“Mawage, that bwessed awangment, that dweam wifin a dweam,” says our favorite clergyman. Indeed on a day like Valentine’s Day, marriage is what brings us together.
But how do we prepare for a marriage? And how do we make it successful?
If you ask your married friends, they’re likely to ramble on about how marriage is “hard work” and something about “good communication,” whatever that means. Ask your church leaders, and they’re likely to say “just rely on Christ.” Yes, marriage is hard and we absolutely we need to rely on Christ, but these responses are just ideas. And we need tools. How do we communicate effectively? And how do we rely on Christ, not just individually but as a couple?
Luckily, by seeking out the “best books” and “words of wisdom”, we can collect the tools and resources we need to cultivate a fulfilling Christ-centered marriage. Here are some great reads for the severely single, the anxiously engaged, and the already married.
The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work
The first fight my friend had with her now husband was days before their wedding. When she told me this, my first thought was, Dang, I’m screwed. At that time, my boyfriend and I wanted to get married, but we were fighting all the time. Surely if we were to get married, we were doomed to fail.
Then I read The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work: A Practical Guide from the Country’s Foremost Relationship Expert by John Gottman Ph.D. and Nan Silver. Dr. Gottman has been studying what makes marriages both succeed and fail longer than I have been alive. From his research, he has found that how often a couple fight does not predict divorce. Rather, it is how a couple argues that puts their marriage in jeopardy.
Learning this insight helped me learn better ways to communicate my frustration, anger, and sadness, emotions common to any relationship. After reading this book, marriage seemed much more doable and I felt more confident in my ability to cultivate a healthy marriage—even if we do fight.
In addition to conflict resolution, this book also tackles other hot topics like in-laws, kids, finances, sex, and maintaining your friendship. For other marriage books, apps, and articles check out The Gottman Institute website.
1001 Questions to Ask Before You Get Married
1001 Questions uses real-life scenarios “to help couples discuss their compatibility and plans for their future,” writes author Monica Mendez Leahy. From daily routine to pet peeves, vacations to in-laws, and raising kids to saving money, this book covers every marital issue under the sun—and beyond.
When I went through this book with my soon-to-be fiance, I tried to use this book as an end-all test to see if we were compatible enough to get married. The attempt failed miserably because the purpose of the book is not to see how many you answer similarly, but why you responded to questions differently.
It’s an opportunity to learn more about your significant other—how they think, what they like, and how much they hate vacuuming or going to museums. And it turned out that we agreed more than we than disagreed. Nuptial anxiety assuaged (for now).
Whether you get 1001 Questions or one its many variations, you’ll be glad you did so. It’s a fun and easy way to facilitate important conversations with your special human.
And They Were Not Ashamed: Strengthening Marriage through Sexual Fulfillment
While looking for a book about marriage (not this one), I came across an interesting comment in the reviews section. This person expressed relief that it wasn’t one of those books that talked about “intimacy” (Mormonese for sex). Did you or a Mormon you know grow up knowing nothing about sex? Don’t worry—you are not alone. Latter-day Saints sometimes struggle to have gospel-centered conversations about sex, so they often opt for no conversations.
But there’s a book for that! LDS sex therapist Laura M. Brotherson wrote And They Were Not Ashamed to help LDS couples have healthy conversations about sex and ultimately have more fulfilling sex lives.
This book explores negative sexual conditioning, differences between men and women, the different types of intimacy, and even some sexy biology.
For some, reading a book about sexual intimacy before marriage might be uncomfortable, but as Brotherson says, knowledge is power.If you want to prepare for marriage holistically, you have to broach the bedroom. And They Were Not Ashamed is one of those books that can help. Future married you will be exceedingly grateful.
Just like a mission, career, or becoming a parent, marriage is something we should prepare for. These books will teach you different things, but they seem to align with the Lord’s teaching: marriage is something we need to work at, care for, and protect.
My friends and coworkers also recommended a few more good reads to aid you in marriage preparation:
- You and Me Forever: Marriage in Light of Eternity by Francis Chan & Lisa Chan
- Between Husband and Wife: Gospel Perspectives on Marital Intimacy by Stephen E. Lamb M.D. & Douglas E. Brinley Ph.D.
- The Proper Care and Feeding of Marriage by Dr. Laura Schlessinger
- Personal Finances (part of the Church’s Self-Reliance Initiative)
- Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus: The Classic Guide to Understanding the Opposite Sex by John Gray, Ph.D.
- Attached: The New Science of Adult Attachment and How it Can Help You Find—And Keep— Love by Amir Levine and Rachel Heller