Tuesday, December 30, 2014
The 7-Minute Marriage Solution by Stephen Arterburn (Book Review #124 of 2014)
7-Minute Marriage Solution, The: 7 Things to Start! 7 Things to Stop! 7 Minutes That Matter Most!
The book is divided into two sections, Seven Things to Stop and Seven Things to Start (pdf list). My wife and I read through this and did not watch the videos linked at the beginning of each chapter; we also did not notice the study guide at the end of the book, which takes you through two parallel chapters a session (one thing to stop, one thing to start) with discussion questions. Looking at Arterburn's website, there appears to be a host of videos with answers to commonly asked questions if you sign up.
My wife and I read through books on marriage regularly, and I think this one didn't really stand out as stellar for either of us. There are good principles that are found in most Christian books on marriage but much of the book is annoyingly repetitive. Spoiler alert: The 7-Minute aspect is not mentioned until the conclusion of the book, and it's making sure you do a (minimum) 7-minute devotional with your spouse every day. Scripture, meditation, discussion, and prayer. I'm not sure why he didn't include that at the beginning of the book, or in the chapters on what to begin doing if it's the most important thing. If you are looking for a simple book/study to do with your spouse or small group, then this one is simple enough; I'm just not sure it's worth paying much for. I'm pretty sure we would both rank put Love and Respect above this book in the recommended reading order, and I might also recommend Fun Loving You as the second half of this book focuses on proactive activities to express grace and focus on joy. Honestly, the best marriage book I read this year was the Journal of Best Practices by David Finch. That is a non-Christian look at a husband and wife trying to pursue real friendship, give up their expectations, and flesh out much of what is written in 7-Minute Marriage.
I personally appreciated the reminder in the book to "accept and celebrate the differences" between my wife and myself (p. 15). This point is reiterated in a few chapters, but it mostly relates back to "stop clinging to unrealistic expectations" (chapter 1), "stop trying to change your mate" (chapter 4), "start showing respect no matter what" (chapter 14).
Somewhat related, the most difficult advice for me was in not giving advice or pretending advice isn't criticism:
"Unsolicited advice comes from the same bag of unworkable tricks as criticism" (p. 45).
I struggle with this one because in the working world we have to do job evaluations. We need the critiques and advice of others we trust to improve our performance. I need to know if I'm doing something unacceptable or if someone thinks I could improve X by doing Y. That's more difficult in marriage, where men tend to want to "fix" problems or women entered the marriage dreaming of how they would change their mate. "When you married you stood at the altar, not the alter" (p. 44). "Rather than pray for God to change your spouse, pray that God would give you the supernatural ability to be more accepting of your spouse" (p. 49).
I enjoyed the chapter on anger. Anger is a symptom of entitlement, we get angry because the world isn't exactly as we want it. "Anger comes from having your expectations dashed, your standards violated, your wants unmet, or your desires frustrated. Your little castle of self is not to be breached" (p. 54). "The antidote to anger is humility" (p. 66). My wife and I have come to terms with working through our anger before discussing root causes and solutions later. Perhaps this book will help you do the same.
Kindness is also extremely important, as explained in the book. If you're more courteous than your overbearing boss and your annoying co-workers at work than you are with your family, then something is wrong. "As Christians we are called to treat each other with love, patience, and kindness. This call is meaningless if you treat the other with love and kindness only when you feel like it" (p. 57).
There are chapters on dealing with money and loving through past hurts, sins, and addictions. Oddly missing are points about the role of the church and the importance of support of and accountability to other Christian couples.
In all, I give this book 3 stars. Good, not great.