You’ve probably already had a marriage invitation or two slap onto your doorstep this spring. Yes, you’re still in the lulls of winter, fascinators in tissue paper, comfortably distant from the Four-Weddings-And-A-Funeral dashes across the country in assorted glad rags. But the spouses-to-be are plotting.
The irony is, 99% of this plotting will concern a single day, as opposed to the 18000 plus days of marriage you plan on having afterwards. If a wedding takes at least five months to plan (as I’ve been reliably informed by more than one of the wedding “experts” who suddenly crop up when you announce your engagement) it seems madness not to spend at least some of that time consciously preparing for those few thousand days after The Big Day.
That preparation is part of the reason for The Marriage Book, which is also targeted at existing married couples. You’re taken through the essential elements of a strong marriage – communication, forgiveness, understanding, conflict resolution, the different ways of expressing love, how to deal with parents/inlaws and even sex (yes, that bit’s a little cringe-worthy.) While much of it isn’t revolutionary, many of the themes throw a new light on behaviour in relationships in a deeply helpful way.
I’ll take just one example: love languages. This concept (developed by Gary Chapman) explains that people expresses love in different ways – 5 to be exact. People use all of these languages but certain ones come more naturally to you, and one or two will be your lead ‘language.’ These are:
– Loving words
– Kind actions
– Quality time
– Thoughtful presents
– Physical affection (which isn’t the same as sex.)
The point of this is that you and your partner probably don’t have the same language, which can lead to feelings of unappreciation – you’re desperate for words and angry with your partner for never giving them to you, but all the while he’s doing kind actions for you and feeling rejected that you aren’t responding in kind. By knowing how your partner does express love you can recognise his actions for what they are, and try to reciprocate in the same way. It’s a simple concept but potentially revolutionary to a relationship. If you, my bonny reader, are in a relationship, have a go at ordering the 5 languages for you and your partner and comparing your answers with theirs – an extraordinarily helpful piece of information to bank away for the future. You no longer need to feel demanding in wanting words, or time, or actions, because your partner now knows that that’s how you operate. It won’t be any huge surprise to you that my language is words, but I’ve been making an effort to up my kind actions specifically as that’s what works for J.
The Marriage Book comes from a Christian background, and while most of the advice applies to anyone and everyone, there is a quantity of specifically Christian content. I’ll save you from the intricacies of my own relationship with Christianity, but in my opinion biblical teaching is pretty strong on marriage and all interpersonal relationships, and I’ll gladly consider its perspective. You may disagree. (I’m constantly surprised at peoples’ strongly negative reactions to religion in general so if you feel this way you’d be bound to object to this book. One colleague in particular has always upset me by his public rudeness about and animosity towards people who believe in God. Regardless of my personal views, I find it immensely disrespectful, and simultaneously intriguing that he has no qualms about mocking believers in mixed company – he thinks that any modern educated person would feel the same.)
The authors, Nicky and Sila Lee, also run a course which covers much of the book’s content, which I’ve attended over the last few months. The course and the book act as an invaluable correction of the modern media’s depiction of relationships – that they’re perfection and simplicity and if not, dump-worthy, that if love “dies”, there’s no reviving it, that good relationships just happen, that things don’t change… It shouts the unfashionable truth of having to work, bloody hard, at a marriage.
So, anyone out there agonising over a colour scheme, the food, the veil, or indeed the waistcoat, let your Auntie Ethel decide while you sit and read this book. It’ll make about 18000 times more difference in the long run.