Want to make your marriage more beautiful? With Valentine’s Day just around the corner, many sweethearts – or would-be sweethearts – are making plans for how to express their love. The holiday is also one of the most popular days for becoming engaged.

But what happens after the chocolates have been devoured and the roses have wilted? Or what if, after years or decades of being together, you’re just not feeling it anymore? Plenty of marriage books offer activities and tips that promise to help you reconnect.

One of the most discerning that I’ve read is the just-released Making Marriage Beautiful: Lifelong Love, Joy, and Intimacy Start with You, by my friend Dorothy Littell Greco (David C Cook, 2017). It takes guts and a fair bit of humility to write about one’s own marriage, but that is just what Greco and her husband, Christopher, do with honesty and an abundance of grace.

Greco, who lives near Boston, begins by making two confessions. One, she is not a marriage expert. And, two, she does not have a perfect marriage. However, over the past twenty years, she and Christopher have counseled, taught and prayed with hundreds of couples.

Dorothy, a lay minister, who wrote most of the book with contributions from Christopher, shares lessons from some of these diverse couples as well as how her Christian faith has enriched and transformed her own marriage.

“The process of being fundamentally changed and allowing Christ to be formed in us should influence the nature of who we are and then benefit every one of our relationships, first and foremost our marriages,” Greco writes in her introduction.

“Provided you have been married for more than two weeks, you know that marriage changes you.”

Oh, do I!

The thing with change, however, is that it is often hard to see it while it is taking place. In many cases, like hiking up a mountain, it is only after a great distance that we look back and wonder how we got to a particular place. When the steps are positive, the situation in which we find ourselves is marvelous beyond our expectations. But when they are negative, it can be overwhelming and frightening enough to make us want to quit.

When it comes to relationships, we all bring a fair amount of negative along with the positive. In my own marriage, now going on 23 years, I have often confessed to friends how hard it is being a sinner married to a sinner. No, I have learned, love is not enough – at least not my own. Not even when it comes with chocolate and flowers.

In my experience, to let marriage change and shape you in the positive way God desires requires a great deal of self-sacrifice, self-reflection, forgiveness and old-fashioned commitment. Greco’s book guides married couples through this process from a traditional Christian perspective, with the goal of producing the most beautiful change possible: a joy filled marriage that you can celebrate not just once a year but for a lifetime.

Meadow Rue Merrill writes for children and adults from a little house in the big woods of Midcoast Maine. Her memoir, Redeeming Ruth: Everything Life Takes, Love Restores, is available for pre-order and releases with Hendrickson Publishers on May 1.

 

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