It’s a time of preparing for a lifetime of eternal bliss, sexual fulfillment and everything always being perfect and wonderful… right? Here are 6 books I’m super glad I read before I got engaged.
And one I’m even more glad I read while engaged.
Last night I wrote a post about the questions I get asked the most about writing online. In it I wrote a small snippet about the importance of being honest, in which I wrote two different paragraphs about the engagement season to illustrate the difference when you’re being open about yourself. Thinking about it today, I was thinking that there really is a lot more I could write about the final months leading up to The Big Day. The bestowing of The One Ring to Rule Them All. The end of my old mancave life as I know it.
Oh, and I also wrote about the importance of writing consistently, so this is probably me making up for a few weeks that I’ve skipped over on the regular content!
But yes, engagement. In all honesty, it really has been one of the best decisions I ever made. The woman I’m marrying is pretty much the highest quality of any woman to ever exist in any eon of time. No offence to you if you’re a woman reading this, but she isn’t just in a class of her own, she’s the teacher of that class. She gives me new reasons to love her more and more every day.
But being engaged has definitely been a season of full attention and full energy investment. Not just preparing a wedding which is a psycho task on its own (which I’m utilizing some IT project management skills and tools to help make easier for us #nerdlyf), but preparing for a new life together. As you would know, engagement pushes a whole set of buttons in your life that really touch the core of who you are. And being married will no doubt be smashing those buttons as hard as it can.
I was just thinking today about some of the experiences of this season leading up to its end and the exciting new adventure waiting on the other side, and I was thinking about how truly grateful I’ve been for a number of authors of books on the topic I read before I got here. I was reflecting today on a number of things and really realized that I’ve been greatly assisted by the words and teachings of a number of authors on engaged and married life.
And so I thought I’d turn this over to you. Maybe you’re single and want to get married one day. The best time to prepare is before you get there! Or perhaps you’re dating and thinking of Locking it in Eddie. Or maybe you’re already engaged and it’s been a challenge for you. Or perhaps you’ve been married for many years and you’re looking into to see what “this naive kid” has to say, or perhaps you’re highly dissatisfied and not sure what else you can do. I hope in here you might find some materials that help you in your love life and maybe give you some ideas you’ve never had before. So here are 6 books I’m glad I read before I got engaged… and one absolutely brilliant one I read during engagement.
#1: Real Marriage by Mark & Grace Driscoll
A bit of a controversial one to start with, I’m sure. But you know what? This book was great.
Of all the various topics it talks about, I think the thing that stands out to me the most and has helped me the most was the first few chapters talking about the importance of friendship in your relationship. Mark and Grace compare marriage to a cake, where the icing is the sex and the romance and the bliss and all that good stuff that people get married to enjoy, but the base and substance of the cake is friendship. You definitely also need the icing in marriage, they say, but the cake will have no form and will make you sick if it’s entirely made of icing.
I can remember even a few weeks ago there were a few necessary conversations we were having together where as her future husband, I was absolutely struggling to have and to maintain. But as her friend? Yeah, I can definitely have this conversation and we can definitely work through this. Because I could fall back to the fact that we’re friends, we were stronger for it and really got a lot out of that interaction.
And sometimes you won’t stay together because everything feels like romantic bliss and happiness. But because you’re friends, best friends, you can go there on any topic and make it through with strength. Building and relying on that friendship is a winning key.
Great book and worthwhile lesson for lifelong success.
#2: Before You Do/Making Great Decisions by TD Jakes
I’ve probably talked about this book and its associated relationship video teaching series, but this is truly the greatest set of teaching I’ve ever heard on relationships. Whatever your love life looks like, you will be amazed at the amount you learn about yourself and about making wise decisions in love and life that you’ll learn from The Bishop.
Staying open, having a great level of self awareness, being able to explain where you are, understanding the habits and patterns you fall back to and the importance of breaking them, the importance of starting a new culture together, learning to speak the same language (because the same words mean something different to two people)… so many things to pick up. Get on it.
I would also recommend his series and book Life Overflowing, which is a verse by verse study of the letter to the Ephesians, and is another great resource.
#3: The Way of the Wild Heart by John Eldredge
This one isn’t so much about marriage but it really is an in-depth journey into the heart of men, and the six stages of the masculine journey. It is a raw and intimate look into your own soul (or a man’s soul if you’re reading it as in interested party), and I think reading this book at a younger age really set me up for success in life.
