Nothing beats sitting on the deck or by the pool, enjoying the summer sun while reading a good book! Why not take time this summer to read a book or two with your spouse that will help you strengthen your marriage? Reading together--and then discussing what you are learning--can help you grow closer together as a couple and can help you identify and address areas in need of attention in your relationship. So, here are my top ten suggestions for excellent books to read this summer. Books one through four deal with the topic of sexuality in marriage; books five and six describe the biblical purpose of marriage; books seven through ten address the topic of intimacy in marriage--what it is, and how we can seek it with our spouse. Clicking on each title will take you to Amazon, where you can purchase the book.
1) Sheet Music, by Kevin Leeman
This may be one of the finest books on sex from a Christian point of view. Leman offers frank, practical, and easy to read guidance on sexuality, and presents a positive perspective on sex as God intended it. He also answers many of the questions you’ve always wondered about, but were too afraid to ask.
2) God Loves Sex, by Dan Allender & Tremper Longman III
This is an excellent book that makes the connection between marriage & sexuality and the transcendent purpose of marriage. Co-written by a theologian and a therapist, the book alternates between a study of the biblical book Song of Songs (a thorough, and yet highly readable & accessible treatment) and a fictional narrative that describes how the principles discussed might be applied in a person’s life.
3) Naked & Unashamed, by Rob Toornstra
Okay, a shameless plug! I wrote this book after counseling many couples, and realizing that the primary message that they had heard from the church was about all the prohibitions. In this book, I show how the intimacy that God intends us to enjoy is ultimately made possible for us through the work of Jesus on the cross.
4) Redeeming Sex, by Deb Hirsch
An insightful book that discusses the theme of sexuality from the perspective of someone who lived in a same-sex relationship for a number of years before becoming a Christian. A balanced, compassionate, and challenging exploration of the topic of sex in marriage, but more broadly, gender and attraction.
5) This Momentary Marriage, by John Piper
Piper, of Desiring God Ministries, sets marriage in our present life next to eternity, and helps the reader imagine how marriage today is a pointer to Christ’s relationship to the Church, and how marriage will give way to the ultimate reality in Christ. In this context he discusses singleness, family, parenting, and divorce.
6) The Meaning of Marriage, By Tim & Kathy Keller
This book covers a lot of ground, outlining a theology of marriage and human sexuality, offering both theory and practical application for marriage. This book is thoroughly biblical and shows how and why Jesus is to be the center of marriage. This book is a bit more challenging to read, but the extra effort is worth it.
7) Scream-Free Marriage, by Hal Runkel
Although this book is not written from an explicitly Christian perspective (though it is written by a Christian), this book is helpful in that it challenges the conventional wisdom that our spouse is responsible for our emotional health. Instead, he describes how we need to be responsible for expressing our own emotional and relational needs. He gives concrete ways in which to do this in several conflict-prone areas in marriage (in-laws, sex, household chores, etc.). As a bonus, the author has also written a similar book (“Scream-Free Parenting”) that applies the same principles to the challenges of parenting.
8) Getting the Love You Want, By Harville Hendrix
Why do we fall in love with the people that we do? Hendrix helps us understand some of the reasons that we are attracted to the people we are attracted to. He illustrates how we often instinctively seek out a spouse based on unmet needs from our childhood. Marriage can be a way that we, even unwittingly, seek healing from childhood wounds. He includes practical exercises that a couple could do together that are immensely helpful in understanding your marriage dynamic and for growing together as a couple.
9) Hold Me Tight: by Sue Johnson
This book is also not by a Christian author (at least not explicitly so). However, she does a good job of describing the nature of intimacy, and how we look to our spouse for this reassurance. If you have ever had the same fight over and over again, this book will shine a light onto the ways that marital conflict is often our cry for connection. If there is a weakness here, it is that the author seems to suggest that we must be looking entirely to our partner to give us that intimacy, instead of finding our ultimate needs for intimacy met in Christ.
10) Intimate Allies: by Dan Allender & Tremper Longman
This is a lengthy book that explores the topic of intimacy from both a theological perspective and the perspective of a therapist. Like the book by the same authors above, the book makes use of lengthy case studies that illustrate how couples apply the theoretical principles described in the book to overcome practical problems in marriage.
So… pour yourself an ice-cold lemonade, take your kids to the park, or the beach, or the pool, and work your way through a book or two. Your marriage will be all the better for it!