Wedding season is here! This is the time of year when many men and women decide to say "I do" to one another and embark on the adventure of matrimony. But while exciting for myriad reasons, it can also be a turbulent time of adjustment. Setting up a household and forging the most intimate of connections with another person takes tact, wisdom and, perhaps above all, patience. If only you could put those things on the registry in between the Egyptian cotton bath towels and the silver flatware.
Maybe you can.
THE SAVVY BRIDE’S ANSWER GUIDE is a slim volume that seeks to equip new wives with the tools they'll need to face the adjustments of marriage head-on. As the editors of the book point out, we live in a fast-food culture; we feel entitled to have what we want when we want it. And when we want it is usually immediately. But that's not how marriage works. Your spouse is not an on-demand menu item. And it's important to acknowledge distorted expectations so they don't quietly sabotage your relationship.
To this end, the book offers 30 short chapters covering topics on everything ranging from the big picture issue of what it means to be a wife to more mundane topics like dividing up the chores. Written by marriage and family therapists associated with Focus on the Family, each chapter offers punchy advice and often illustrations of their principles in action via stories of couples working through their own conflicts.
[It's worth noting that, as the affiliation with Focus on the Family suggests, the advice in the book is issued from a conservative theological perspective that puts emphasis on issues like male headship and wifely submission (in the first chapter) and the differences (rather than similarities) between genders and their appropriate roles.]
In his chapter about getting used to being two instead of just one, therapist Mitch Temple offers the following story about Nicole and Ted:
"Nicole had waited for many years to find the right man to spend the rest of her life with. At age 33, she met Ted. Within 13 months they were married in her hometown of Atlanta.
Though she was certain Ted was the man God had chosen for her, Nicole missed her independence. Often she felt sad, conflicted, confused --- wondering whether she'd made the wrong decision about marriage. She loved Ted and was thankful for him, realizing she couldn't have asked for a better man. But she struggled with having to give up her ‘alone time’ and sense of freedom.
After praying, studying the Bible, and getting direction from Christian friends, Nicole began to see that her feelings were normal and that most people experience them. She accepted the responsibility of honoring the relationship God had given her with Ted. Each day she made conscious efforts to enjoy her relationships with her new husband in the fullest sense.
Though she occasionally needed time alone, Nicole learned to think in terms of two instead of one. When tempted to do her own thing at Ted's expense, she resisted. When it would have been easy to plop down on the couch after a hard day's work, she spent time with her husband first. Ted responded in a similar way, and their marriage developed into a bond filled with joy and intimacy."
Temple follows up this story with practical principles to follow for those facing a similar struggle. If you guessed that the tone and format of this book skims the surface of the most significant marital challenges, you would be right. But what it lacks in depth, it makes up for in breadth, giving couples a starting place for dealing with conflict. Also, the sheer variety of issues addressed might have the positive effect of convincing newlyweds that they are not alone in their struggles and that different couples clash over different issues. It's not a sign that the marriage is a mistake; it’s just an invitation to grow and mature. Or to become savvy, as the case may be.
Reviewed by Lisa Ann Cockrel on February 20, 2008