As a pastor I’ve read my share of books on marriage, met and counseled many couples preparing for marriage, and I’ve been married to my husband and best friend since the first Star Wars movie was released (and yes, for those of you trying to do the math, I was a child bride). Yet for all that I’ve read and lived, I’m still learning what it means to spend the rest of my life with someone, to love deeply and long with all that I am and all that I have.
And so I was curious to read Dorothy Greco‘s new book, Making Marriage Beautiful: Lifelong Love, Joy, and Intimacy Start with You (David C Cook, 2017). I had a most enjoyable Starbucks visit with Dorothy when she visited Abbotsford last year, and have followed her writing journey with interest as she completed and published her first book. What might I learn from one of the rare books on marriage written by a woman for both women and men? And would it live up to my admittedly high expectations?
Thankfully, I can happily recommend Dorothy’s book. Making Marriage Beautiful makes for easy reading, without over-simplifying the complexities of married life. It’s personally intimate in the way she and her husband, Christopher, share about their marriage, yet recognizes diversity with interviews of eight couples of different ages, ethnic, and economic backgrounds.
One of my favourite insights from the book on how to make your marriage beautiful is this description of what it means to support one another in marriage, especially in times of difficulty (pages 172-3):
God does not intend for us to fight battles or suffer alone. In Eve, Yahweh gave Adam a warrior companion, an ezer [strong helper] who would stand by that same scarred side from which she was taken, to govern and rule the earth with him (Gen. 1:26-28). Whether or not we realize it, when we say our vows, we are promising to ease each other’s aloneness, particularly when things aren’t going well. Exodus 17 gives us a vision for what this might look like.
The Israelites were in the midst of a battle and could advance against the Amalekites only when Moses held his staff above his head. A peculiar strategy, but God seems to relish supernatural displays of power that mankind cannot take credit for. Inevitably, “Moses’ arms soon became so tired he could no longer hold them up. So Aaron and Hur found a stone for him to sit on. Then they stood on each side of Moses, holding up his hands. So his hands held steady until sunset. As a result, Joshua overwhelmed the army of Amalek in battle” (vv. 12-13).
What if we decide to be like Aaron and Hur to our spouses? What if we come alongside them, hold up their arms when their strength starts to fail, and refuse to leave until the battle is done? By making this choice, we will emerge from our seasons of suffering as healed and holy lovers. Bone of my bone. Flesh of my flesh.
I could keep quoting favourite passages from Making Marriage Beautiful, but instead let me ask Dorothy to chime in here.
Dorothy, how did you come to write this book on marriage?
Dorothy: “It’s important for me to clarify that I did not write this book because we have a perfect marriage or because I am a marriage expert. I wrote the book because my husband and I needed it. Due to some circumstances beyond our control, life got very difficult four years ago. As we struggled to love each other, I started thinking about what differentiates a joyful, dynamic marriage from a frustrating, unhappy one. Ideas started flowing and I broached the topic with Christopher. It would have been awesome to write the book together but he works two jobs and is finishing his graduate degree so that was not going to happen. Instead, I brought his voice in for most chapters.”
I’m impressed by how personally you share about your marriage. How did you decide what to publish and what to leave out as too much information?
Dorothy: “One of the interesting and challenging things about writing a marriage book is that your spouse comes along for the ride. Christopher read and signed off on everything before the publisher saw it. This was very important to me. I did not want him to feel like I was exposing him or being in any way unfair. There were only a few sections where we disagreed on whether or not to include something. (If he did not want it, I cut it.) This book does not malign him, poke fun of him, or in any way disrespect him. As he read through the first draft, he laughed in all the right places.”
What was the hardest part of writing this book?
Dorothy: “Making sure I had the integrity to write the book! Every fight that Christopher and I had while I was working on this caused a tsunami of doubt to wash over me! It’s one thing to write about having a good marriage and another to actually have one. I wanted to make sure, along every step of the way, that I was doing what I was writing.”
What was your goal and what do you hope for your readers?
Dorothy: “I steer clear of clichés and formulas. There’s no chapter titled, Ten Steps to a Perfect Marriage! Marriage and transformation are a process. My goal in writing this book was to help men and women navigate that process well—for the long haul.
Making Marriage Beautiful will speak to couples who have been married three weeks or thirty years. It was written for your average husband and wife who long to create and sustain a truly healthy, joyful marriage. Maybe they’re stuck, maybe they’re doing OK, and maybe they’re actually doing really well but want to be proactive. I’m confident that if newlyweds put the spiritual disciplines that I discuss into practice, they will create a solid foundation. This was not written specifically for couples who are in a full-blown crisis though I do think they would benefit from it. I also don’t think you have to be a person of faith to enjoy or find encouragement from Making Marriage Beautiful, but it is unabashedly written from a faith perspective.”
Thank you, Dorothy, for writing a beautiful, vulnerable, encouraging, and helpful book on marriage. May you and Christopher continue to make your marriage beautiful, and may your book bless and encourage many couples.
Making Marriage Beautiful is available from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Christian Book Distributors, and through your local bookstore. For an excerpt based on the book, please check out Dorothy’s Relevant article: The One Thing Couples Overlook in Marriage.
Writing/Reflection Prompt: What are the qualities that make marriage beautiful?
Disclosure: I received a complimentary advance copy of this book from the publisher. The choice to review and views expressed are my own.
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