Down the rabbit hole of über-Christian marriage advice: Do I really have to be spiritual to have a strong connection to my partner?

Guest post by Zoë
Etsy seller CosmicLibrary says, “This unusual book has a wonderfully skewed view on love and matrimony – it was authored by a reverend well over 100 years ago.”

Wedding porn is fun. I like it. But it’s everywhere, and you know what I crave more of? Marriage advice. I want to read inspiring things about how to have a happy relationship.

Relationships are something I’m interested in, and I like to think about mine. And it makes me feel appreciative of my partner. But, come to find out, a lot of marriage and relationship advice is religious — which is one thing I am not.

I started a Pinterest board called “Marriage” to accompany my wedding board (okay, boards, but who’s counting?). In my quest, I found The Happy Wives Club. I bought her book. I happily read stories about couples who had been married for decades and shared advice. I basked in the positive view of marriage, since so often the cultural narrative is like “Yeah, it’s the ball and chain, you’re going to be miserable!” And then she got down to distilling her principles for a happy marriage, and ends up saying “I’ve never met an atheist with a happy personal life.” Essentially, you have to be (a certain kind of) Christian to have a happy marriage. Ouch.

I also found this wedding magazine called Inspire Weddings and Marriage. It’s the only wedding magazine I’ve found that also covers the marriage after the party. I think it must be a Southern thing, and I couldn’t find their website, just an outdated Facebook page, but it’s FULL of content and gives advice on how to have a happy marriage, too, which I love. The one problem I have with it is that it’s exceedingly religious. Like it contains Bible quotes instead of ads, casual references to the “Christ-centered” marriage, and stories of couples who “courted” instead of dating. Unlike Happy Wives Club, it doesn’t explicitly say that good marriages are reserved for Christians, but it’s hard not to get the message that The Way to have a happy marriage is by “focusing on Christ.”

Even the seemingly secular content has some sort of religious background. The 5 Love Languages: The Secret to Love That Lasts was interesting and I found it to be a helpful mental exercise. But guess what? The author is a pastor, and that reflects in at least some of his writing. A lot of similarly touted relationship books are the same.

And then there’s the SUPER-DUPER-ULTRA-CONSERVATIVE CHRISTIAN content that tells readers to abstain from sex until marriage and be a helpmate to one’s husband. I read that too. But I won’t get into it here.

My partner and I are atheists, so I feel a little confused when some of this stuff resonates with me. I’ve been reading it because I enjoy reading things that make me think about our relationship and how to keep it strong. But all of it is supposed to be “Christ-centered.” Do I really have to be a Christian or otherwise spiritual to have a strong connection to my partner? Do I have to pray to a deity in order to be a good wife and build up my husband? Should I convert in order to save my marriage!? (Okay, I’m exaggerating.)

I continue to read such things. I just tune out the bits I don’t like that are based on religion. So “submit to your husband” is reinterpreted as something like “trust your partner’s judgment.” Am I betraying my beliefs by continuing to read? Can I just ignore the central message of all this stuff?

Hopefully it’s obvious that I’m not judging those who are deeply Christian. That’s great. Obviously I find value in some of those messages, even if I don’t buy the underlying principle of God existing. Otherwise I wouldn’t get my relationship advice fix from those sources.

I understand that there is secular marriage advice, which is similar advice with the religion left out. And yes, atheism is lack of belief, so it makes sense that atheist marriage advice would just be marriage advice without religion. But I feel like there’s room for advice specific to non-religious folks. Like how to build community. Or where find married couple role models. Or how get free/cheap marriage counseling without going through a church.

Anyone know of atheist marriage books, blogs, etc? Any other thoughts about religion or the lack there-of and marriage advice?

Comments on Down the rabbit hole of über-Christian marriage advice: Do I really have to be spiritual to have a strong connection to my partner?

  1. “I’ve never met an atheist with a happy personal life”

    Wow, that stings! Then again, happy atheists might just be stearing clear of that lady althogether…

    I’ve read of a few posts here that good polyamourous relationship advice books have a lot of things that would apply to a 2 people relationship too. Haven’t read them yet. But then again, that would also have a lot of content that might not apply to your situation.

