Our Sunday Visitor Publishing Division, Huntington, Ind., 2009; $4.95
Because “difficult times visit every marriage,” the goal of “Stress-Proof Your Marriage” is to strengthen couples “so that when life’s challenges happen, [a] marriage will bend, not break.”
The authors, Cory and Heidi Busse, are a married couple who “feel qualified to give marital advice not because our marriage has been perfect, but because we’ve had our own challenges.” The couple’s writing and editing backgrounds appear to have served them well in developing a readable, useful little book.
The Busses express concern that “images of love and marriage today reinforce the idea that real love is easy” and that “experiencing hardship means you’ve married the wrong person.” The reality is, however, that a wife and husband remain “human beings” who make mistakes, argue and let each other down.
Of course, if a marriage is not a “constant honeymoon,” these authors do not find it “all gloom and dirty dishes either.” I enjoyed the book’s chapter on laughter. The authors regard laughter as beneficial to human health. And “doing things that are good for your health is tantamount to doing things that are good for your marriage,” they say.
Note, however, that the Busses advise spouses to “laugh with” and never to “laugh at” each other. The authors also caution that teasing does not always fall into the category of humor. “Before you tease, check the intent and the content of what you’re about to say,” they write.
This book is presented by the authors as a “30-minute read.” But I suspect that after 30 minutes, most readers will just be nearing the book’s midpoint. Nonetheless, this is a book that won’t require a large time commitment by the reader. I wonder, though, if some would benefit from spreading their reading out over a few days – perhaps reading and reflecting on just a couple of chapters at a time.
The book’s 10 chapters constitute a sort of checklist of important points for married couples to bear in mind – points, perhaps, that over time receive less attention than they deserve in the rush and routine of a couple’s daily life.
For example, “Stress-Proof Your Marriage” reminds spouses that it is important for them to eat together and that doing so affects their health and well-being in positive ways. That sounds like an easy-to-follow guideline, but how many couples find themselves eating fewer and fewer meals together as a “busy, overstressed” lifestyle takes its toll?
Eating together is an opportunity for a wife and husband to connect with each other and to “learn something new” about each other, the Busses suggest. They find that “meals together foster warmth, security and love, as well as feelings of belonging” in a family.
One chapter in the book encourages couples to “swallow hard and talk seriously about money.” At the same time, it calls attention to reports that a majority of married couples do not make decisions together when it comes to “day-to-day finances.”
Some of the reasons couples resist talking about their money and its use are pointed out. “We attach a lot of emotion to money,” the authors note.
Their insights on developing a household budget are helpful. A good budget demands that couples rigorously track their spending, the Busses explain. But if a budget is truly going to help a couple, it also will be essential that they reach a measure of agreement on what they consider priorities.
A wife and husband need to find ways of balancing their continued growth as individuals with the growth of their marriage, the Busses believe. They stress that in pursuing personal interests, a wife or husband must avoid the temptation to become self-absorbed. “Whatever we do on our own should build up our marital bond, not tear it down,” they write.
Talking together, enjoying leisure time together, arguing in effective ways and praying together: These are just a few more important points of discussion on the Busses’ checklist for married couples.
“Simply sitting together in silence can be a prayer,” the authors state. However, since contemporary life tends to be busy and noisy, this “silence can easily be mistaken for boredom,” they observe. They insist, though, that it is important “to embrace quiet time together and allow some room in … marriage to listen for God’s voice.”