Great Books on Christian Marriage
As both a Christian and a soon-to-be married man, the idea of having a long, successful marriage is a constant presence in my mind. I know the statistics for divorce, even in the Church, and I’m fully aware of my own fallen nature. What chance do I have when I grew up in a house of two divorces, or have a hard time trusting others? With very little interaction with my dad, where am I supposed to get advice and instruction on being a good husband?
Luckily, I love to read and take my faith seriously. I love reading books about Christian living and one of the biggest subjects covered in that world is marriage. Of course, the market for Christian marriage books is a flooded one and there’s just as much fluff there as anywhere else. Finding good books on the matter can be a challenge, but it’s not impossible. I’ve read my fair share and am still reading, so I thought I’d point out a few books that have stood out and changed my thoughts for the better. Not all of these books are Christian, but there all useful. Whether you’re already married or engaged, I hope this list proves useful to you.
101 Questions to Ask Before You Get Engaged
Starting with a book that takes place before marriage, 101 Questions to Ask Before You Get Engaged by H. Norman Wright isn’t instructional but discussion oriented. There’s a chapter or two in the beginning that talks about divorce and rushed marriage, but the majority of the book is made up of questions that you and your fiancée answer together. With more than a hundred, there are plenty of topics to cover.
What my fiancée and I enjoyed most about this book was that it asked questions we would never have thought about. The question, “What were traditions in your home and what do you want to carry into your own marriage?” created a long discussion about birthdays and holidays. There are questions about family structure, education, spiritual life, views on money, children, and plenty more. The book can repeat itself every now and then, but it helps to reaffirm the important topics. We read it after we became engaged, but it proved to be very helpful in learning more about each other.
- This Momentary Marriage A Parable of Permanence - Desiring God
Download it for free!
Momentary Marriage by John Piper is a heavy hitter. It can scare couples out of a relationship or can help strengthen their commitment to each other. Piper doesn’t play around; he gives the straight forward view on Christian marriage and what it’s about. In this book, marriage is described as an example of covenant keeping and the glory of Christ. We stay married to our spouse because God keeps his word with us.
Throughout the book, Piper discusses covenant keeping and love being an action and command, not just a feeling. It’s all about commitment and keeping God the top priority. There are lighter moments, such as Piper talking about the differences between your spouse’s sin and their quirks. For the most part, this book is a step-by-step discussion about what marriage is and who it’s for. I would recommend this be the first book a Christian couple read together, even before their engaged. The best part is that it’s free for download on Piper’s website!
For Men/Women Only
These two books, by Jeff and Shaunti Feldhahn, are probably the most fun out of these suggestions. I, obviously, read For Men Only while my fiancée read For Woman Only. Each book covers topics and misconceptions we have about the opposite sex, especially in relationships. Coming to your significant other after reading a chapter can be a riot if you have the right attitude, and it’s always eye opening.
When I found out that women would rather have financial hardship than stretching a relationship due to overworking, I was floored. My fiancée thought I was crazy for not knowing that already! Learning about how women view quality time, sex, money, and how they handle problems was like reading a book on a whole new species for me. It’s helped my own relationship; I now know I need to help close my fiancée’s “window” when there’s a worry and we use terms from these book quite a bit. She also learned plenty about how men think and work, and she loved the book. These books are easy to recommend to anyone in or out of a relationship.
The Exemplary Husband
Here's one for just the guys and was the book I had to read for my premarital counseling. Stuart Scott's The Exemplary Husband is a challenging look at marriage and being a husband of God's will. This book covers a great many things a husband is going to have to deal with and uses plenty of Scripture to back up its points. The first part of the book deals with the concept of marriage and being a husband, how men relate to God and their wives and how to deal with the sin that seep into our love lives. Chapters such as the ones that deals with idols and time management can be surprisingly convicting and other marriage books might not cover these topics. The study guide you can get with it is decent, but you should only use it as needed and not worry about sticking to it ritualistically.
I suggested this one and not because I didn't read the companion piece for obvious reasons. I also know my wife didn't enjoy that book as much as I did mine. You're preference might vary but if you read it and hate it, remember I didn't suggest it. The Excellent Wife
His Needs, Her Needs
His Needs, Her Needs by Willard Harley can have a similar effect as For Men/Women Only. Harley talks about the needs each spouse has and needs fulfilled to feel close to their loved one. The book lists ten needs, five for men and five for woman, and talks in depth about what those needs look like and how to fulfill them. Harley also discusses his “love bank” theory, and how we can either withdraw or deposit in our spouse’s account. It seems silly to write but it’s a helpful thought and can keep you aware of the affection in your relationship.
This book is great to read and talk aboutwith your loved one, as some needs are less or more important to different people. Learning that men need a recreational partner or that women prefer conversations is important, even if it should be obvious. This book’s selling “line” is that it wants to build an affair-proof marriage, and there are sad stories of people ignoring their spouse’s needs and the problems that came with them. Of course, there are plenty of success stories and turnarounds as well. This book is Interesting and a bit more serious than the Feldhahn’s books. It's also a great companion book to Gary Chapman's The Five Love Languages!
Gary Thomas’ book is probably my fiancée’s and mine favorite so far. While all the books above are highly recommended, if you only could read one book this would be the one I suggest. Sacred Marriage is comparable to Momentary Marriage in that it talks about what marriage is for, but it can be a humbling experience. Marriage, as Thomas points out, is meant to make us holy, not necessarily happy. While this thought might come as a shock to some and offend others, for any Christian who wants a healthy and godly view of marriage, this books is a must read.
There are heartbreaking stories in this book, of marriages that failed and spouses who never loved their other like they should have. There are stories of men cheating and leaving, of women driving their husbands to the point of depression and of couples whose whole relationship were of struggle and pain. But through it all, Thomas points out that those who committed their relationship to God came out stronger and fulfilled, even if they still had a great sorrow in their hearts. We could lose our spouse at any moment, mentally or physically. What happens if your wife loses all motor functions or your husband refuses to stop cheating? What’s the Christian do in these circumstances? When holiness is the main goal, the answers are hard, though not impossible. If there’s a book that’s reminded me of how much growth I need to be a married man, this is it. No couple should skip over this book, Christian or non-Christian.
What Did I Forget?
As I’m not married yet, I can only suggest these books as someone who’s yet to apply them in their fullest context. But throughout my relationship, they’ve all created great talks with my fiancée and have reminded me that marriage is not just kisses and sunshine, that it’s hard work and should humble the proud. These aren’t even all the books out there that are worth reading, though they’re my top recommendations. While I love listening to Alistiar Begg, my fiancée enjoyed his book Lasting Love. I’ve also read When Sinners Say I Do and thought it was strong, though an easier version of Thomas’ book. One book we’re both looking forward to reading is Real Marriage by Mark Driscoll, especially since his speaking series on the topic has been wonderful. I hope these suggestions prove useful to you, whether you’re single, engaged, or already married. If you have any suggestions for me, please leave them in the comments below. I’m always looking for new books!