Dr. Gary Chapman is one of my favorite marriage experts because he gives straight-shooting, practical marriage advice. The Marriage You’ve Always Wanted is a slender book, yet as usual, Dr. Chapman offers couples excellent advice for improving their relationships.
I received this book for review courtesy of the publisher; all opinions expressed are my own. This post contains affiliate links; as an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases.
The Big Marriage Topics
In nine chapters, Dr. Chapman covers the biggies of marriage, including in-laws, sex, money, communication, decisions, and chores. In every chapter, he turns first to the Bible for advice, looking at what God says about the matter or at what examples God has given us in Scripture. For example, in the chapter on in-laws, he points out the example of Moses and his father-in-law Jethro or Ruth and her mother-in-law Naomi.
In the first chapter, Dr. Chapman looks at “why marriage.” In a society when so many people are choosing not to marry (or to divorce after marriage), it’s an important and valid question. Going back to Genesis, Dr. Chapman says “we find that God’s idea of marriage is the blending of two lives in the deepest possible way into a new unit that will both satisfy the individuals involved and serve the purposes of God in the highest possible manner.” That seems like a lofty goal, but that ideal underlies all the advice in the following chapters. How can we, as couples, achieve oneness in our marriages through all the hurdles we face?
How Do You Change Your Spouse?
Dr. Chapman then moves on to a common theme in marriage: wanting to change our spouse. He uses Matthew 7:1-5 (the splinter/log chapter) as a guide for how to deal with this desire for spousal improvement. Dr. Chapman says, “I am not suggesting that the partner does not have weaknesses or faults. What I am saying is that trying to deal with the faults of the partner is not the place to begin. The first question for any of us when we are in a marital storm is, ‘What’s wrong with me? What are my faults?’ … Even if you are only 5 percent of the problem, the key to improvement lies with you.”
I’ve mentioned before that I spent a lot of years pointing fingers at my husband. I was reading marriage books and trying to work on our relationship, but I was also very frustrated that he didn’t seem to be changing. Finally, I sank into the attitude that I wouldn’t change unless he changed. Which leaves us in a deadlock. If there’s no change, there’s no change. So while this seems to put a lot of responsibility upon one spouse to work on their marriage, I also want to give hope. We don’t have to sit around waiting for our spouse to change before we can have a great relationship. Dr. Chapman says,
“It’s important to remember that your marriage can be improved even if your partner never changes. One partner can change a marriage for the better even when the other has no desire for improvement. I am not saying that you can have an ideal marriage, fully satisfying in every area. That, indeed, takes the work of two individuals under God. But you can see substantial growth in your marriage, if only you are willing to change.”
Dr. Chapman ends each chapter with “Your Turn,” a list of questions to journal or discuss with your spouse that will help you apply what he’s discussed in each chapter. At the end of the book, he also includes a list of marriage resources on the topics discussed in the book, if you’re looking for more material to work on a specific area of your relationship.
Hands-on Marriage Advice
The Marriage You’ve Always Wanted was filled with the solid, hands-on advice I’ve come to expect from Dr. Chapman. In conclusion, he says, “Marital growth requires time and effort, but it begins by taking the first step. I hope that this book will help you take that step.” So do I! Whether you’ve read one of his books before or not, I highly recommend this one.
Many Christian marriage books contain advice that works for healthy relationships but may actually be damaging in abusive relationships. If you have tried for years to improve your marriage and your spouse not only doesn’t share this desire but continues to engage in habits that harm you and your relationship, you may be in an abusive relationship. Sheila Wray Gregoire shares 10 Truths about Emotionally Destructive Marriages that may help you in assessing your marriage and choosing the best way to move forward.