Help for Your Marriage in the Age of COVID19 and Other Problems

Often books on marriage focus on the fundamental problems in a marriage. They are written to help couples process issues from their past and correct bad attitudes and habits. Over the years, I have reviewed many books on marriage written by Christians. Rarely do they address what happens to a basically good marriage when it is barraged by problems from outside of the marriage itself.

With the COVID19 quarantine and the stresses that have accompanied it, many people with otherwise good marriages may suddenly find themselves struggling a bit. Ironically, a new book I was asked to review may be that extra help many marriages need right now.

Staying Power: Building a Stronger Marriage When Life Sends Its Worst by Carol & Gene Kent and Cindy & David Lambert is the practical guidebook you need to read to give your marriage the extra help it might need during this crisis.

This book was written well before anyone had even heard of COVID19. The authors wrote it for families who are faced with major trauma, not caused by any of their personal decisions. They share the stories of couples facing serious illness, incarceration of a child, death of a child, infertility, children involved in drug abuse, job loss and more. The types of outside events that can put strain on even the best of marriages.

The book is broken down with each chapter recommending a specific tool for helping your marriage thrive in adversity. Each chapter is full of practical suggestions that would help any marriage, but especially those experiencing stress. There are questions at the end of each chapter couples could discuss to bring them even closer emotionally in a tough time.

One of the best parts of the book is the appendix, which gives additional concrete suggestions for several specific issues like a financial crisis or eldercare. Every bit of advice in the book is extremely concrete and easy to understand. Since the book was written for marriages that are normally healthy, one would suppose the suggestions would be not only welcomed, but also used by readers.

The book is from a Christian perspective, but is not a Bible study. It does refer to enough godly principles and scripture, that Christians will find it generally aligns with their beliefs. The real life examples are relatable and make the book an interesting read woven through the practical suggestions.

This book should become a classic – if for no other reason than the advice is solid and there are very few marriage books like it. In this time of COVID19 and other problems, you may want to read a copy now…while you have the time.

This book was given to me for free in exchange for my honest review.

Raising the Challenging Child

If your child is challenging, it may be hard for you to figure out why. It’s easy to become frustrated as the situation seems to get worse instead of better with every new thing your try. Raising the Challenging Child: How to Minimize Meltdowns, Reduce Conflict and Increase Cooperation by Buckwalter, Reed and Sunshine claims to have the solutions you need.

Unfortunately, I’m not so sure they do. The book is a bit tricky to review. On the surface, many of their principles make sense. When they start giving specific suggestions for how to put those principles into practice though, things begin to fall apart.

While some suggestions are fine, others would only serve to make the situation worse. They may work if your child is already well behaved and your relationship is healthy. This book, however, is billed as one that will help parents who are struggling with raising a challenging child.

Advice like “try to say no as little as possible” and urging parents to make sure their child’s “bank account” is full of them saying “yes” to the child, so things will be okay when they finally decide to deny their child something is a bit concerning.

And it doesn’t stop there. My child was given plenty of room to make her own choices, but the authors make it seem as if you can’t cook a meal or make any decisions without giving your child the decisive power in multiple ways. Page after page of their suggestions, left me feeling that their solution to raising a challenging child is to let him or her become entitled and selfish.

Yes, their principles say otherwise, but the suggestions read like a very passive parent who gives in to keep their children happy. I just kept wondering what children raised with their suggestions will do when confronted with a boss who doesn’t want to hear their opinion on everything or constantly praise their every breath.

This book may be okay for some parents. For those with challenging children, I would suggest looking into books by people like James Dobson instead.

This book was given to me for free in exchange for my honest review.

Managing Worry and Anxiety

If anything can cause someone to worry or become anxious, it is parenting. Yet one of the most common phrases in scripture is “Fear not.” God knows our fallen world can be a scary place, but He wants us to not live our lives constantly wrapped in a blanket of fear. He wants us to put our trust in Him and fear not.

