When the new Popcak book came my way, I was hesitant. I suppose I thought I’d seen enough in real life that I didn’t need a stinkin’ marriage help book. I don’t need to hear about flower power and snappy sappy stuff. No thanks.
Marriage is work. Don’t try to give me roses and tell me otherwise. Now that I’ve been at it for about a decade, I feel pretty confident that, yeah, I’m right about that.
I don’t know why I thought the Popcaks would say something I wouldn’t agree with. Maybe it was the perfection of their smiling faces or something…more likely it was some block-sized idiocy planted on my shoulder.
Leave it to the Patheos Book Club to get a book under my nose that I wouldn’t sniff out in a million years on my own.
And oh, the things I would’ve missed if I hadn’t read Just Married: The Catholic Guide to Surviving and Thriving in the First Five Years of Marriage, by Dr. Greg and Lisa Popcak (who’ve written about 100 other books, and are professional marriage people, and have a radio show, and all sorts of credibility stuff).
This book wasn’t necessarily written for me: I’ve been married ten years this year. Honestly, I intended to skim through it and pull together a general review.
But I couldn’t.
I got sucked in, just as surely as the dog hair gets into the toothpaste container. (Don’t ask.) I was intrigued and nodding and (dare I suggest it?) making notes of things and learning a thing or three…
We want you to remember four little words that will help you get through these times. Ready?
NEVER BLAME YOUR MARRIAGE
Write it down. Tattoo it on the back of your hand. Memorize it. Chant it. Say it until you can dance to it. Marriages do not have lives of their own. A marriage only has the life a husband and wife give it. People say things such as, “It just didn’t work.” or “It just didn’t make sense anymore.” “It just died.” Remember this. There is no it. There is just you, your spouse, and God. If your marriage is dying on the vine, it isn’t because it (your marriage) is broken. It is simply that you don’t currently have the skills to nurture it under the pressures you are currently facing. Get those skills. Read good self-help books; go on a marriage retreat; join a support group; get therapy.
This book put words to things that I’ve felt at a gut level and have struggled to articulate (not that I needed to articulate anything, mind you, but as a word person, I sometimes just want to have the words for things).
Many people believe that in order to be “true to themselves” they are obliged to say what they are feeling in the middle of feeling it, but the truth is, feelings are God’s gift to you, not anyone else. Your feelings are God’s way of calling your attention to a potential problem. Having received the emotional message, you need to go to God to figure out whether the emotional message was a glitch (because you were tired, or underfed, or overwrought, or otherwise not functioning properly) or whether it was intended to point out some real issue that needed to be addressed. Having sought God’s counsel and calmed down a bit, now it’s time to raise the issue. Instead of leading with your emotions, leading with possible solutions gives you a way to discuss possible ways to prevent the situation from occurring in the future without letting the conversation devolve into “I feel so awful about who did what to whom.”
I agree wholeheartedly with the plug on the front of the book by Christopher West: “Every married couple—newly married or otherwise—will benefit from this book.” Yeah. What he said.