    I’ve found The Happiness Project, by Gretchen Rubin, while not essentially about marriage, has a lot of useful tidbits about how to reframe your point of view on your relationships (including marriage) and how you derive happiness from them.

    I’ll be following that post since I’me having a hard time finding non-religious marriage advice as well. I’m really curious to know what other Homies have in their marriage library.

      • I was raised in a super Christian environment, and our family’s whole social life revolved around church, as did the social lives of most of the people who knew well enough to talk to about anything remotely personal. I always get cracked up when I hear proselytizers say anything about atheists as though they’ve learned it through personal experience. Yeah… ok…. sure 🙂

        • I had a very odd first date with this guy. I have no clue how we got on the topic but for some reason it came up that I wasn’t baptized. His response was that he had never met anyone that wasn’t baptized and then he added that his mother would expect his children to be baptized even though he previously said he was not religious. I highly doubt that he hasn’t met anyone that wasn’t baptized since he has probably met people who are not Chritian living where we do.

    • How many atheists do these Christians know? My family is super fundamental Christian, and I would say that they know 1 atheist at most, so I don’t know where they get this “I’ve never met an atheist who isn’t happy,”….well, maybe if you didn’t spend so much time at church (where the atheists aren’t) and went to other places where happy people are (like anywhere) then you might run into very happy atheists!!

    • Where I grew up it was “I’ve never met a gay person with a happy, successful personal life” because they drove away all the gay people that couldn’t take it anymore and the ones still around were miserable… I’m guessing it’s the same concept. (My girlfriend’s mother was shocked that I have a career and get along with my parents because lesbians don’t do that sort of thing “up nort” in Minnesota)

  2. I’m going to take a little bit of a weird approach to tackling your central question by bringing in a second (third?) faith into the mix here.

    HH Dalai Lama has said that it’s not as important which spiritual path to choose, citing Christianity, Buddhism, Islam or Atheism directly, so long as you are moving yourself towards becoming a better person. Lessons that have resonance can come from anywhere. Whether you pull from the directly physical manifestations in front of you (a more atheistic perspective) or a Holy book (traditional religions) or even with inferring from the balances of nature (shamanism/paganism), so long as it’s refining you into a more loving, compassionate and understanding person, it doesn’t matter.

    I think this is a helpful philosophy for anyone, but especially in your situation. There are lessons which are inapplicable to you right now, or maybe ever, within the conservative Christian philosophy, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t good ideas or good practices that you can adopt.

    As for other marriage resources? I have no clue. I tend to find that cultures/practices without divorce tend to have the strongest history of marriage advice available.

    • The remarks of HH were from a lecture I went to of his several years ago in case someone goes looking for it.

      I believe the year was 2009 and it took place in the metro Boston area.

      Full disclosure: I do consider myself a Buddhist and turn to HH for spiritual guidance.

  3. “I’ve never met an atheist with a happy personal life”?

    Then she hasn’t met very many atheists.

    Perhaps I should introduce myself to her.

    “Hi, I’m an atheist. I also have a satisfying, mostly drama free personal life.”

    I’ll resist the temptation to flip her the bird for judging that which she does not know in the strangest way.

  4. I have run in to this exact problem. Generally I handle it the same way, I tune out or ‘autocorrect’ in my head any religious aspects. Here’s the thing, any advise (including mine right now) will only resonate fully with about 10% of the readers. I think when it’s advise about hairstyles, cars, recipes etc we just tend to filter without realizing we are doing it.
    But religion and marriage are so personal, and traditionally so intertwined, that it can be really REALLY obvious when you don’t agree with the little details. Each marriage is different, just because your marriage doesn’t include religion doesn’t mean it will fail, and just because someone’s marriage does, isn’t a guarantee that they will be happy forever. You don’t need to go to a church to reserve a quiet time with your mate and reflect on your relationship. I think that’s what is mainly behind the emphasis on prayer or religion within a relationship, just that quiet internal reflection. If you two (or more) can make time to do this in your own way, I think that is a much more important step towards a healthy relationship than anything else.

