without her having actually read the book. Ideally, it would work best if we both read it, but I read much more extensively in the non-fiction realm than my wife and she is in the middle of working through another book at the moment. It doesn’t present too much of a problem though as I can fill in any explanation of the concepts as needed, but we have very profitably been going through the discussions questions each weekend.
As far as the actual content of the book itself, I think this book will be helpful for couples who have perhaps been married for a while and have had conflicts erupt on a semi-frequent basis. My wife and I communicate particularly well and really have not had many of the problems that this book is addressing (such as manipulating each other, treating each other like objects, leveling accusations, resenting each other, holding a grudge, remaining angry with each other etc.). Additionally, a lot of the foundational issues Smith discusses were things my wife and I were already familiar with. For instance, his opening section is building the thesis that a marriage is formed and lived out through the ordinary moments. Many times patterns develop through these ordinary moments that run contrary to what we claim to believe about God and the gospel. In many cases, if not all, marriage problems are rooted in worship problems. The initial solution to issues in your marriage is to sort out the issues concerning who and what you might be worshiping in the place of God. This is something my wife and came to understand just prior to our engagement and continued to grow in through our premarital counseling. For most couples though, this is certainly something they need to understand and this book does a great job of laying it all out on the table.
Having set the table, Smith then discuses the problem of communication in marriage. I realize my wife and I are more or less the exception rather than the rule, so for us, much of the discussions about communication, resolving conflict, openness and honesty are more like preventative medicine for us. For other couples though, this book presents a very basic and accessible journey into the heart of most conflicts and shows a God-centered, gospel oriented way through it. Smith offers wisdom on resolving the root of conflicts and in communicating honestly in a way that is seeking to actively love your spouse through the ordinary moments of everyday life. He then closes out the book with a third section outlining how one might continue to grow in these new habits of grace.
Overall, like I said, this is a great book for anyone within the whole spectrum of married people. People married for a while can benefit from having their perspective on marriage and the ordinary moments of everyday life refined. Newlyweds can take this as preventative medicine that can hopefully start their marriage off on the right foot and the same applies for engaged couples as well. I might even go so far as to say single young adults would do well to read this as well as it might give them a more realistic picture of what marriage entails. If you fit any of those categories, you would do well to pick up a copy of this book!