One year of marriage is under our, mine and my husband’s, belts, and we have learned A LOT. It is true: there is no marriage book that can prepare a couple for such an intimate institution. The reason being each couple is unique, and knowledge is easier learned than applied (in our experience). However, good books do help…and we had a lot of help from titles including: The Meaning of Marriage by Tim and Kathy Keller, The 5 Love Languages by Gary Chapman, 31 Days to a Happy Husband by Arlene Pellicane, and The Way We Love by Milan and Kay Yerkovich. There was a common thread in these and other titles, which was: in a great marriage both spouses are not self-seeking. Each looks out for the interests of the other person.
That is also a central theme in Team Us: Marriage Together (Moody Publishers, June 1, 2014) by debut book author Ashleigh Slater, the founder and editor of webzine Ungrind and contributor to online publications like startmarriageright.com, iBelieve.com, and The Time-Warp Wife. Slater does a superb job weaving in that important biblical advice with her unique style and voice.
In anticipation of reading Team Us, and even during the first pages, I expected this marriage advice guide to offer great reminders but, perhaps, nothing new. However, Slater exceeded my expectations as I found myself flipping page after page and before long was half-way through the book. The difference she makes is her presentation. Only a year into marriage myself, she felt like an older, light-hearted sister, sitting over coffee, discussing our marriages. Her husband, Ted, chiming in every now and then to give a man’s opinion.
Covering topics from extending grace to managing conflict to enduring trials, the 10 attention-keeping chapters include relatable illustrations—not only from Slater’s marriage but also from other couples, a bite-sized thought from Ted, and also a list of thought-provoking questions for the reader. My husband, Joe, and I talked about a few of the questions, a few we enjoyed answering were:
- “If you were to compare your marriage to any sport, what would it be and why…? (Slater shares her clever answer to this one)
- “Have either of you faced an unexpected disappointment?…Take a few minutes to talk about one of your disappointments.
- “In what ways has being married made you a richer individual?””
Craftfully using scripture that brings an appropriate somber tone to the light-heartedness and humor—a Christian marriage book without scripture is a like a biography without references-—Slater manages to bring some tough topics to the table while still encouraging readers in their marriages. And for this fairly new wife, her advice helped me to gain perspective on some of my own issues-—particularly regarding preferences.
In our marriage, Joe and I are learning each other’s differences–those differences that tend to surface some months into marriage. Going into marriage, I knew that we would have different preferences and I was ready to give mine up! Or so I thought. I had planned on doing exactly what the marriage books told me to do so asked myself: “What are some ways that I can put my husband first?” Here’s a few of those ways—make him dinner, plan fun outings, make sure to spend quality time with him, listen to his deep feelings etc. The problem is that these ways were not his ways they were my ways! Let me explain: Joe doesn’t actually enjoy all of the outings I plan, sometimes he would rather get some rest or be alone or hang out with friends, he doesn’t want to share deep feelings all too often (I’ve learned that the common advice “you can’t treat your husband like one of your girlfriends” is actually very true.) You see, I had decided on ways to love my husband…to put him first without actually thinking about his desires, his preferences. I’m not sure I even knew what many of them were until we started life together.
The chapter, “Yours, Mine, and Ours” explores some of these issues. The very first illustration deals with a fiction book that Slater loved . . . and that her husband had little to no interest in. I thought, “That’s me!” “That’s us!” Joe, a hard-working, analytical, movie watcher does not enjoy (enjoy is an understatement) fiction the way I do. In addition, a day getting lost in hiking trails is bliss for me. Joe, on the other hand, would much rather join a game of pick-up basketball or play golf. At first, I felt disappointed about these differences because I wanted him to get excited in the same way I was excited. Slater says on this topic,
We’re [Slater and Ted] finding that as we band together for the common good of our relationship, instead of focusing on the places where we feel disappointed or our likes rejected, it becomes easier for us to remember to appreciate, not despise the other’s uniqueness.”
She then goes on to give practical advice for embracing the other person’s individuality—I’ll let you dive into that on your own–and also urges the reading to think about a few action-steps toward getting out of your own comfort zone for the purpose of being a team player. The obvious answer, I suppose, would be to do something that he enjoys without the slightest bit of disappointment. The not so obvious answer and, perhaps, a more worthy lesson, would be that God does not desire for us to be guided by our emotions. When I am outside of my comfort zone, I can be easily disappointed, easily offended, and quick to speak sassy unloving words. It is God’s desire for wives to be outward focused because He is already enough. So, while, it is certainly wonderful to embrace the uniqueness in both ourselves and our spouse—God made us this way after all–to focus on preferences would be to miss out on all of the good that God intends for us as a marriage team.
In conclusion, it is easy to breeze through Team Us quickly because it is fun and conversational. It will be more helpful, though, to go through it slowly, answer the questions, and think about ways you can relate to the true stories dispersed throughout. While Slater’s genuine sharing and tried and tested tips can help couples at any stage in marriage, I find it particularly useful for new wives (Slater has much more experience as a wife than I do!). Light-hearted and genuine, Team Us is for both new wives and any couple that could use encouragement and motivation in marriage.