  5. We found a guide called “The Commitment Conversation” to be helpful marriage guidance without the religious bent. I believe I originally found this link on Offbeat Bride several years ago when planning my own wedding. It guides you and your partner through discussing a lot of things about your marriage-to-be, and it can be revisited over time during your partnership together. You might find it helpful, too:

  6. I think part of it (and this is purely observational) but if you are devoutly Christian or whatever else, you credit God in pulling you through. Going through a rough patch in your relationship is probably easier if you believe it’s god testing the strength of your commitment as opposed to your husband being stressed out and acting like an ass as a result. Then when you things are good you are encouraged to be thankful and believe that god put you together because you belong together which is bound to more reassuring and solidifying than “we were at the same party one time.”

    I would consider myself agnostic but I do think there is a lot to be learned from Christian relationship advice, if you leave out all the patriarchal stuff. I also think it’s important to be on, roughly, the same page about faith “stuff” and if you’re both completely atheist then you probably are.

    • I disagree that it’s important to be on the same page about faith stuff.

      My husband is a Christian, and I’m an atheist. I was pretty much one of those “SUPER-DUPER-ULTRA-CONSERVATIVE CHRISTIAN” people when my husband and I met. 5 years later, I’m an atheist and he’s a believer.

      I think unless your faith is really super duper important to you, then it’s perfectly fine to have different beliefs. Like if he wanted to go to church every Sunday or something, or was insistent upon raising our daughter with Christian beliefs, then yes, we would have a problem.

      But what I’ve found is that whether or not you believe in god or something like it very rarely comes up in a marriage.

      I am 1000% certain that there are plenty of people out there who have had different experiences than I have, so I do not claim my perspective to be gospel (ha). It’s just that – my perspective.

      • “But what I’ve found is that whether or not you believe in god or something like it very rarely comes up in a marriage.”

        I think there’s a pretty wide range of experience there. I have friends who are Christian but it literally NEVER comes up, so whatevs. I had a friend in high school who was VERY Christian but he enjoyed debating and didn’t take offense to people challenging his beliefs (in fact kind of relished the discourse) so that worked out just fine.

        On the other hand I will occasionally see friends-of-friends posts on facebook where they literally cannot leave God out of ANYTHING- “God challenged us with this, God blessed us with that, God told me eat a peanut butter sandwich, God gave me an ache in my big toe to test me…” and I really don’t think I could handle being good friends with, much less marrying, someone who places such a great importance on religion in every aspect of their everyday lives. Our brain wavelengths are just way too different.

      • Well that’s sorta what I meant by “roughly”. Like he has faith, you don’t but you’re on the same page that it’s not important. Whereas with my ex, we were both agnostic so it should have been fine. But for me it’s important to do things that fall under the umbrella of spiritual. For him that was stupid, a sign I hadn’t shaken off my Christian upbringing and sometimes worrying (I think he thought I was gonna join a cult lol). So we weren’t on the same page and while that wasn’t the reason we broke up I know in the future I’d like to be with someone who at least understands why religion/faith might be important to someone.

        • I can understand that. I think we’re talking about the same thing with different language. I was talking this over with my husband at lunch and he explained it as he and I are on the same page philosophically, even though our belief systems don’t line up.

          Also, I realized that it could work so well for us because we were both *raised* in church-going homes, even if we operate differently now. Family of origin stuff is no joke.

      • Even if your faith is super-duper important to you, having different beliefs can work. The Anglican priest who performed our wedding is happily married to an atheist — they’ve been married for probably about 25 years now. Obviously, her faith is pretty central to her life (I mean, she’s a priest, so, yeah…), but it works fine for them.

  7. “I’ve never met an atheist with a happy personal life”?

    Ummm maybe because Christians tend to not hang out with atheists or have meaningful friendships with them? Derrr.

    • I’m Christian. My boyfriend is an atheist, as are most of my exes. My friends (some of whom are friends with each other) are an equal mix. I like to think we are mostly happy.