What do you do though when you can’t seem to shake those worries and anxieties? Managing Worry and Anxiety by Jean Holthaus LISW, LMSW addresses that very question. The book reads somewhat like a textbook on worry and anxiety – covering brain science and other secular basics of the problem.

Once she moves into the practical solutions part of the book, she addresses the faith aspects along with familiar secular solutions. The faith piece of the book is practical without being the type of book that can feel more emotional than helpful. It’s also not intended to be a Bible study. There are few specific scripture references, although she does refer to God, faith and a few verses.

The author shares some personal experiences in the book, but the book doesn’t read like a story. Rather, she uses her experiences to give specific examples of some of the points she is making.

Much of the information in the book will be familiar to anyone who has done any reading on brain science, anxiety or worry. She did have several practical suggestions though, that I hadn’t seen before. For some, those suggestions could make it worth reading.

This book is a solid introduction to worry and anxiety for Christians. It incorporates faith without laying blame or adding unnecessary guilt to the equation. If you are attempting to understand anxiety and want some practical tools to try, this is a good book to read.

This book was given to me for free in exchange for my honest review.

Making Time to Parent Well

One of the most common reasons we give for not doing all of the Christian parenting things we know we should be doing is that there just isn’t enough time. And some weeks that is true. When everyone is sick with a nasty virus and three major things have broken down all in the same week, you are in survival mode at best.

The rest of the weeks we parent though, our lack of time is often because our priorities are wrong or we lack time management skills or some other factor that we can control. We aren’t always quite sure where to turn for advice on things like time management. It seems most of the books focus on employment tasks, not things impacting our homes and families.

Morgan Tyree has sought to help with her new book, Take Back Your Time. It’s a time management system that has some unique aspects that separate it from others I have seen over the years. While some of the beginning chapters have a lot of general organizational tips, it’s in the heart of the book where she introduces her somewhat unique system.

I won’t try to summarize her system, but it basically involves understanding your most and least productive times and ordering your tasks accordingly. It’s a bit more complex than that, but not so complex that the reader will become frustrated and quite trying.

Having said that, her technique does involve some paperwork – at least in the beginning. She includes sample forms, which are too small to be very usable, but are easily replicated.

As a fairly organized person who manages my time better than many, I can see where her techniques could be very helpful for those who struggle. Once you get used to the system, it should become easy to do without a lot of forms – perhaps a color coded to do list instead.

I actually appreciate the thought behind her system and may add some aspects of it to my schedule. I already do that unintentionally at times, but I think doing it intentionally would have a more positive impact on both my productivity and my guilt.

If you struggle with time management, I think this book can provide you with a helpful framework. If you are trying to squeeze a little more productivity out of an already productive life, her methods may be able to help you do that. It’s definitely a book worth reading to see if it will work for you.

This book was given to me for free in exchange for my honest review.

Words of Affirmation for Your Spouse

Part of having a strong marriage is knowing what to say (and what not to say) to your spouse. Husbands and wives can struggle with it – especially if words of affirmation are not your love language.

Matt and Lisa Jacobson have written two volumes, 100 Words of Affirmation Your Wife Needs to Hear and 100 Words of Affirmation Your Husband Needs to Hear in an attempt to help.

It’s important to let you know this isn’t literally a book of 100 words! Each “word” is actually a word highlighted in a sentence of affirmation. After each sentence the author gives an explanation or a suggestion to go with the affirmation. Each entry is still less than a page long.

In general, the “words” are probably what most spouses would appreciate hearing more often. I have to say though, my love language is not words of affirmation. While I enjoy compliments, a few of these sounded a little cheesy or over the top to me. For those who adore words of affirmation though, the suggestions will probably sound like music to your ears.

I’m not sure if these books can transform a bad marriage, but they could probably help make a good marriage better. Often it’s forgetting those little things we did when dating that begin causing cracks in the foundations of a marriage. A refresher course like these books can often help.

These books were given to me for free in exchange for my honest review.