8 Books to Prepare You for Marriage

8 books to prepare for marriage

Marriage is AWESOME. And it’s work.

Donald Miller once compared marriage to a marathon. You don’t just wake up one day and decide that you want to run a marathon without training.

In the same way, you don’t just wake up one day and decide you want to get married without training. Great ways to train for marriage is by talking to and being mentored by people who are already married, meet with a pre-marital counselor, and also by reading books.

Marriage is more than just living together and binge watching your mutual guilty pleasure show. Marriage involves several different aspects of intimacy. I’ve broken three big ones down for today’s post: spiritual intimacy, practical marriage, and physical intimacy. Today I’m sharing several books that I read before and during my first year of marriage.

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Spiritual Intimacy

Sacred Marriage – Gary Thomas

I read Sacred Marriagewhen I was in college, and definitely picked it back up the summer Mr. M and I got engaged. Gary Thomas explains marriage as a union that reflects our relationship with Christ. He asks, “What if God designed marriage to make us  holy more than to make us happy?” Ouch. But so good! It is so easy to fall into the assumption that marriage is an avenue towards happiness; but anyone who has been married more than a few weeks could tell you that your spouse does not define your happiness. While Mr. M makes me incredibly happy, he also encourages and pushes me to be a holier follower of God. Sacred Marriage showed me that a healthy Christian marriage involves sacrifice, vulnerability, and keeping God at the center of your marriage.

The Meaning of Marriage – Tim Keller

It took me a long time to get through The Meaning of Marriage due the density of of Tim Keller’s wisdom. Plus, I’m more of a feeler and Tim Keller isn’t a super emotional writer. However, I learned a lot about the sanctity and practicality of serving our spouses in marriage.

You & Me Forever – Francis Chang

When Mr. M and I picked up You and Me Forever, I thought I was reading a book about making a life long commitment to your spouse. However, this book is so much MORE than that. Francis Chan transcends marriage here on earth, and talks about how our marriage prepares us for heaven. Similarly to Gary Chapman, he states that marriage is not here to make us happy. Nor is marriage something we use to serve ourselves; instead, our marriage is a ministry opportunity to serve the world and bring people closer to Christ. This book is convicting. And intense.

8 Books to Prepare You for Marriage

Practical Marriage

For Men Only/For Women Only – Shaunti & Jeff Feldhan 

I totally read both the “For Women” only and “For Men Only” books because a) I’m a reading fiend and b) I wanted to know what Shaunti and Jeff had to say. For Men Only/For Women Only is a basic beginner “How-to” for marriage. I loved the realistic approach it takes towards marriage. It uses anecdotal research to explain why we are the way we are, and how to best love our spouse in a way that will cross those perspectives.

Things I Wish I’d Known Before We Got Married – Gary Chapman 

I will read any book I can get my hand on by Gary Chapman. He has another great book called The Five Love Languages; I haven’t read The Five Love Languages yet, but I have taken this test multiple times throughout my relationship. Good news: I’m scored high in all five langauges. Does that make me easily lovable or high maintenance? Who knwos. But the Things I Wish I’d Known Before We Got Married breaks down marriage in all its practicality. While marriage can be love and flowers, it is also mundane and interspersed with occasional conflict. But in a healthy conflict, Dr. Chapman tells us that “conflicts have the potential of teaching us how to love, support, and encourage each other.” I would also recommend his book, 101 Questions to Ask Before You Get Enaged!

8 Books to Prepare You for Marriage

Physical Intimacy

OK so I’ve ranked this in order of . . . detail, let’s say. I’ve never gotten into the subject of physical intimacy much on the blog, because my dad reads my blog, and so do some of my Zimbabwean Aunties – and sometimes they pass my blog posts onto my awesome Mother in Law. But if you want to meet me for a cup of coffee, I love to talk about and celebrate the gift of intimacy within marriage, so we can dive deeper there. 😉

Darling – Aanna Greer

I’ve been a follower of Aanna’s blog for a couple of years. I more specifically followed her series, “Extra Virgin” where she dished on marriage and sex in a healthy, celebratory way. So when she released her book Darling, she was gracious enough to send me her book in exchange for a blog review.

I loved how Darling is laid out. She has sectioned her book into three sections: For Single Darlings, Engaged Darlings, and Married Darlings. Aana’s objective is to celebrate female sexuality in a godly way. Reading Darling is like sitting down with an older sister who is dishing all the details of sex.