  8. As a Christian, I’d like to chime in that I’ve known happy atheists and unhappy Christians and that I’m sad that you have been unable to find resources that are helpful to you as a non-Christian. Of course my faith is important to me and is a key factor in how I approach relationships, but I don’t think one has to be a Christian to have a good marriage or that working on your marriage has to come from a Christian source. And I applaud ANYONE who wants to work on strengthening their marriage. Just wanted to put that out there.

    • I’ll throw a possible resource out there. (Full disclosure: halfway through this book the couple decide to become Christians, so you could just read the first half.)

      A Severe Mercy is the autobiography of a couple in the 30s/40s who meet, date, fall in love, and get married. The first half of the book is about the early years of their marriage and how they defined what they wanted it to be (without any Christian or spiritual involvement or references). Things like how they decided gradually growing separate was a danger, so decided to learn and participate in each other’s hobbies – because if my partner loves this then there must be some redeeming value in it. Or how they hit their first car with a hammer to make it “used” so that in the event of an accident one day they wouldn’t be more worried about the car than their partner. How they came up with the “appeal to love” – asking for all their decisions if this would help or hurt their relationship. Even how they came up with a secret code to communicate with each other at parties.

      Some of the ideas are pretty radical – and probably not for everyone – but really interesting food for thought about working with your partner to define your relationship, identify potential pitfalls, and take deliberate steps to grow closer.

  9. Be your own resource. I’ve found most general relationship advice lacking because THEY DON’T KNOW ME. Or my partner. You figure things out by a little trial and error and a lot of communication (and also trial and error over how to best communicate.)

    In terms of outside sources, honestly, I’ve gotten most of my best relationship advice from the Offbeat sites- both the posts and the little wisdom nuggets hidden in the comments. So thank you 🙂

    And a quick story:
    I once tried out a bunch of different religious services before settling firmly into atheism and humanism. The particular Sunday I attended a Baptist church was a special “Women’s Sunday,” where the pastor’s wife gave the sermon about faith in your marriage. She said that you shouldn’t be a nag, and that if you have a problem with your husband to take it to Jesus, and Jesus would tell your husband. Among the many problems I had with this, it just mainly seemed inefficient. So I related to the author of this post in that religious marriage advice just does not apply to me!

    • Jesus: *Sigh* dude your wife wants you to wash the dishes and for some reason she’s telling me about it.

      Husband: Well you can tell her that I said it’s HER turn to do them.

      Jesus: AAGGHGH

      • hahaha to tell Jesus and he’ll tell your husband. I laughed so hard after reading that as well as after reading Jesus telling a husband about the dishes. So funny. What happens when you tell Jesus, and he doesn’t relay the message?

    • I’ve gotten most of my best relationship advice from the Offbeat sites- both the posts and the little wisdom nuggets hidden in the comments. So thank you

      Thank YOU! Offbeat Home has a whole tag devoted to posts about marriage:

      Although they’re not always going to be coming from a non-religious viewpoint, since we like to feature a variety of outlooks on love and life, but I think it’s a pretty great resource mahself. 😉

  10. The best life guide I have found, for all relationships and for self-reflection, is “The Road Less Traveled.” by M. Scott Peck. Yes, it’s generally spiritual and references a generic God, but no mention of Christ or the Bible. His chapter on Love describes what happens after you fall out of love and the real work of love begins, that love is not a feeling, it is an activity and an investment.

  11. This is a good question and now I am sitting here thinking through all the things that make my relationship with my husband run smoothly and honestly it is all the small things that matter and knowing who your partner really is, not who you want them to be.

    We understand what is truly important to the other person and we respect each others needs.

    I use the plant the seed method of talking about things that are boring or big but need to be talked about. I will say we need to talk about Blah (what ever it is), I know you need to think about it so in the next, day, or week or what ever time line we need to sit down and have a conversation. I know that he needs time to think, and research, and spreadsheet information so giving him time to think takes away the stress during the discussion.

    Also there is no changing or fixing the other person, I know that he is socially awkward and I don’t try to fix that about him. He will zone out or wonder off while we are social situations, instead of getting upset about it, I know that he has hit his social limit and he needs some down time or he may even need to go home.

