I don’t read many books on marriage, particularly Christian books on marriage, for one reason – they are often judgmental about people who have been divorced. As someone who has been divorced and has been judged, dismissed, or condescended to by people who have no idea the pain or struggle of that experience, I’m careful what I read about that topic. Sadly, in my faith tradition, it’s not irregular to find people presuming that divorce is a result of selfishness or infidelity, laziness or lack of commitment. Often, Christians overlook or downplay things like neglect, addiction, and abuse of all sorts as a reasonable – and Biblical – reason for divorce.
So I was delighted to find that in Dorothy Greco’s forthcoming book Making Marriage Beautiful, this was not the case. In fact, Greco doesn’t speak of divorce at all, which is fitting since she is not divorced herself. But when issues of addiction or abuse or trauma arise, she is quick to advise professional help, and she wisely steers clear of advising on whether someone should or should not stay in a marriage. I was grateful for that.
In fact, this book was honest, humble, and helpful in a way that many self-help books are not. There is no condescension here, no judgment – just vulnerable story-telling and gentle guidance.
The Potential for Beauty
The thing I appreciate most about Greco’s book is that it holds as its bedrock the possibility that a marriage can be fulfilling, rewarding, and, yes, beautiful without sugar-coating the very hard, very human, very broken challenges of being partnered with another person. By revealing her own struggles and those of her husband (told only with his permission), Greco paints a realistic and hopeful picture of what marriage is and can be.
Greco and I do not agree on a few things – that a marriage must be between a man and a woman, for example – and our understandings of some of the tenets of our shared faith do not always align, but because of her humility and generosity in the advice she gives, I still found myself inspired, encouraged, and challenged by her wisdom.
I also greatly appreciated that she includes the stories of a number of other couples and that these stories come from people of diverse ethnic, socio-economic, and age backgrounds. She avoids the pitfall of writing only about middle-class white people, which was wise and helpful.
A Writer’s Eye View
It is Greco’s vulnerability that stands out here to me. It is easy, in a book of our own advice, to pull ourselves up onto a pedestal and speak down to the readers as if we are above struggles. It is also possible to fall into a mire of self-deprecation as we try to avoid the pedestal. But Greco holds a good line here – speaking with the authority of 30 years as a marriage counselor and with the humbleness of someone who lives the challenges of a marriage herself. She admits her own failings but without dragging us into the desperate moments of those hard days.
I also found the structure of the book to be quite appealing: 11 chapters, each with a different theme and each with a story from another couple to help deepen the reader’s understanding of the topic. Greco then comes back to her own marriage to close the chapter before including thought-provoking questions to help us think about our partnerships.
If you a Christian in a partnership you love and want to find ways to make better or if you’re writing a self-help book and want to see a model of how to balance vulnerability and authority and use a wise structure, I definitely recommend this book.
You can pre-order your copy – the book is being released on January 1 – at:
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