The Single Darling section starts out with stating God’s design and purpose for sex, and then goes into understanding and caring for your body. She talks about everything from periods to infections to gynecology appointments.

Since I was already married when I picked up Darling, I focused on the Engaegd Darlings and Married Darlings section. This lady is packed full of so much wisdom! I wish I had this book when I was engaged. She gives amazing practical advice on preparing your body and your mind for your honeymoon.

In the Married Darlings section, she breaks it down to the basics, understanding sexual arousal, true sex appeal, and more. I love that Aanna gets real about sex, but also gets real about sexual intimacy. Sexual intimacy is more than having passioante sex, but it is about the intimacy you and your spouse carry throughout the day. (Women are crockpots, anyone?) One of my favorite lines from Darling says, “Instead of passion, make intimacy the plumb line in your sex life.”

Sheet Music – Dr. Kevin Leman 

My Aunt sent me Sheet Musicabout a month before Mr. M and I got married last year. I highly recommend Sheet Music as a honeymoon book! While we did read a couple chapters before we got married, Dr. Leman says to wait to read chapters 4 – 16 until the honeymoon because he gets detailed in discussing all aspects of sexual intimacy! While Mr. M and I have hardly ever finish books we read together, we made it all the to chapter 14, which is a good run for us.

Good Loving – Dr. Melissa Jones

If Sheet Music is the book to read on your honeymoon, Good Loving is the book to read after your honeymoon. (Besides, who has time to read two books on their honeymoon?) Since Good Loving is written by a woman, she goes into great detail for the ladies. I felt like I was reading a Christian Cosmopolitan magazine reading this book. While she covers some topics I don’t necessarily feel comfortable or agree with, I appreciate that she brings so much insight into sex!

What books have you found helpful to prepare you for marriage? Tell me in the comments below!

Marriage: 6 More Things That Surprised Me

6 More Things that Surprised Me About Marraige

Last night I got deep into the sentimentals when I thought about the most amazing bachelorette party my sister threw for me. A year ago yesterday we were partying at a bookstore in Asheville, the most unique place to throw a bachelorette party, but perfectly me. It really was the perfect way to start off wedding week, so I am feeling ALL the feels and remembering all the great mems.

To commemorate anniversary week, I am sharing all things wedding this week. Six months ago I shared 6 things that surprised me about marriage. Mr. M and I can hardly believe we’ve been calling each other husband and wife for a whole year. I can honestly say that our first year of marriage has been BETTER than our years of dating.

We Fight Less Now That We’re Married

Mr. M and I had a couple mentor us our first year of dating. They encouraged us to be as open and honest in our communication as we could be, and so we did that. And we fought. . . a lot. I’m sure it was a culmination of things – being in college, being in grad school, and trying to communicate through two different perspectives and ideals made for a rough and rocky beginning. However, I am so thankful we learned how to communicate early on in our dating period, because that has carried on into marriage.

It also helped that we had the “newlywed” conversations before we were even engaged. We talked about our dating history, our future, whether we wanted kids, where our hearts aligned with what ministries, etc. After a counseling session during our engagement, we talked about how difficult it would be had we not discussed all the necessary deep aspects of marriage beforehand, but because we were equipped with the knowledge and communication, it made our first year of marriage easier than our years of dating. (Being free to make out all we want helps to.)

How Busy We Can Be

When I dreamt of marriage as a single lady, I thought we would spend every night entangled in each other’s arms. And while we do that some times, half the time we collapse onto the couch with Netflix. Mr. M and I try to stay intentional with our date nights, but there have definitely been seasons over the last year where it has been a leftovers and Netflix night. With our work schedules + our social calendar, we stay pretty busy. Thank goodness we are both extroverts.

How Much I Love my In-Laws

This is not as much of a surprise as it something I’m incredibly thankful for. Before I met Mr. M, I worried that one day I wouldn’t love my in-laws. I am incredibly close with my parents, and my parents’ parents – both sets of my grandparents – are best friends.  I always hoped that my husband’s parents and my parents would be best friends. Proximity is not on our side with this one, but my family and Mr. M’s family love each other, and we have even celebrated Thanksgiving together for the past two years. It’s been the best. It is a great feeling to honestly say that I love my in-laws like I do my own parents.