    We can both be obsessive about creative ideas and need to talk them out, we give the other person our full attention to do that even if it means stopping what we were already working on to listen to the other person.

    Neither one of us is very good at saying ” I love you” but we show each other that we do all the time in small ways, hugs, listening to the other person, bringing each other small surprises, for example we live on Vancouver Island and my husband love cherries, the very best cherries ever, ever, ever are grown in our province so a bag of cherries make him very happy indeed. Sounds simple right? A bag of cherries, but really you married your best friend, do the things that make your friend happy and feel loved.

    We also have a firm no drama policy, if you are feeling annoyed or frustrated you must speak up about it, calmly and explain what you need. This has worked for us for eight years, we have never had a big fight, in fact we have never gotten beyond being slightly bitchy with the other person.

    With out going on with a million little examples that is what works for us.

  12. i dont have any good non-religious marriage resources, but i just wanted to say that i get it, and its very weird to me too. the connection between marriage and religion is so intertwined, runs so deeply, that it seems sometimes its almost impossible to separate them. i blame it on our history, where the state and religion were one thing, so marriage being a religious institution is just what it was. i havent researched it, but i would also guess that marriage as we know it was probably born from a religion at one point. also the fact that throughout history everyone had a religion, there wasn’t like an alternative to that. also, marriage is held in very high esteem (and divorce is held in such low esteem) in every religion i can think of, so it makes sense that the various religions focus so much on marriage, how to keep one, how to stave off divorce, ect.

    it is super weird to me, though, because in our day and age marriage is a government thing, but most people, and i think the stereotype of a marriage coming to be, doesnt reflect that. most people dont even count themselves as married until the ceremony, which are still held (almost always) by religious figures (mostly) in religious buildings, regardless if the ceremony is a requirement for legal marriage, or when they sign the marriage certificate, or if they get legally married before the ceremony. like they still have to have the religious aspect there to seal the deal, so to speak. and its not that its odd to want the religious element there -if that is your thing, go for it!- but it is just weird to me in our culture, where legal marriage has nothing to do with religion. its like on paper they are totally separate, but in our collective culture they are still very much interconnected.

    its interesting to think about and talk about, i think.

  13. I found this study to be quite accurate:

    The premise is that happy and lasting marriages are based on kind treatment of your partner. This includes everything from listening to what they have to say to fighting in a caring/constructive manner. I see a lot of relationships that are almost a competition. The fights lack an underlying kindness, and are very blame-centric. I just found these insights really interesting 🙂

    The person who ran the study wrote a book called The Science of Happily Ever After. That might be one to look into!

    Also- another happy atheist here 🙂 My pagan husband and I are doing quite well 8.5 years in!

    • I just wanted to chime in and say that I came across the article you mentioned above and it really helped my fella and I gain some perspective. We both have a tendency to get wrapped up in what we are doing (internet, video games, books etc.) so we will inadvertently go hours not saying anything to each other or get irritated when we feel interrupted. But the whole “bids for attention” thing in the article really resonated with both of us. Now we make a better effort to respond to each other and listen with intent. Even if our partner is just pointing out how cute the cats are being for the thousandth time that day…

  14. As a once-Christian, I will say that some religious marriage advice is solid if you can mentally Search and Replace “Christ” with “your hearts, one another and your world”. When faced with a decision, think about what your hearts, one another and your world would want for you and what would best serve them. If you each focus your intent and minds on your hearts, one another and your world, you’ll have a shared vision and a deeper consideration not only for one another, but for the greater impact of what you choose and where you’re headed.
    I believe love is a spiritual connection. Concern for another person is a spiritual connection. Sharing, collaborating, seeking to understand–all spiritual connections. For many people, a shared passion for religion is a spiritual connection and a medium to better understand and develop a spiritual connection. For many married people, a shared passion for making a marriage fulfilling and long-lasting is the conduit.

  15. *Waves* Hi there! Atheist with a happy personal life, checking in for the count.

    (okay, more agnostic, but whatevs.)

