[Book Review] Nine Thoughts That Can Change Your Marriage

“I have fed my children chocolate cake for breakfast, although I did so only because they saw me eating it first and it seemed fair. I don’t always dust. I go to McDonald’s too often. And I don’t order the salads.” Any woman who begins chapter one with such a confession, is a woman after my own heart. I don’t have children yet, but I eat chocolate cake for breakfast sometimes and I’m sure it’ll come up once we have kids. And living in Manila not only means easy access to McDonald’s, but we can order our food online and they deliver. I don’t think there’s even a salad on the menu.
Sheila Wray Gregorie ’s candor and research combined with her easy to read writing style make Nine Thoughts That Can Change Your Marriage a good addition to the stack of material on the subject. The book offers not only a collection of the author’s stories and experiences, but also a well-curated collection of stories from well-known books on marriage, friends, fellow bloggers, and conversations on her Facebook page. This factor makes the read flow more like a facilitated panel discussion than a lecture.
What sets Sheila apart from pile of marriage books I have in my collection is the overall structure of her book as well as her audience. Her audience, while not clearly defined by the title alone, is for married women. She speaks to the thoughts that women have in their marriage relationship, lies they believe, and struggles they face. The structure is set as such with each chapter focusing on one truth that often is contrary to what we believe as women, and often contrary to what culture tells us. But not only does the author pinpoint the lie we can so easily function out of, but she calls out the typical Christian pat-answer.

As an example of this, Thought #6 states: “I’m called to be a peacemaker, not a peacekeeper.” The advice that we sometimes hear is: “Fighting is poison to a marriage. Aim to live in peace instead. Avoid conflict at all costs.” She breaks down, throughout the chapter, the difference between a marriage that avoids conflict and a marriage that strives for peace through conflict. At the end of each section she provides action steps, conversation points to have together with your husband, and reflection and discussion questions at the end of the book.

As with any topic of such a complex nature, there are a couple of points where I have differing thoughts than the author. One point is the overgeneralization (though she claims that too!) of men:
“In general, [men] need two things: respect and sex … Obviously I’m overgeneralizing, but studies have shown repeatedly that it is often easier to make a woman feel loved.”

In my limited experience (I’ve only been married for a year), my husband is more complex than this simple explanation. Also, to claim that men need only these two things feels to me to be demeaning. If I was to add to the list, I would also say that men need: friendship, companionship, and alone time and space to have their own hobbies and interests. The media is quick to portray men as simple creatures, while women are the complex beings. I think this is also a dangerous lie that we need to be careful of and combat.

My other difference in thought is over the translation presented of the Greek word, “kephale.” In chapter five, Sheila writes that this word, usually translated in English as “head,” is here meant to more closely mean “source.” A new concept for me, I decided to look more into it which led me to articles of debate over the issue. While I don’t disagree entirely with the implications she presents in the book, I’m wary of the other implications the translation difference can make. Here are a few of the resources I found as I read more into the topic:

The message of Nine Thoughts That Can Change Your Marriage is best summarized by the following question:
“What if peace and joy are not dependent on someone else changing, but they instead flow from God giving us the ability to choose how to think, how to feel, and how to respond?”
I appreciate this challenge, being newly married and learning the art of communication loving well. I see this book as a launching pad for more conversations – for me with my husband as well as for me and the other women in my life. The stories shared in this book were encouraging and powerful and made me feel even more like a part of the Bride of Christ striving to be more like Jesus as I learn what that looks like within marriage. Thank you, Sheila, for your words, your courage in writing, and for your story.

I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review. For more information on this book and its author, connect with Sheila Wray Gregoire on her blog and follow her on Twitter @sheilagregoire.


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