Marrying into another culture can be scary on the forefront, especially when it involves relationships with the parents. Having my mother and father in law and entire M clan embrace me and teach me their customs has been amazing.

6 More Things that Surprised Me About Marriage

How Many Adventures We’ve Been On

Mr. M and I want to avoid the stigma of being a boring married couple. And while we definitely have our introverted – be in bed by 10pm nights, we have had so many adventures this year.This summer I did a mini travel series on the blog, because there has not been one month since we got married (or even engaged!) where Mr. M and I have stayed in one place. It has been exhausting and a great adventure. How do we do it? Basically we have friends all over the country + air bnb’s are my jam.

The New Dreams We Share

Couples always talk about how fun it is to dream together, and it’s true! I love having a marriage partner who pushes me to dream, and dreams alongside me. We both passionate about our own things, but they often align with each other which makes the dreaming process fun. Mr. M is a big scale dreamer, and I’m more realistic, so he challenges me and pushes me to open my mind to bigger dreams. It’s scary as all get out.

How Deep Our Love Goes

If Mr. M and I have learned to love each other more deeply in year one, I can’t imagine what it will look like when we have children, and go through different seasons of life together. While I try to stay light hearted on the blog, there have definitely been unique challenges Mr. M and I face. Rather than look at these challenges as obstacles, we have used them to draw closer to each other and the Lord. Mr. M always reminds me that we are on the same time.

6 More Things that Surprised Me About Marriage

 

 

Celebrating Color

 

This post originally appeared as a guest post on Sage the Blog in April 2017. 

celebrating color & creating safe spaces

I didn’t grow up thinking white people were better than any other race, but I never grew up around anyone who wasn’t white. When I was in middle school, I discovered the Fresh Prince of Bel air and crushed hard on Will Smith. In high school I befriended the two black guys in my high school. One of whom reminded me of Will Smith. I knew they were black, but I didn’t think anything else of it. I’m sure the words, “I don’t see color” fell out of my mouth a few times.

It wasn’t until I was in college and started dating my now-husband that I realized how many things I had done in ignorance could be perceived as racist. When  Mr. M and I started dating, I had that safe place to ask the ignorant questions. I learned about systematic racism, I learned about the white savior complex. I learned that saying “I don’t see color” whitewashes the incredible experience and story each person of color carries.

My parent weren’t the least surprised when I called home one early spring day to tell them I was going on a date, and the guy I met was from a country in Africa. In fact, my dad once said, “Christina, I would be surprised if you marry a Caucasian.”

I had one of those moments on my first date with Mr. M- I knew we were going to get married. (He did not have that moment until several months later.)

Mr. M and I live in East Tennessee. We have more than one stoplight, so we aren’t pure rural Appalachia, and we are lucky enough to live in a college town that does have quite a bit of diversity. I never knew how large the African community was in our area until he and I started dating. I guess I just never noticed.

Nonetheless, I could still feel the eyes. A couple of times I noticed (mostly from the older generation) people staring at us as we walked, hand in hand. And in my lack of graciousness, I would look them dead in the eye as I held on tighter to my handsome chocolate man. Once, when we went home to see my family, I noticed someone staring at us as we were stopped next to each other at the stoplight. I turned to Mr. M and said, “Kiss me” and then made sure I kissed him passionately. He thought I was being sweet. I was being rebellious against the ill-conceived notions that races shouldn’t mix.

I don’t necessarily recommend that route. It’s rooted in pride, and while I am proud to stand next to, and be affiliated with my husband and his family, it is definitely not the most Christ-like approach. Mr. M is much more gracious in his responses.

In the spring, on our way back from a friend’s wedding in Savannah, Georgia, we stopped at a McDonald’s in South Carolina to use the restroom and grab a cup of iced coffee to fuel us on a road trip. I was leaned against Mr. M while waiting in line. There was a man in the back of the restaurant who stared at us until Mr. M looked his way, to which Mr. M smiled and waved and the man slowly shook his head in disgust. I promptly turned around and shot fire darts from my eye. I imagined what I would say if I worked up the nerve to confront him. I never did. I’m more talk than game.