    I’m betting that lady has no idea how many people she knows aren’t actually religious (or else, they are making sure to avoid her and vise-versa.)

    I don’t have any good recommendations for relationship advice- the only secular sources I can think of are things like the “love and sex” areas of magazines/lifestyle websites, which tend to be a lot more sex and dating than “long term ongoing commitment sustaining.” I agree that there’s definitely room for stuff like “how to build community. Or where find married couple role models. Or how get free/cheap marriage counseling without going through a church”… I’ve often wished there was a good non-religious alternative to the church community. Sometimes there are community groups, and I guess there’s always the Unitarian Universalists, but I dunno, I haven’t found any groups that felt like a fit to me.

    But I do think that just distilling the good parts out of the religious sources is still beneficial- just like one can distill the good lessons from a religion without buying in entirely. There are certain blogs that I’d hate to give the traffic to, though (anything that supports subservience or considers my life’s purpose to be a walking incubator, for instance :-P)

  16. The Hubbo and I would probably be considered Agnostic/Atheist – although we were pretty hardcore Catholic once upon a time. I’ve gotten 3 great pieces of marriage advice that aren’t particularly religious and they’ve served us pretty well:

    1) When we got engaged my Aunt gave us the 5 Love Languages Book – we skimmed through, took the tests and read through the practical examples for each love language and it has served us well. It also gave us a common vocabulary to communicate what we felt like we were missing if we were ever struggling.

    2) Marriage isn’t 50/50 its 100/100 – So many people told me that its a balance and each person puts in 50% and that’s how it works – Someone was giving me this advice at my shower when a friend of my mom’s who’d been married a long time corrected her. Marriage is each person giving 100% all of the time – sometimes you fall short but if everyone is giving all of their effort in each thing you do its way better than half the effort and there’s way less resentment.

    3) Go to sleep mad – I think I learned this one by example – my parents when they argued weren’t the type to stay up all night until it was hashed out – they’d go to bed and everything always seemed better in the morning. And that makes a ton of sense because you’re not tired and upset and forgetting what you’re actually arguing about because its 1am.

    I totally agree with the wishing for more secular resources for improving a relationship though. I’ve read about couple’s retreats and stuff in our area but they’re always affiliated with a church!

  17. This book is a secular book full of fabulous marriage advice! And it is backed by RESEARCH, which I love. The gentleman who wrote it has a “Love Lab” at the University of Washington, which is an apartment where they bring married couples to observe them over the course of a weekend, and then follow-up on them to see how their marriage works out. It’s a great read!

    The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work: A Practical Guide from the Country’s Foremost Relationship Expert

    • John Gottman really resonates with me because science.
      Oddly enough, I ran into his work and even some of his love lab videos during my Catholic marriage classes before I got married.
      In my area, the people who run the marriage classes through the church seem pretty enlightened, because the Catholic church allows interfaith marriages, and so the required pre-marriage classes for practical reasons must include non-Catholic materials in order to resonate with the non-Catholics in attendance.
      For the OP, you may want to contact your local Catholic church to see what sort of marriage classes they offer – many are not overtly religious, precisely because the crowd is often mixed religions (unless you’re in a very Catholic-dominant area). Just explain your situation (or say you are part of an interfaith couple), the church may be happy to accommodate.

  18. Wow, she’s never met an atheist with a happy personal life? Clearly that lady doesn’t get out much!

    My partner and I are also atheists, so I feel you on the lack of non-religious marriage advice. On the other hand, I am also kind of glad for the lack of non-religious marriage advice. Here’s why: every relationship is different, so things that work for some people will not work for others. Indeed, the only piece of advice that I have ever found to be worth while in any relationship is this: Communicate! How you and your partner choose to communicate and the strategies you use are entirely up to you. 🙂 One thing that’s kind of awesome about being an atheist is that a lot of people who have more conventional beliefs don’t even know how to begin doling out the marriage advice, which, in my experience is not only steeped in religion, but also patriarchy and gender stereotypes.

