Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Love That Lasts: Where Marriage Meets Grace, by Gary & Betsy Ricucci


A fairly solid book on marriage from a biblical perspective. The Ricuccis walk through the biblical roles of husbands and wives, set out the benefits of good communication (and some common pitfalls), and offer practical advice for injecting romance into your relationship and improving your sex life (the two are connected by not necessarily synonymous). There wasn't much here that was terribly earth-shattering for me, though of course some of this stuff will be new to many readers. But if you've sat under biblical teaching in a good church for any length of time, you are likely familiar with the bulk of the material in this book.

Which is not to say that the book is unnecessary. Loads of Christian couples struggle with gender roles, good communication, and physical intimacy. Even those who "know" the truths in this book still need the reminder to apply them.

Though billed as a guide for married and engaged couples, this book would probably be more helpful for couples who are already married (rather than those who are merely engaged to be so). Some of the "assignments" are inappropriate for couples who are not yet married (and not just the sex ones, either--some of the communication and gender role stuff needs to be reserved for marriage). There are (and should be) limits on communication outside of marriage, and submission and loving leadership look markedly different before and after the wedding.

While I am admittedly ignorant and inexperienced (never having been married myself), I was quite discouraged by the wives' section of the chapter on sexual intimacy. The authors seemed to devote the bulk of the section to encouraging wives to try to enjoy sex even though it often seems like a chore--to be willing to be intimate even though you don't want to or aren't in the mood. There were a few nods to wives who might wish for a more active sex life (though I don't recall anything in the husbands' section encouraging them to serve their wives by being intimate even when they (the men) aren't in the mood), but the dominant perspective was clearly "We know you don't want to, but trust us, you should." How sad!

I mean, yes, I realize this is the stereotype--a perpetually horny husband and an exhausted/disinterested wife--and like all stereotypes it has some basis in reality. But presenting it as the norm for married women makes it seem like it is some how inevitable, that all wives lose interest in sex over time. Granted, the authors acknowledge that sometimes this disinterest is connected to the husband's failure to serve his wife well, opting to pursue only his own sexual gratification with no regard for her needs. But overall, the book seems to take it for granted that wives by and large have little interest in sex and have to be talked into giving it a shot.

Of course, this book was written to help fix a problem--unhealthy marriages--so it's not terribly surprising that the authors focus on common problems that occur in that context. They want to encourage those who are struggling, and ignoring the reality of wives too tired or distracted to desire sex serves no one. They want to offer hope to all, even those for whom sex is just another duty. But as someone who is not yet married, the bottom line seems to be "enjoy being a newlywed, because in no time flat, you will be afflicted with 'headaches' 5 nights a week or more." And that's incredibly sad, and ultimately not what God designed marriage to look like.

Still, the Ricuccis offer sound biblical advice and counsel for those seeking to rectify unhealthy marriages. Most importantly, they base the entirety of their approach on the gospel. When you start and end with the gospel, it's hard to go wrong.

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