Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Review: The Essential Guide to a Lasting Marriage

I was recently asked to review The Essential Guide to a Lasting Marriage by Martin Tashman and Karla Dougherty. Peanut and I are coming up on our one-year anniversary (already!) and I'd like to take any opportunity to give us the best chance possible, so I jumped at the chance.

A Lasting Marriage is more than an "idiot's guide" to marriage, but it is pretty broad and covers a lot of familiar ground. Written by a marriage counselor with 35 years of experience and an experienced science writer, the language is accessible and friendly. From the back cover, "The Essential Guide to a Lasting Marriage helps you understand what makes a marriage happy. It walks you through the most common challenges you'll face, from honeymoon to the golden years, giving you concrete strategies and practical tips for dealing together with issues that arise. You'll learn the secrets to a strong foundation, including trust, playfulness, and sex...even the art of fighting well. This insightful guide also offers advice on dealing with money, children, infidelity, and other potential marriage land mines, so you come out stronger on the other side."

The book is divided into sections covering the stages of marriage and the most common problems most marriages will face. Each chapter is peppered with tips, facts, and case studies, and ends with actual steps you can take if you are facing the problem. The language throughout is friendly and not-overtly Christian at all (there is one mention of God but it's not done in a preachy way, so I wouldn't consider this to be a Christian marriage book). It's also open to the idea that "marriage" can include both long-term, non-legally-recognized marriage and gay marriage, although the case studies and examples focus on traditional heterosexual relationships. I wish there had been a few more progressive examples included, but I did appreciate that a number of the examples didn't include the common "woman lied to husband about money" or "the man was the cheater" stereotypes.

A marriage is a huge thing, and it's far too big for one book to cover. Once a marriage is in trouble, it seems to me that it's typically one or two of the problems (substance abuse, cheating, money, family issues) as opposed to all of them, so if you're already in the position to need help with a specific issue, a more specific book and/or counseling is probably a better place to turn. However, as a newlywed in a young relationship, I did find it useful to read about other relationships to learn ways to avoid common pitfalls in the long-term. You may not learn anything ground-breaking, but there's a lot to be said for revisiting the basics.

Thanks to the publisher for providing a review copy!

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