  19. OMG I just had this experience recently. I was at my grandparent’s 60th wedding anniversary, and my aunt kept saying “nobody can get to be married 60 years without building their relationship on Christ.” UM….

    So, I completely acknowledge that my grandparents are Christian, and that their coping skill and glue has been church, God, using the Bible, etc. I think it’s wonderful. But how can that phrase be true when there are millions of people around the world who stay married without being Christian.

    Then my cousin piped up about them being a good example of a ‘biblical marriage,’ and I wanted to scream because what part of the bible biblical marriage? Solomon and his many wives/concubines? David who had his neighbor killed after he banged his wife? Isaac who had two wives who were biological sisters? WHICH BIBLICAL MARRIAGE are we talking about?

    Maybe I’m just touchy because my husband and I are in an “open marriage,” where I have a girlfriend and he is dating some people, too, that I feel personally judged because of their comments. But I just feel like it works for some…but it is so limiting to say that’s the only way you can stay married…hell, Evangelical Christians have a high divorce rate anyway!

    • As a liberal Christian, I totally second you on the “WHICH Biblical Marriage?!” thing. Sometimes it feels like, “Umm, have you actually read the Bible?”

  20. Brene Brown’s work comes from the perspective of a hardworking, talented researcher with a skeptic’s voice. I’m pretty sure she’s Christian, but the fact that I’m not certain proves just how often she brings it up in her work.

    Offbeat Home published this collection of her videos, all of which I can’t recommend enough.

    They contain useful information for how to navigate all sorts of relationships in terms of vulnerability and shame-which are easy places for everyone to get tripped up. The work she’s done changed my approach to relationships entirely and I’m much much happier for it.

    (Agnostic with a Theist SO)

  21. The best marriage resource I can offer is to do some reading about Non-Violent Communication:

    I’ve found it to be a hugely useful tool in my marriage. When things got a little grotty for us after my son was born (parenting is hard, y’all!), my husband and I did 12 weeks of therapy with an NVC-focused counselor and it was a game-changer for us. Meeting with a counselor was great, but the concepts behind NVC are pretty simple, so just reading about it can be hugely useful.

    (Realistically, the Empire’s community management is mostly NVC, so if you like how we talk to each other around here, you might like NVC in your marriage, too.)

    • I second this. But if you’re like me and…

      1. have a total block when it comes to reading self help books
      2. have NO frame of reference for healthy communication styles

      …then couples therapy is the key. NOTHING has helped that guy I married and I out in our marriage better than the year we took couples therapy together. Non-Violent Communication changed our lives.

      • Seeing an actual real person who can give real and personalized advice is really needed for lots of people. I recommended relationship books until the cows came home to my husband. He never actually read any. Eventually we went to couples counseling and it really helped our relationship through some tough times 🙂

    • YES! I was coming to comment this, glad I read comments first before I jumped the gun. It is a great book, and If The Buddha Dated is a great book too..many of the concepts transfer well to marriage from dating. And buddhist concepts seem pretty relatable to a variety of faiths or non-faiths. Both books have been very helpful for me and my atheist husband.

  22. I personally haven’t found a lot of marriage advice that I have come across as very useful, but that’s just my own experience. I should add that I never really seek it out, but I’ve read plenty and sat through some unsolicited advice and never find myself learning anything new. Marriage advice is generally either common sense or based on personal experience and I find it hard to connect with. Sometimes I flat out disagree with the advice.

    I just try to learn how to be a better wife every single day. I realize that for some people that means looking into marriage advice, but every marriage is so different, I’d rather study my husband, myself, our life. I pay attention to what I’m doing right and I especially pay attention to when I make mistakes. I show gratitude for each and every wonderful thing he does, big or small, and am honest with him without being condescending when he doesn’t get something quite right.

    I guess what I’m really getting at is this: I don’t know that I could ever personally find a bit of marriage advice that was more meaningful that what we’re already trying to accomplish everyday as a married couple… and that’s to communicate with each other, pay attention to each other, and learn from each other.

    (I should add that should we ever encounter a specific problem in our marriage that we can’t tackle ourselves, I’d certainly be open to seeking help.)

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