My general policy toward marriage books is, as with other genres, to take the good and leave the weird. I will say that the beginning of Gary Thomas’s Sacred Influence: How God Uses Wives to Shape the Souls of Their Husbands was so weird I nearly put the book down for good. In discussing the concept of “functional fixedness” – how people aren’t motivated by your pain, but by their own – the author seemed to indicate that women should leave their husbands if they refused to change on any number of fronts. That seemed unbiblical to me, but I’m glad I kept on reading because Thomas did clear up what he meant later on. I mention that because if you pick up this book you might have the same reaction to the beginning that I did and then miss the good stuff in the rest of the book.
In the rest of the book, I thought Thomas did a good job of giving a husband’s perspective on how a wife can best affect change in a marriage (hint: it’s not by nagging or moping around a lot), mixed with Scripture and references to biological and neurological reasons why men and women are different. I learned some helpful facts, such as: men require seven hours to process emotional information, and that processing emotional information is cathartic and energizing for women but takes a physical toll on men.
The book contains sections on how to make sure your own heart is right before you go trying to change your husband, how to understand your husband better, and then a series of chapters on specific problems such as men who are angry all the time, who work too much, who are unfaithful, or who are unbelievers or not mature believers. If you’re dealing with any of those issues, this book might be helpful for you, but you might get more out of a more in-depth treatment of the particular issue you’re facing, rather than a quick overview chapter.
Overall, while this is not the best book on marriage I’ve ever read, I did get some good things from it and I think it is good for me to keep focused on strengthening my marriage through reading helpful books. If you’re like me and you enjoy reading and thinking about how to make your marriage better, you would probably find some good points in Sacred Influence, but if you only have time for one or two marriage references, I would probably steer you elsewhere.
Now someone is probably going to ask me “OK, which are the best two marriage books you’ve read, and I will have to think about that some more and get back to you. 🙂
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