Monday, April 8, 2013

Book Review: The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work

Dr. John Gottman has been studying the interactions of married couples for about two decades in his lab in Washington state.  In this book, he compiles his best advice for what skills and habits are most useful to make a marriage work.  He points out that most books on marriage will point out what not to do, and unlearning bad habits, which are certainly helpful, but without good habits to replace them with, progress can be difficult.  He also states that communication, while valuable to any married couple, is not a magical talisman that will remove all problems from the marriage. 

Some of his advice is a little more gendered than I'd like, and he certainly has quite an ego.  Also, this books is written for heterosexual couples, but most of the advice is certainly applicable to any relationship.  In fact, I know a few families who could use this book outside of marital relationships all together.

This book is also not a magical talisman for fixing any marriage, but I did find the exercises in it to be realistic and potentially helpful.  He addresses a wide range of possible issues, their causes, and even accepts different levels of success.  He also acknowledges that not all problems are solvable, but that marriages can survive unsolvable problems in many cases.

I will probably be keeping a copy of this book around, to plan premarital counseling sessions with and to loan out.

Monday, April 1, 2013

Book Review: A Year of Biblical Womanhood

Rachel Held Evans is a popular Christian blogger, and I've mentioned her blog here before.  She grew up in a conservative evangelical environment, and, for example, she expected to have a "complementarian" marriage when she got married, but she and her husband were somewhat surprised to fall into egalitarianism almost by accident.  She hosts careful, intelligent discussions of controversial topics on her blog on a regular basis.  So I knew going in that this book was going to be well written.

The impetus for the book was her experience with the woman of Proverbs 31, a short poem that describes something like the biblical ideal of a wife.  She'd found that poem turned into a "to-do" list by one too many people over the years- especially publishers of Christian women's self-help books- and wanted to look at what the real ideals of "Biblical womanhood" were.  So she took a year to examine a dozen virtues that the Bible associates with femininity, and to look deeper into a variety of ways that people have and do understand "biblical womanhood".  Included in the book are experiences and conversations she had with the Amish, the Quakers, an Orthodox Jewish woman in Israel, and a retreat to a Catholic monastery.

It is a very readable book, lots of variety in what she addresses. She looks at so many items that she doesn't get very in depth about many of them (but I acknowledge my definition of in-depth, having a master's in the subject and all, may not be normal) but what she does cover is generally thoughtful and carefully written. There's a good dose of humor throughout the book, but it's never directed at the Bible, and it's almost always directed at herself.

She did receive a bit of push back for writing the book, and she wrote a lovely response to one of her more popular critiques here.  I think it outlines her intentions and her faith beautifully.

Great book for a woman's Bible study group, actually. I'll have to start suggesting it.