Marriage Books can make it better … or worse

Book: 101 reasons why she is wrong © Viacheslav Krisanov | Dreamstime.comI recently read a great article entitled The Danger of Marriage Books: The hidden messages I sent my wife after reading the experts’ advice. The author says, “I actually convinced myself that the real problem in our marriage wasn’t my selfishness, inattentiveness, or tendency to shrink from leadership. It was her lack of giving me the respect I was due!

It seems to me that marriage books can be a lot like prescription drugs: very powerful, but they have side-effects, they are useless at best if you don’t have the condition they treat, and they can be dangerous if you have a condition the drug makes worse. For example, blood thinners can be a lifesaver in certain situations, but will kill in others.

There are several marriage books I have read that I would never openly promote for the simple reason that they are offered as a “miracle drug” that will help any marriage. There is no such thing! Even worse, most of these books could do a lot of harm in the wrong hands. For example, a book that says all marriage problems are due to men who won’t lead would be useful for men who don’t lead – especially if their wife want them to lead. However, put that book in the hands of a man who leads with an iron fist sans the velvet glove and it is nothing more than justification for his sins. What about a book that says all marriage problems are the fault of men, and it’s up to the man to fix the marriage? Given to a man who is unloving and rude, this book could save a marriage. Given to a couple where the man is trying and the woman is way out of line the book beats up on the victim and gives the wife a reason to not make any effort to grow or change.

Even books that don’t claim to be miracle cures can get you in trouble. You need to look carefully at the parameters given by the author – if your situation is substantially different, the book is probably useless – or worse.

All that said, if you want a book that won’t lead you astray, I suggest The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work: A Practical Guide from the Country’s Foremost Relationship Expert by John M. Gottman and Nan Silver (Aff Link). This is a research based marriage book that gives excellent ideas for making your marriage – any marriage – better. I first read this book ten years ago, and had a hard time with it because it was counter to much of what I had already learned. However, the science behind what they say is rock solid, and over the years I’ve seen that what they say is true. We are currently using this for a marriage study, so you will likely hear more about it over time.

Donation Follow Up: Had an e-mail asking if donations are tax deductible, (yes, they are, we are 501(c)(3) and for our PO box.

c/o The Marriage Bed, Inc.
PO Box 2166
Deer Park, WA 99006-2166


Makes checks payable to “The Marriage Bed” and put “For Paul & Lori” in the memo.

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2 Comments on “Marriage Books can make it better … or worse

  1. It seems to me that the article you sited actually points out that he took the medicine written for his wife thinking that would cure his marriage ailments.

    The first time my wife and I attended a Weekend to Remember marriage retreat put on by Family Life we both made that same mistake. She heard what applied to me and I heard what applied to her. We both had sore ribs at the end of the weekend.

    Marriage books are a tool for SELF improvement. Applying them to anyone but yourself is a misuse of the tool.

    I cannot change my spouse. I can control me, though I don’t always do a very good job of it.

  2. Excellent post. My wife and I read tons of marriage books before and after we were married and while some helped I always felt they were just a bit off. It wasn’t until we stumbled across the book you mentioned that we both went “aha!” and realized what all the others were missing. We recommend it to everyone we know when they get married.

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