Sharilee Swaity writes on family and marriage issues on her blog, Second Chance Love. She has written a book on the topic of remarriage.
Change Is Possible
When your marriage is in trouble, nothing else seems right. Being at odds with the person you are supposed to the closest to is one of the worst pains imaginable. When we have marriage troubles, we feel motivated to find a solution, because our well-being and sanity depend on it. If you are in a very difficult marriage, I would like to encourage you that change is possible. I know it is, because of my own situation. I did not think my marriage would make it, but we were able to change, and I believe that most situations can be helped. As long as there is no physical abuse or adultery going on, there is hope for your marriage. Please allow me to share our situation with you.
My husband and I almost have three years of marriage under our belt, now, but there was a time when bets were on that we would not make it. Both of us were previously married, with a collection of baggage that would fill up a basement. We cared about each other, but hurts and anger from the past turned us both into the monsters of each others' nightmares. We made so many mistakes: we yelled, we insulted each other, we assumed the worst. I was insecure, to the worst degree. My husband was incredibly insensitive.
We Had to Change
We were both believers, but that did not make us immune from conflict, or from misunderstanding. We meant well, both of us, but it did not look like we would be able to make it for the long haul.
But we have come past this time of intense turmoil, and I know that if we can do this, anyone can. It is possible to save a marriage, but it isn't easy, and it requires reaching out.
What happened to turn us around? Well, we both had to change. How did we go about changing? It was NOT easy, and we could not do it by ourselves; we were too broken. We had four resources that helped us change to become more of the people we needed to be, and to start to have the kind of marriage that would stay the course.
The four resources were: help from God through prayer and surrender, help from wise family and friends who had much-needed wisdom, help from a marriage counsellor who directed and led us to a more harmonious relationship, and help from books that gave us information we needed to make our marriage work.
This article will focus on five books that I highly recommend for helping with relationships. I would recommend you use these books alongside any other support that you can, such as a marriage counsellor, family and friends, and your faith, if you are a believer.
Books are an excellent tool to help change your thinking and educate yourself. Sometimes one point from a book can give you a different perspective, or it can provide a strategy that you can begin to implement to make changes.
These are five resources that I would recommend from personal experience.
Here is a list of the books we will be looking at.
- The Holy Bible
- Love and Respect: The Love She Most Desires; the Respect He Desperately Needs, by Emerson Eggeriches
- The Five Love Languages: The Secret to Love That Lasts, by Gary Chapman
- Laugh Your Way to a Better Marriage: Unlocking the Secrets to Life, Love and Marriage, by Mark Gungor
- Why Mars and Venus Collide: Improving Relationships by Understanding How Men and Women Cope Differently with Stress, by John Gray
1. The Holy Bible
The first book that really helped to change our marriage is the Holy Bible. In fact, many of the other resources get this information and wisdom from this great book. Marriage in the Bible is considered sacred and a holy thing before God. In fact, the relationship between a man and a woman is compared to the relationship between Jesus Christ and his believers. Therefore, marriage is given great importance in this book.
This resource offers very practical advice for relationships and marriage. It includes advice on showing respect to each other and even tells spouses to not withhold sexually! The book, "Song of Solomon" is an erotic primer on marriage and celebrates physical love as something beautiful.
It was through my teaching from the Bible that I learned the importance of marriage and love and respect. The Bible is the ultimate book on marriage.
2. "Love and Respect"
The next resource I am recommending was one that I read mostly on my own, but did manage to read a few snippets to my husband here and there. The book is called, Love and Respect: The Love She Most Desires; the Respect He Desperately Needs. It is written by Emerson Eggeriches, and it is considered a classic in the marriage books genre.
The Love and Respect book is a bit controversial, because the main message is that men need respect primarily, and women need love, primarily. Like some reviewers on this book,I too found the book a bit hard to take at times.
There are two sections, one on men showing their wives love, and one on women showing their husbands respect. He also talks about the "crazy cycle," where the man feels disrespected, and so he does not show love. Then, the woman does not feel love, so she does not show respect. Each one wants something that they are pushing away with their own reaction to what they are not getting! Sound crazy? It is, and that's the point! And the crazy cycle was exactly what was happening in our marriage. When I read this, a light bulb went off in my head, and I knew that someone understood, and someone knew how to stop it!
This book helped me to realize the utmost importance of respect to my husband. I saw how not showing him respect hurt him deeply, and harmed our marriage greatly. With the author's sometimes hard-hitting words, I was able to clearly see my own fault in what was happening, and understand how much my husband greatly needed respect. I recommend this book, with the caveat that it might be hard to take, but like Buckley's cough syrup, it offers some tough medicine. But like the old classic, it also worked. I highly recommend this book, for anyone whose marriage fights are leading to strong feelings of frustration, anger and hurt.
