I Love You Unconditionally...On One Condition: Everyday Choices for an Extraordinary Marriage
Joey O'Connor begins his latest book, I LOVE YOU UNCONDITIONALLY…ON ONE CONDITION comparing the challenges of marriage to the failed expedition to Mount Everest where several people died.
O'Connor uses this metaphor to make the point that marriages don't die attempting to scale the "marriage summit" but because of unrealistic expectations. Using Biblical examples, O'Connor explains that the most successful marriages are those in which each spouse's relationship with God is primary; their relationship to one another, secondary. "Spiritual identity is understanding that it's not all about you. It's not all about your spouse. It's not all about your marriage. It's understanding that God is at the center of all life…" Only in following God's example can we love one another unconditionally. Flip the page and read what happens when God is not the center of your marriage: "Loveless, transactional marriages. You give me what I want, and I'll give you what you want. As long as we both meet these mutual conditions, we can live in relative state of peaceful coexistence. Existence, but not love. Relationship based on conditional transactions. Companionship, but no deep connection."
Ouch. How many of us promised ourselves our marriage wouldn't be like our parents only to fast forward 10 years, find we're mired in diapers, carpools, deadlines, business trips and baby spit-up --- in other words, everyday life --- and we've lost that "Loving Feeling?" Loving your spouse unconditionally takes on a whole new meaning when a baby is screaming while you're trying to make dinner. Under those circumstances love means, "I'll love you if…you take out the garbage." O'Connor to the rescue, giving us wise, practical, Biblically-based advice on how to love your spouse the way God loves us.
His message is first-rate; his method needs improvement. Let me explain. O'Connor begins each chapter with overly chatty personal anecdotes that he eventually turns into the lesson of that particular chapter. Unfortunately, his anecdotes are so long-winded (and sometimes so silly) that I found myself skimming through them to get to the good stuff. Around the sixth chapter, I was asking, Did I read this already? Turning pages back, I answered my own question: the same two sentences show up twice. In O'Connor's defense, the repeating sentences make a very good point and one, I suppose, that bears repeating. Better editing would've helped this book immensely because once you get to the "good stuff" in each chapter, it really is good.
Statistically, we know that women are the ones who purchase and ultimately read the books written about relationships and improving one's marriage. It's clear that O'Connor understands his audience, sympathizes with them and more often than not, takes their side, referring to husbands sarcastically as "Immortal Beloved." What would've made this book even better is if O'Connor had given women more of an inside peek into a man's head, perhaps helping them to understand their husband's needs, struggles and what the heck they're thinking when we, as their spouses, think they're not.
I admit that as I got to the end of the book, his chatty banter started to grow on me in part because the stuff in the middle of each chapter is so insightful. For those going through marriage maelstrom, his message is clear: Ask what needs to be changed in your own heart instead of trying to fix your spouse and let God be your guide.
O'Connor not only asks the questions but gives the greatest answers.
Reviewed by Diana Keough on April 1, 2004