With today's high divorce rate, another book on gluing your marriage together is always welcome. Here, veteran relationship team Drs. Les and Leslie Parrott show how difficult problems can lead to deeper, more committed marriages in I LOVE YOU MORE (a re-issue of the earlier WHEN BAD THINGS HAPPEN TO GOOD MARRIAGES, 2001). While much of their advice will have a familiar ring to those who regularly read marriage self-help books, the idea of using negative marital circumstances to achieve a positive outcome makes this book stand out from the ordinary.
The Parrotts are perhaps best known for their Soul Mates Seminars and long-running output of books on marriage for Christian audiences. They speak with the experience of interactions with many married couples when they write, "No marriage --- no matter how good --- is immune to everyday problems." The very problems that seem to threaten marital happiness, they believe, are actually the "tipping point" for deeper love between a husband and wife. Sound counter-intuitive? Read on....
Contrary to romantic belief, love is not enough to make a happy marriage. Neither is shared faith. (Oklahoma, they point out, the buckle of the Bible belt, has one of the highest divorce rates in the United States). Don't get them wrong --- love and faith are important. But a good marriage is built by two people's capacity to adjust to negative things. The bankruptcy you didn't expect. The child who is born disabled. The affair you thought you'd never have. The depression that incapacitates your spouse. "We have staked everything on this person we marry," they write. "...And we eventually learn this person is not what we expected, or at least what we wished."
The Parrotts like to break things down into manageable bites of information. They list five possibilities that contribute to marital problems, including idealistic couples with unfulfilled expectations, restless couples who have not examined, contented couples who have not tapped into their unskilled potential, couples who make unhealthy choices, and unpredictable circumstances.
Much of marriage is about attitude, the authors caution, adding that a good attitude is your most important marital asset. "Good attitudes open the double doors of marriage for optimism to do its work... without optimism, couples see no way out of their negative circumstances," they write. They offer four steps to turn around a bad attitude: look for the positive, refuse to be a victim, give up your grudges, and give yourself and your marriage some grace. A sure sign of a good marital attitude is when you are not only willing to go the first mile, but also go the extra mile in your marriage, the "extra-mile principle."
The Parrotts also list "six subtle saboteurs" that can deep-six a marriage: busyness, irritation, boredom, drift, debt, and pain from the past. Practically, the Parrotts offer readers the five "most important" tools a marriage needs to successfully battle everyday problems. Who could resist? Not this reader. The five (not so easy) steps they recommend are: Ownership --- taking responsibility for the good as well as the bad; Hope --- believing that good wins over bad; Empathy --- walking in your partner's shoes; Forgiveness --- healing the hurts you don't deserve; and Commitment --- living the love you promised. They conclude the book with an overview of learning to speak your spouse's spiritual language, partially drawn from Gary Thomas's must-read book, SACRED PATHWAYS. The Parrotts believe that marriage is a spiritual discipline. "A stronger marriage is a side effect of learning to love God --- together."
One thing to be aware of: If you buy this book, the publisher has ensured you'll want to purchase at least one of the accompanying husband or wife workbooks by directing readers to do exercises from it throughout the text. In some ways, this feels a little like a marketing gimmick to sell more books. However, there are questions for reflection included at the end of each chapter, so the book will stand on its own without the additional workbooks.
Reviewed by Cindy Crosby on November 13, 2011