Not Another Marriage Book

I hate marriage books. I know that I probably shouldn’t admit that because it doesn’t sound very pastoral. But I’m just being honest. I love to read but I’ve never found a marriage book that I really enjoyed. While there are good books on the market and many find them helpful, I often find them too simplistic, formulaic, and superficial.

I say all this because I want you to know that it isn’t every day that I recommend a book on marriage. But here it goes: Paul Tripp’s What Did You Expect? Redeeming the Realities of Marriage is more than worth your time. And I haven’t even read half of it. In fact I’ve only read chapters 11 and 12. Part of the reason that I haven’t gotten through the whole thing is that I’ve had other reading obligations this summer but a big part of it is because I have still been thinking about what I read in those two chapters. I’m not ready to move on to the rest of the book quite yet.

Now Lynn Roush actually read the whole thing and wrote a more formal review of the book for Christianity Today. Please read her review to get a better feel for the book as a whole. Meanwhile I’m stuck considering what this book says about love in the context of marriage and the shortcomings that it reveals in me.

In chapter 12 Tripp defines love based on 1 John 4 this way: Love is willing self-sacrifice for the good of another that does not require reciprocation or that the person being loved is deserving. He then goes on to unpack each phrase and gives, by my count, 22 concrete descriptions of what that kind of love looks like in marriage.

A couple brief points based on this definition of love…

1. There is no love where there isn’t self-sacrifice. That gets my attention because I love ME and am very concerned about ME doing well and have developed life long habits of taking care of ME. Therefore self-sacrifice isn’t something that I do particularly well. This love thing is going to be hard.

2. Much of what I do that looks like love is really about ME. Tripp again gets my attention when he writes that love doesn’t require reciprocation. In other words love isn’t a “you scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours” bargain. But that’s how I am tempted to operate. Most of the time I keep this kind of motivation relatively well hidden. I don’t often say, “If you do this for me, then I’ll do that for you.” But even when it’s not said, I’m afraid that’s how I think.

But this isn’t loving my wife. It’s loving ME. If I “love” my wife with the hope that she’ll do something for me or if I “love” her because I think that she’s deserving (measured up to what I want her to be), then really I’m not loving her in any way that’s remotely Christlike. No, what I call loving my wife is really ME loving ME.

There’s so much more that could be said just about these two chapters much less the rest of the book. I’m looking forward to gaining the courage to read the rest of it and discovering more of what I need to learn.

If you are interested in reading it, you can buy it at The Crossing bookstore or your favorite internet retailer.

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