The way a man treats and understands himself is the way he’ll eventually treat his wife. I think something that’s really helped with this season is being able to recognize where I am and what I want in life. I do so struggle with this being a logical mind in an emotional world, but books like this one have helped me embrace true masculinity, which is being a man who lives called and on purpose, and is also understanding and loving enough to help everyone around him succeed.
#4: Things I’d Wished I’d Known Before I Got Engaged/Covenant Marriage/Desperate Marriage by Gary Chapman
Gary Chapman is just a boss, really. He’s written so much on the topics of love and family and I have a number of his other books. If you’re looking for a book that will warm you up and give you a very accurate high level view of engagement and marriage preparation, he’s the man.
#5: Anything written or spoken by John & Helen Burns
I love John & Helen Burns. I have grown up listening to them talk about marriage and family life for many years. The Seven Storms of Relationships, various speaking engagements at churches and conferences I’ve gotten to hear them at, as well as their various TV shows over the years. I think one of the most useful teaching resources from them during my engagement has been their series, Can We Talk?. It encourages people to understand their voice and to understand the true power and tactic of listening and hearing a heart, and not just words. Something I hope I’m getting better at every day.
#6: Love and Respect by Dr Emerson Eggerichs
Here’s another one I’ve referenced a lot in my writing over the years, too. Emerson tackles one of the most poignant portions of Scripture pertaining to the marriage union and addresses the call on husbands and wives in their service to each other. A realistic and godly look at the importance of both love and respect in a marriage union, I think this book really helped me see how much like every other man I really am. I think all of us think of ourselves as the exception to the rule, and while we all are unique and have different tendencies and spins on things, I think being able to see how important it is to me that I’m treated with respect (which I definitely am by the woman I love) has helped me whenever I’ve noticed feelings of inadequacy or being overwhelmed.
The one during engagement: Sheet Music by Dr Kevin Leman
And here’s the sexy sexy book you’ve been waiting for in the list. Sheet Music is written by the same man who wrote the famous “Sex Begins In The Kitchen”, as well as a whole bunch of books on parenting and family relationships.
You know, for as much as I’ve written about the topics of relationships and sex over the years, the truth is I’m still on my V plates (until my new life starts anyway). That’s been an intentional decision, being a very traditional Christian man at heart and (wherever I can be) in practice. But one thing that does come with is having an understanding of sex that is very academic and relational, and less about specific mechanics and the best ways to enjoy that part of your life together.
I was talking to one of my mentors about the fact I read that book and he said “Oh yeah, that’s the one we recommend to every engaged couple we give premarriage counselling too… you did remember to stop halfway where it says to ‘read this part during the honeymoon’, right?”.
I didn’t hear that line as I was listening to it on audio and mustn’t have heard that part, but I’m kind of glad I didn’t. Not because I got to go in depth with all the positions and angles and ways the body changes over time (although that’s all important), but I think more than anything it’s helped me to start adjusting my own thinking from an engaged chaste man to that of a married man. No longer my body, my interests, my decisions – in heart, soul, and body, we will be one, and we should endeavour to live a life of service and love with all the tools at our disposal.
Kevin gives a really realistic look at the obstacles to great sex in marriage, helps set very balanced and real expectations while breaking down a lot of incorrect ones (sizes, durations, mechanics, whose responsibility is it to make it last longer etc.), as well as most importantly highlighting the heart and emotional issues that undergird the physical action. I knew of this book for many years and wanted to wait til I was engaged to give it a look, and I’m glad I did. I feel like this amongst all the other readings and lessons in my life have set us up for a win in our new life together.
Which, for the record, is going to be truly wonderful.
So there you go. Whatever season you’re in, whatever level of satisfaction you have in your love life, I’d encourage you to give the above books a go.
Although, in the very traditional view, save the last one til you’re engaged or married. I’m convinced there isn’t a better environment for a fulfilled sex life, and I’m yet to hear of a truly convincing argument that says the opposite. You’re not bringing anyone else into bed with you, you’re safe, you’re committed, you can make mistakes, you can learn together, the risk of illness is ridiculously reduced… the list goes on. Maybe one for another time.
Have you lost your love for each other? Have you given up the idea of finding marital fulfillment? Do you wish your love life looked better than it did? Are you not sure who you really are? I’d recommend all of these wholeheartedly. I read them before I got engaged, but that doesn’t mean they have any less value afterwards.
How about you? What books have really helped your relationship journey?