Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Things I Wish I'd Known Before We Got Married - Gary Chapman

Summary: Most people spend far more time in preparation for their vocation than they do in preparation for marriage.

No wonder the divorce rate hovers around fifty percent.

Gary Chapman, the #1 New York Times bestselling author of The 5 Love Languages and marriage counselor, with more than 35 years of counseling couples, believes that divorce is the lack of preparation for marriage and the failure to learn the skills of working together as intimate teammates. This practical book is packed with wisdom and tips to develop a loving, supportive, and mutually beneficial marriage. It's the type of information Gary himself wished he had before he got married.

Dating or engaged couples will enjoy the "Talking It Over" section, extensive resources, a thought provoking appendix, plus a revealing learning exercise! By understanding and balancing the five key aspects of life, dating couples can experience a healthy dating relationship. (Summary from book - Image from - Book given free to review)

My Review:  Despite what The Beatles may say, love is NOT all you need to make a marriage work and a successful marriage requires commitment, compromise, and a boat load of patience and understanding. Things I Wish I’d Known Before We Got Married attempts to shake loose the blinders that so many people wear when they are in the first stage of love, long enough for them to truly understand their intended partner and honestly discuss topics that might cause future conflict. Chapman’s hope is that, in doing so, more people will enter marriage with realistic expectations and be less likely to bolt at the first sign of trouble.

This book outlines the importance of observing and discussing perceived marital roles and expectations with your prospective partner, as well as their level of spirituality, approach to finances, family relationships, etc. It also gives a brief, but helpful, overview of several of his other books (most notable, The Five Love Languages and The Five Languages of Apology).

My complaints about this book are paltry and have little to do with the subject matter. Chapman’s overuse of the phrases “I wish I’d known” or “I wish someone had told me” bordered on condescension. It was at the beginning and end of every chapter and sometimes in the middle as well. While I recognize this technique is an obvious attempt to maintain a connection between the subject matter and the title of the book, it was unnecessary. Repetition is fine and dandy if you are suffering from short-term memory loss, but I am not. There were also times that Chapman would give an example of what someone might say when they apologize, and I felt his examples were far fetched and long-winded. Perhaps this says more about me than anything, but if anyone apologized that thoroughly to me, I would raise a significantly skeptical eyebrow.

Most of this book is common sense – the kind of common sense that seems to be lacking in this day and age – and the kind of common sense that deserts us when we are in the throws of passionate love. Many of the issues Chapman raises would have been extremely beneficial for my spouse and I to discuss before we were married.   That having been said, the book is rather short and really  more of an "intro to" book than an in depth discussion.

If you’re single and looking, this might be a good book to look over so that you can be better informed when you do meet that special someone. If you’re engaged and waiting, Chapman gives several questions for couples discussion and evaluation that would be helpful if you are reading the book together as a couple. While this book could be moderately helpful after marriage, I can think of several others that would be more in depth and effective*.

Sidenote: On a personal note, I feel that that finding your perfect “match”, or someone who is like you in every way is not necessarily the best thing or a guarantee of marital bliss. From conflict can come growth. It is up to the couple, their attitude, level of commitment, and their communication skills as to whether they grow together or grow apart.

My Rating: 3.75 Stars.  For the sensitive reader: This book also has a slightly religious bent --nothing too heavy handed-- but I appreciated the more spiritual take on the institution of marriage.

Sum it up: A Cliff’s notes version of pre-marital counseling that touches on many useful topics without digging too deep.

*See our next post!

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