Does the world really need another book on marriage? I mean, really. For the past two decades, the market has been flooded with tomes purporting to hold the secret to a (take your pick) vibrant, intimate, sturdy, lasting, romantic, adventurous, spiritual, sexually satisfying, communication-rich, joyful and loving marriage. That’s in addition to the DVD’s, CD’s, seminars and other products. And that’s just in the Christian world.
Sometimes, Christians have simply ripped off what’s popular in the broader culture or whoever was on Oprah last week. When John Gray wrote Men Are from Mars, Women are from Venus, the Christian bookstores soon had a book titled Men are Waffles, Women are Spaghetti. (I’m not making that up—made me feel square and all sticky.) So, honestly, when I came across For Couples Only, I was really not all that excited.
Couples is actually a boxed set of two previously released books. For Women Only by Shaunti Feldhahn (Multnomah, 2004) was followed by For Men Only (Multnomah, 2006) by husband Jeff Feldhahn. Both are based on extensive surveys of people about their marriages—and particularly about their spouse’s understanding of the unique needs, assumptions and attitudes of the opposite sex. Both books are designed to help women understand how men think or to help men understand how women think—to grasp the inner world of the opposite sex. Both
Each book boils the results down to address the most broad and potentially troublesome issues in marriages. The Feldhahns assert that men and women often have surface understandings of their spouse that fail to grasp the deeper reality. For Men Only addresses a woman’s view of love, security, emotions, listening, sex and male attractiveness. For Women Only taps into a man’s view of respect, security, providing, sex, temptation, romance and a woman’s appearance.
The books have an easy, conversational tone, almost as if you’re sitting across the kitchen table with a cup of coffee. That makes it easy to interact with the information—and not just read it as cold results of a survey. I found myself in a constant internal conversation—evaluating myself, agreeing, disagreeing, being surprised or humbled by the insights, etc. That was a pleasant surprise, because I was expecting it to be a little dry, like most books based on surveys. (see Barna, George) it was fun, playful and engaging.
The Feldhahns make it clear that these books are written from an explicitly Christian perspective, but are not a theological exploration of gender needs and differences. They feel no need to squeeze a Scripture quote to the end of every section. That serves to elevate the power of Scripture when it is quoted, and also allows the survey and their observations about it to carry the weight of the book with integrity.
As packaged, the books contain a couple’s conversation starter, and I think it would be very helpful for any married couple to read and discuss this material, Even if you’ve been married for years, you will discover new insights. I will also be using this as a required part of pre-marital conversations. Understanding these things will help the newly married establish healthy patterns of relating from the beginning.
Ultimately, conversations based on these books could significantly strengthen marriages. I suspect that applying these principles would indeed help marriages become more vibrant, sturdy, romantic, lasting and all the rest.