This author has over thirty years of counselling experience, and runs a full-time ministry called Love and Respect Ministries. The book is based on research with over 7,000 couples. Dr. Eggerich has a PhD in Child and Family Ecology.
3. "The Five Love Languages"
The next book, called The Five Love Languages: The Secret to Love That Lasts, by Gary Chapman, has been making the rounds for many years, but is still an incredible resource. The main premise of this book is that there are five ways to show love, called "love languages," and that a spouse needs to learn to communicate their love to their partner in the language that they understand.
For example, if a woman's love language is time, she will not feel loved, unless her husband spends time with her. If a man's love language is words of affirmation, he will not feel loved unless he hears positive words from his wife. The book contains a quiz to help determine each person's language, and a fair dose of stories to show how this information helped to turn around relationships. The five languages are receiving gifts, words of affirmation, physical touch, acts of service, and quality time.
This book is quite a simple read, but the principles are profound, and they helped to turn our marriage around. This book was lent to us by one of the wise friends I mentioned earlier, and was the first marriage book my husband and I actually read together. I had read the book years before, but the whole concept was new to my husband.
We read it bit by bit, and we learned that part of our arguments were based on the feeling that my love language, quality time, was not being met. Like so many couples these days, we were both very busy, and did not seem have time to just talk and hang out. We also learned how important physical touch was to my husband. This helped me realize that he was showing me love, when he held me, in his language, even if it didn't feel like it to me. These insights were key in helping to turn our marriage around, as we both learned to better respect the other person's love language, and to try to meet those needs.
For anyone who has not been introduced to these principles, I would recommend this book. Also, it's a good read for a man who might not normally read a marriage book.
The author, Gary Chapman, is a pastor with over 35 years of counselling experience. He is still a pastor of an active church, and does public speaking and seminars all over the world on the subject of marriage and relationships.
4. "Laugh Your Way to a Better Marriage"
Mark Gungor has to be one of the funniest people I have ever heard and read. He's also pretty darn smart when it comes to marriage. My husband and I were introduced to his material through a married couple that we know, and at first, my husband was laughing so hard he didn't even hear any of the points! He has a DVD series with the same name as the book: Laugh Your Way to a Better Marriage, which we watched together with our friends. He has a way of making points that are unique and creative, and never boring.
Video of Mark Gungor Speaking
I highly recommend all of his resources, including his book and DVD series. He is hilarious, but his approach is transformative. This was a resource that especially got through to my husband, who had never been that interested in marriage resources, and taught me many new concepts, as well. One of the things I liked the best was his views on soulmates. He mocks the whole concept of a soulmate, but instead believes that we are responsible for making a good marriage. In other words, it's not about finding the right person, but about doing the right things. Good solid advice, and if he could make my fairly macho husband actually want to learn about marriage, then the man's a genius!
Mark Gungor is the pastor of a large church in Wisconsin, and also is a much respected public speaker. He also hosts a daily radio show.
5. "Why Mars and Venus Collide"
The book, Why Mars and Venus Collide: Improving Relationships by Understanding How Men and Women Cope Differently With Stress, is another in the long series of books about the difference between men and women, written by the relationship guru, John Gray. Gray is famous for saying that men are from Mars, and women are from Venus, and that people from the two planets have a very hard time understanding each other.
I had read his books in the past, and appreciated his insight, without necessarily agreeing with everything that Mr. Gray wrote. This book, however, blew me away, and it helped our marriage tremendously. Based on scientific research on stress, Gray explains the way that men and women are different hormonally, and how that affects relationships, especially in the way they handle stress.
There is a section in there about "Venus time" and it suggests that women need time to talk, without interruption, and without any problem-solving, and gives a very practical way to make this happen. My husband and I started doing this, and it was wonderful. It might sound a bit corny, but it helped tremendously. This book has been the last book that really did help save our marriage.
John Gray is a certified family therapist with over 30 years' experience in marriage seminars and education.
Don't Give Up
These are five resources that helped save our marriage. I highly recommend each one, and I have read many, many books on marriage and relationships. To me, these are the best. If you are in a troubled marriage, I would recommend trying a relationship book. These are some that helped us. There are also many other books out there. The main thing is, to find something that applies to your situation and let the wisdom help you to change and grow.
If you are in what seems like hopeless situation, don't give up. There is help out there. Reach out for support. Get counselling, if you can. If you are a believer, pray and study God's word. And get some resources. Do some reading.