Drawing Heaven Into Your Marriage, by H. Wallace Goddard, was a wedding gift to me and my husband. It took me a while (read: two years) to get around to reading it, but I liked it. In fact, I should have read it sooner. I probably would have avoided some first-year marriage issues.
Goddard is LDS, and he uses Christian doctrine to teach about the principles of marriage. The book would be easiest for an LDS (Mormon) couple to understand, but the principles are applicable, regardless of religious beliefs. His basic argument is that if you’ve got troubles in your marriage, it’s probably you.
Now, it’s not that Goddard actually thinks that you’re the only problem. You’re reading a book on improving your marriage. Clearly, you’re trying to be a part of the solution. But Goddard points out that most of the people who come to him for marriage advice want to find a way to get their partner to change what they’re doing. We can’t change each other, Goddard says. We can only change ourselves and accept the other person, flaws and all. If your spouse is good enough for Jesus to give His life for, maybe you should start looking for the positive in him.
I occasionally felt like he put too much emphasis on the self, and not enough emphasis on clearly communicating expectations. If my husband doesn’t know it bugs me when he leaves his dishes in the bedroom, it might help to tell him. But Goddard points out that it would take the same amount of time to pick up the dishes myself.
The book does address clear communication, and adds a caveat for those in actually abusive situations, near the end. I would like to see that earlier on. But for the most part, the book gave me a good, solid reminder to swallow my pride and remember that my husband frequently overlooks the things I do that bug him – and I don’t even notice. I got defensive a few times, thinking, “Goddard, it’s not all my fault!” And then I thought, “Well, if I’m reading a self-help book, it ought to be about me.”
I would recommend this book to anyone in a long-term relationship, especially those that are struggling, unless it’s abusive. If it’s abusive, get out. If it’s good, bad, irritating to the core, poisoned by spite, malice, infidelity, etc., then read this book. It won’t teach you how to heal your marriage specifically, but it will help you learn the skills you need to do it. And if you’re religious at all, it will point you to God’s help in the process. ♦