But Mr. M is compassionate. He speaks the truth in love and he is gracious towards those who don’t understand or disagree. It’s something he has had to accept and learn growing up in America. He told me that when they first moved from Zimbabwe to the United States, as he and his brothers became pre-teens and teenagers, their dad sat them down, making them aware that in the United States, they were more likely to receive prejudice, so they needed to make sure they carried themselves well, dressed well, were respectful at all times to authority figures, etc.

As parents, of course, we would tell our children this anyway: “Be respectful, and carry yourself well. Don’t tarnish the family name!” But for the minority groups in America, it’s more than tarnishing the family name, it’s survival. Over the past several years, through conversation with Mr. M, reading and listening to accounts from other moms of African-American, Latino, or biracial children, I find this is something that is stressed more so to children who do not look predominately white.

So what can we change? I’ve written from my hopeful millennial perspective about why it is important that we support our friends trying to use their voice.

But how else do we support our minority brothers and sisters?

celebrating color & creating safe spaces

 

We see color. We celebrate color.

When I am home alone with Mr. M, I sometimes forget that we don’t look like each other. It’s in those moments where I’m getting ready and he comes up behind me and wraps his arms around me that I see our colors contrast. When we are lying down, and my arm lays against his and he says, “Oh my gosh your arm is translucent!” I remember that he is black and I am white. I see and bask in the color of his dark skin. It is, after all, one of the things I am most attracted to in him- aside from his compassion, and the way his eyes crinkle when he smiles, and the way his heart seeks to right social injustices. I celebrate his dark brown skin because it carries his heritage. He is a Zimbabwean who still speaks in his native tongue when he is with family. His Shona name is a badge of his culture. The way he thinks and sees the world has been shaped by growing up in two different worlds – a third culture kid.

I want to say that our relationship is more than the colors we reflect, but in a sense, our relationship is the colors we reflect. When you see a married couple who are both white, you don’t automatically think, “Oh, I bet they have a lot of compromising they have to do.” (Which, by the way, is still totally untrue, as you married people know.) But when you see my husband, me, and read our incredibly long (but phonetic) last name, you probably wonder how it works.

And here is how it works: We love hard. We listen well. We learn from each other. We celebrate our differences, and embrace the cultures and traditions we each grew up with.

For instance, in my mind, I had a perfect American wedding planned out. In reality, our families threw the biggest Zimbabwean-American wedding anyone has ever seen. Our dance floor was packed the entire time, whether Zimbabwean, South African, or American music was playing. Our guests had their choice of Zimbabwean food: sadza (a cornmeal patty), collard greens, and beef stew, or my favorite American food: chili and potato soup. Our friend surprised us with a communion meditation that was given in both English and Shona.

If I didn’t embrace who Mr. M is and where he is from, I would miss out on the blessing of finding a new piece of the world. If I didn’t ask questions and learn, I wouldn’t fully be able to say I know my husband. It is important to me that our relationship’s foundation is first of all on the word of God, and secondly on celebrating who we are.

celebrating color & creating safe spaces

Mr. M and I were humbled and amazed by the responses I received on my most recent post, When You Call My Husband the N-Word. One thing my husband and I are careful to acknowledge is that we do not want to play the victim card. Playing the victim doesn’t offer any options for victory. We are victors in our circumstance. We want to find ways to embrace each other’s cultural identities and differences. But in order to do that, we do have to acknowledge the hurt and pain that comes with racism.

Our culture makes it clear that we cannot just be silent. Desmond Tutu said that “If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor. If an elephant has its foot on the tail of a mouse and you say that you are neutral, the mouse will not appreciate your neutrality.”

White people are not the saviors in defeating racism. White people have the responsibility to reverse the curse we brought into this country 400 years ago. I asked a friend how white people can be an ally to the minority community, and she said “Listen.”

There is a desperate need for raw and vulnerable conversations between the white community and the minority community. In order to align ourselves with our brothers and sisters who suffer under the institutionalized racism in our country, we have to listen. We have to hear their stories, and we have to be willing to acknowledge the generational pain our ancestors brought upon minorities in our country. Then we must create space. We move off the stage to allow room for the minorities in our country to speak.

For the next several weeks, I will be hosting conversations with some friends that I have been privileged to make within the blogging community on identity, racism, and how the white community can continue to create space and take action racism in a healthy way alongside our brothers and sisters. Check back each Wednesday in the month of November for a new installment of “Creating Space.”

never
trust anyone
who says
they do not see color.
this means
to them
you are invisible.
-is

Nayyirah Waheed