I meet a friend for coffee every week or so and we have been working our way through The Dude’s Guide To Marriage: Ten Skills Every Husband Must Develop to Love His Wife Well. It is an investment that we are both making in our marriages. We read a chapter, talk about it, and then try to go home and apply what we’ve learned.
While I must confess that I am usually allergic to books that have numbers in the title: “Seven Steps to Successful Marriage,” “Five Focus Points For Fostering Fidelity.” It’s almost as bad as my allergy to alliteration. Despite the numeration, I would recommend this book if you are looking to invest in the health of your marriage.
It’s written by a Darrin and Amie Patrick, who are in full-time church ministry and it is specifically written for “guys who want to grow. For guys who want to stop using their strengths to excuse their weaknesses.” (p. xiii)
It is sadly true that one cannot take for granted that you, dear reader, are willing to work on your marriage. Today people get married for love (and research would suggest that about 50% of people get unmarried for the same reason). Marriages take work and this book gives you some very practical things that you can work on.
One focus that I appreciated was on communication. The first three chapters are entitled, Listen, Talk, Fight, all dealing with vital communication skills. Darrin writes that men and women have different communication styles because they have different communication purposes. Men tend to “report-talk” while women often “rapport-talk” (p. 5). There are, of course, exceptions to every sweeping generalization but I think that Darrin captures something here that men often miss.
Women often communicate as a means of developing closeness, not just sharing information. So that’s why, Darrin says, women share their struggles without necessarily needing a solution to their problem. Women want to be heard, not fixed. (I wish someone had told me this about twenty years ago. BTW teens want to be heard and not fixed too. In fact, it turns out that very few people want to be fixed… Good to know).
Darrin’s wife Amie adds a brief comment to most chapters, but one of the highlights of the book is a chapter she writes herself concerning the need for husbands to pursue their wives (in a healthy, non-stalker like way). She writes that a woman wants to be known, loved and enjoyed for who she is. That’s what it means to pursue your spouse: it is a “personal, intentional, and specific commitment to actively love your wife where she is right now and to be intimately involved in the process of who she is becoming” (p. 140).
She confesses that the times in her marriage that she has felt the loneliest, the most unloved, were the times when Darrin failed to pursue her well. Amie says that women who are not being pursued withdraw (out of fear or a desire to avoid further disappointment). Not being pursued leaves a woman doubting the character of her husband, and the security of her marriage.
Pursuit is not important because a woman can’t take care of herself or must have a man to meet her needs. Pursuit is living out a heartfelt concern for your wife’s long term good, no matter what the cost. It is a deliberate, physical, act of servant hearted love.
Her challenge to pursue struck a chord with me. In my marriage to Julie we have weathered seasons where my pursuit has waned. It’s not that I loved her any less, or felt any less strong about our marriage. It was rather, a failure of priorities, a failure to carve out time. If I’m honest, my pursuit of Julie was poor at times when there were idolatries working on my heart that were getting in the way of my marriage flourishing. I needed to be seen as being busy and I was given positive strokes for all the extracurricular activities that I was involved in. Nobody was praising me for spending an evening giving the kids a bath and going to bed early with my wife but that was one of the things that I should have been doing more of. Julie was feeling lonely and like she was not a priority in my life.
We would sometimes fight about it and talk past each other. She would say that I was not making family life (and her) a priority and I would say that she did not understand all the responsibilities that I was juggling. We would go round and round expressing ourselves very clearly and concisely while at the same time not hearing each other very well. It took a few years for me to understand how Julie experiences presence as a love language (see Gary Chapman’s Love Languages).
Amie ends the chapter with a collection of very helpful suggestions (some of which Julie and I discovered on our own.)
- Do physical things together, life washing and drying dishes, going for walks, filing papers, etc.
- Start and end the day with some kind of physical touch: a hand on a shoulder, a hug, a peck on the cheek, a squeeze on the hand, or something spicier (use your own imagination).
- Put down your phone while talking with each other. Eye contact speaks volumes.
Amie also talks about the importance of taking responsibility for your physical health. “Your wife benefits when you feel better, have more energy, and live a long healthy life” (p. 150). I recently discovered how important this is when Julie is working. I strategically make sure I am well rested when she is going to be available to talk or go for a walk. I want to give her some of the best of my time, not just what is left.
The book is full of practical, well reflected biblical advice and would be a great place to learn how to love your wife better.