Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Book Review--The Wholehearted Marriage

LibraryThing sent me another early reviewer book. This one is of the non-fiction variety: The Wholehearted Marriage: Fully Engaging Your Most Important Relationship by Greg Smalley and Shawn Stoever. Smalley is the son of one of the big huge relationship gurus in evangelical Christianity circles (though I can't claim to know any of his stuff.)

I find this book review oddly appropriate because my 2 year anniversary is next week, and the last marriage/relationship book I read was shortly after we got married. Two different people thought Walter Wangerin's marriage book and it was very good. But that was probably because two very academic people had just gotten married and so it felt very comfortable to learn about marriage through reading in the midst of all the discomforts of actually being married.

Back to the book. It's divided into three sections: Intro, Counseling Stuff, Application Stuff (my headings). The intro was the weakest part, IMO. It makes a biblical case for caring for your heart and your partner's heart, but it made some missteps as far as this biblical student is concerned. For instance, when the Hebrew Bible talks about "the heart" that where the Hebrews put rational thought and decision making, the emotion which is currently associated with the heart was more of a gut feeling (roughly speaking) so to use those passages which talk about one's heart the way Smalley and Stoever want to is a bit inappropriate.

The middle three chapters of the book seem to put the brunt of the counseling weight. They talked about caring for your wounded heart, your fearful heart and your exhausted heart. (PS Don't read the exhausted heart chapter at night when you're exhausted; you'll read too much into it.) There's good stuff in there, and I bet if I worked through some of the exercises I might have gotten more out of those chapters. But I didn't because it would involve asking my husband questions when he should be writing his paper. Also, while it was stuff you could do on your own, if you were really worried about your marriage, most of the content would best be talked about in a counseling setting. (It's a lot of those questions that are really "easy" to answer, but you really should be working to think them through and not just spout off a quick response.)

I think the best thing about the book comes in the last section. It gathers all these different ideas about marriage and relationships and puts them into one place. They cited the Five Love Languages and the Gottman concept of returning bids. They quoted all the heavy-hitters in the counseling biz. If you don't want to read all those books, it's the book for you. I have read a lot of those books and appreciated them so the reminder was helpful, but it wasn't a lot new. Oh however, one of the authors talked about making a baseball card for your spouse that you keep with you at all times that has their love language, areas of attention, and other stuff that you had just worked through on the back so you can have a quick reference to help you focus on what would best help your spouse. It's cheesy, but I thought it was a cute idea to make you more aware of the other person's differences.

So it's not the best relationship/marriage book I've read. It's certainly not the worst. I'd recommend it as a good introduction, but I wouldn't use it as my sole resource. And I'd definitely only give it to people with strong F's on their Myers-Briggs indicator. ;-)

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