Perhaps I’m just not romantic. I don’t really like little chocolate bites packaged in heart-shaped boxes, and cut flowers often make me sneeze. Also, to wax philosophical for a moment, romantic infatuation is like both these gifts: pleasant for a short while, but then withering or becoming a burden (as chocolate does on my thighs!). Okay, that last sentence confirms it; I am not a romantic person. So when I say that I would be thrilled to receive a book for Valentine’s Day, you understand part of the reason why.
This is a parenting blog, not a love and marriage blog, so why, you ask, am I talking about Valentine’s Day? As we’ve heard so many times, the best thing you can do for your children is to love your spouse. So in recognition of Valentine’s Day, I offer the five best books that I’ve read on marriage. There may be better books out there, but I haven’t read them…yet. This year, why not invest in the long-term health of your marriage in addition to (or rather than) spending your money and attention on things that last only a few days? No matter how good your marriage is now, bless your spouse with your desire to strengthen it; what could be more romantic than that? Read one of these books together, prayerfully heed its advice, and watch your marriage blossom like no cut flower ever will!
The stage-of-life recommendations are just for fun, or if you don’t know where to start. Don’t take them too seriously.
Newlyweds: For Women Only and For Men Only by Shaunti Feldhahn and Jeff Feldhahn
“What You Need to Know About the Inner Lives of Men” and “A Straightforward Guide to the Inner Lives of Women”
These short books make great engagement or wedding gifts. They are easy to read, down-to-earth, and packed with truth. Based on the premise that there are many things we don’t know about the opposite gender, the Feldhahns straightforwardly shed light on all those dark areas. Sit beside your spouse as you both read silently. You will interrupt each other frequently with questions that start, “Do you really…?”
One year in: The 5 Love Languages by Gary Chapman
“The Secret to Love that Lasts”
You’ve probably heard of this. Don’t let its popularity turn you off (as I tend to do with books). This book helps you remember that love is not about what you get but about what you give. Sometimes, the actions that your heart translates as love don’t mean the same to your spouse. Chapman helps you know how to show love to your spouse in the way that he or she best receives it. **Bonus: Love languages don’t just apply to spouses. This book helped me understand how to love and receive love involving other family members (particularly in-laws) as well! The 5 Love Languages for Children is also excellent!
After five years: Love & Respect by Emerson Eggerichs
“The Love She Most Desires; the Respect He Desperately Needs”
I suggest this later in marriage mostly because it’s a longer book, but also, it digs more deeply into our heart needs as men and women. This book will mean more to you after you’ve been to that point when you just don’t know what’s missing , when you’re trying hard to honor God but feeling frustrated in your marriage. It helps to read Eggerichs’ book alongside Bible passages about marriage and let the Lord convict you where you need it, based on your own positive and negative experiences in your marriage. I recommend it because, like with 5 Love Languages, we often assume that our spouses’ needs are similar to ours when, in actuality, they are very different.
Ten years and beyond: The Meaning of Marriage – Timothy & Kathy Keller
“Facing the Complexities of Commitment with the Wisdom of God”
We picked up this book because of our respect for Tim Keller. I should have known his wife would be equally delightful…and deep. Through personal stories and extensive Biblical application, the Kellers boldly declare that, in order to have a fulfilling marriage, you have to take self out of the equation. At its best moments, this book feels like a long conversation with an older, more experienced couple. You’ll benefit from this one the most when you’ve been married long enough to have some stories of your own to lay beside the Kellers’ stories. If you’re in professional ministry (pastor, etc.), this one should be at the top of your list!
Ten years and beyond: Sacred Marriage by Gary Thomas
“What If God Designed Marriage to Make Us Holy More Than to Make Us Happy?”
This and The Meaning of Marriage approach the same summit from different routes: that God’s plan for marriage was never about personal satisfaction or happiness. Besides serving as a vehicle for His glory, life with a spouse refines you unlike any other relationship. This book is profound. If you’re willing to internalize Thomas’ wisdom, you’ll find every aspect of your life changed—even the ones you didn’t think were related to marriage.
If you can’t scratch out the time to read a whole book, try one of these excellent blog posts (all very recent) to strengthen your marriage:
- “Do Not Fear the Hard Things of Marriage” by Elizabeth Wann at desiringgod.org
- “Five Reasons to Date Your Mate When It’s Cold at Home” by Kelly Smith at mrsdisciple.com
- “How to Bless, Strengthen, and Protect Your Marriage” by Deb Wolf at countingmyblessings.com
- “The Best Thing for Your Kids” by Ted Love at theparentcue.org
What book or blog post would you add to the list? I have You and Me Forever by Francis and Lisa Chan on my TBR. Let everyone know in the comments below.