Even the best marriages can use a little brush up now and then. That’s where 21 Days to a Great Marriage: A Grownup Approach to Couplehood, by Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend, comes in. This easy-to-read book offers a handy guide to touch up any areas of your relationship that you may have let slide --- even the smallest notch.
Cloud and Townsend cover all the basics of marriage --- even some of those we forget as the years go by. They challenge readers to grow not only in their relationship but also in their personal and spiritual lives. They open with a simple but profound quote:
“When I was single, I was unhappy and insecure. Then I married Ron and became married, unhappy and insecure.”
The authors challenge the notion that happiness is the goal of marriage, suggesting that a much better goal is growth. One of the byproducts is happiness. They point out that the emotional and spiritual growth process that naturally happens in a marriage is God-given. Through marriage we discover where we are empty as well as where we are broken and how much we need God and others. In the process, we find contentment, maturation and healing. When the focus of our lives becomes growth, we can’t help but find happiness.
Throughout the book, Cloud and Townsend steer readers away from unhealthy patterns such as co-dependence, selfishness and fighting to be right.
Now no marriage book would be complete without addressing the topic of sex. The authors challenge couples to take sex beyond the bedroom through healthy communication, exercise, honesty and support. They encourage couples to remove any unhealthy pressure of performance and set aside time to make love.
One of the most challenging and helpful chapters asks readers to deal with hurt as it happens in their relationship. Cloud and Townsend point out that great marriages are not the ones in which there is no pain, but rather those in which pain is accepted as part of the package. The result is that the couple consciously becomes better at processing pain and resolving conflict.
Designed for marriages of all lengths and depths, 21 Days to a Great Marriage is ideal for those in good marriages as well as those who are scrambling for answers in their relationship. The short chapters can be enjoyed in once-a-day portions over a three-week period, used during a romantic weekend away, or enjoyed during a group study over several months.
Each chapter ends with a section of “Think about It, Talk about It, Live It,” which provides insightful questions for self-reflection as well as discussion. In addition, there’s a “Great Marriage Commitment” closing to help readers identify a specific area of growth and prayer.
Whether you’ve been married for years or about to tie the knot, 21 Days to a Great Marriage is a practical quick read that strengthens even the best of marriages.
Reviewed by Margaret Feinberg on October 3, 2006