Monday, February 8, 2010

Creating an Intimate Marriage

Creating an Intimate Marriage, Jim Burns (Bethany House, 2006)

This review has been updated after rereading the book in 2020.

Subtitled: Rekindle Romance Through Affection, Warmth and Encouragement, Jim Burns has provided a helpful book for couples which is honest, open and full of examples. He considers how to have a marriage of A.W.E. (affection, warmth and encouragement) and how that will be improved by considering intimacy, communication, fun & friendship, forgiveness and our attitudes.

Each chapter finishes with some questions to ask yourself and some to look at together. This is a helpful book to help look at the whole marriage and how it’s going, which may also help to address some intimacy issues.

He encourages people to individually take responsibility for themselves and be an agent of change in their marriage.
You set the mood, tone, and atmosphere in your marriage… Without sounding like a dreamer, you can change the atmosphere of your marriage almost immediately with A.W.E. (Affection, Warmth, and Encouragement)." (p38)
It's a decision to make things different:
"Far too many times we don’t intentionally set the thermostat of our relationship to a more positive setting. Instead, we let the temperature fluctuate according to what the other person does or doesn’t do. We react to the stresses of life, and the atmosphere can quickly turn negative." (39)
His argument is that A.W.E. results in contentment, and contentment brings intimacy to relationships. Yet contentment takes practice, you must train in it, for contentment is a learned skill. As he notes, marriage takes work:
"We must suffer one of two pains in our marriage: the pain of discipline or the pain of regret. The pain of discipline takes you on the road to a healthy marriage, while the pain of regret takes you to a dead end." (p52)
He then turns to consider romance and intimacy. I was surprised this was covered so early. I really think the chapters on forgiveness, communication, fun and friendship should all have come prior.

However, his observations were helpful.
"Sex is not about an event; it is about creating a positive, romantic, healthy, sexually intimate environment... My experience tells me that if a couple is not growing together physically and emotionally, then they are probably growing apart. (55-56)
Two chapters on communication extensively use Gottman's material, both the challenges of communication and recognising unsolvable problems. He had good advice for better communication - empathy, listening, expressing expectations, etc.

The chapter on fun and friendship is a helpful reminder not to let things become stale and boring - make sure you keep having fun together: "Friendship and fun in a marriage are two of the biggest predictors of long-term marital satisfaction" (103)

He notes how important our attitude is. We need to stop complaining (we often speak more rudely and complain more to our spouses than complete strangers), show gratitude, choose fun and optimism, and so on. He finishes with growing together in spiritually intimacy and remembering your vows.

This is a solid book with steady advice. It's not the best book available, but it's helpful, honest and many couples will benefit from applying the wisdom contained within.

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