Book Review: Making Marriage Work

To join the discussion about Just Married, or to order a copy go here BC JustMarried 1

Just Married, The Catholic Guide to Surviving and Thriving in the First Five Years of Marriage is a how-to book for newlyweds.

What I mean by that is that it’s a real how-to book that provides usable, common sense, profoundly Catholic measures that married couples can take that will lead them into a holy, happy marriage that lasts all their lives.

If you think I exaggerate, read the book. The things it tells you are obvious, but you don’t see them. They’re easy, but you don’t do them. And over time the lack of this not seeing and doing can shred the fabric of your marriage.

It’s clear from the moment that you begin reading it that this is the wisdom of someone who’s actually walked the road. It is co-written by Dr Greg Popcak and his wife, Lisa. The two of them together provide candid cameos into their marital life at its different phases. They talk frankly about the things they had to do and learn to have a happy, long-lasting marriage.

Even though Dr Popcak is a professional psychologist, the book is not a psycho-babble world salad. It gives advice that is simple, direct and do-able. The first thing Greg and Lisa advise is the obvious one I was referring to earlier. They tell newly married couples to make a time of daily prayer together a fixture in their lives.

I say that’s obvious because telling a devout Catholic couple to pray should be as redundant as telling a fish to swim. But in truth, even private prayer gets lost in the busyness of daily life and it’s more difficult to make time for praying together.

The book leads readers through the various stages of early marriage and teaches a bit of what to expect and how to handle each one. My one word of advice on this is don’t be surprised if you and your spouse are a bit different from the stages in the book. I’ve been married 30 years, and I don’t remember going through these stages with my husband. However, I do remember some — not all — of the flash points. We’re all individuals and newly married couples should know that their marriage will be an expression of who they are and no one else.

I think the best component in the book is the emphasis it places on giving newly married couples the tools to communicate with one another even, or perhaps most especially, when they are arguing. It also gives guidance about how to learn to understand your spouse and his or her unique ways of doing things so that you can learn to accommodate one another and grow closer. The Popcaks wisely tell readers that changing yourself to accommodate your differences with your spouse will lead you into deep personal growth.

That is so true. But it’s something you can’t know at the beginning of a marriage. That growth you experience takes time to develop.

I think that Just Married would be a great book to give young people when they are engaged and actively planning their lives together as a married couple. If they read it and learn from it before they take their vows and begin their married life, its clear and practical advice will save them many pitfalls.

The One Person

Marriage

Everybody, it seems, is writing about what not to do if you want to stay married.

Everything I’ve read so far, which you can find here, here and here, is good advice.

But is staying married a matter of the things you don’t do?

I hope not. Because I am convinced that there is a lot more to a happy marriage than what you don’t do, or, for that matter, just “staying married.”

Did you notice my choice of words? I said “a happy marriage.” The goal of life — and marriage is life — should not be to just stay with someone. Marriage is a relationship that sustains. As such, it is about trust.

There are many levels of trust. When you leave your purse sitting on your desk at work without worry that your co-workers are going to riffle through it, that’s trust. When you drive through an intersection believing that none of the other cars are going to ram into you, that’s trust.

But married trust goes a lot deeper than these superficial trusts that make it possible for millions of people to live together in a society and function independently dependent on one another.

The trust of marriage involves that one flesh thing the Bible talks about. Your husband or wife knows you in a deep-down, all-the-way-through kind of way that precludes simple definitions of trust. You bind yourselves to one another at a spiritual level that goes deeper than any other relationship you will ever have, even and including relationships with your parents and the children you create with one another.

This person, this one person, is your helpmate, friend, lover, love and the steadying hand under your arm when you are shaky. That goes beyond simple lists of don’ts, even though it does include them.

You may not sleep around. You may not hit, disparage, gossip about or abuse your spouse in any way. Because, stupid, you and your spouse are one flesh. What you do to them, you do to yourself. Make them miserable, and you will be miserable, too.

So, rather than give a list of things you shouldn’t do, I want to give you one thing you must do if you want a true marriage that lasts: Love your husband. Love your wife. Cherish them and treat them as if they were your life’s companion; the one person you will share your days with all the days in this life that you have.

Because that’s exactly who they are.


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