Smalley, Dr. Gary and Norma. 4 Days to a Forever Marriage: Choosing Love or Anger. Green Forest: New Leaf Press, 2011. 112 pp. $16.99. Purchase at Amazon for less.
Dr. Gary and Norma Smalley have been married for 40+ years. He is founder of Smalley Ministries in which he and his wife and children speak and write on marriages from Christian perspective.
In essence, this book is a four day challenge to a married couple who is struggling to be happily married. Day one looks at loving words and actions. Day two discusses communication and resolving anger. Days thee and four look at affection and intimacy and trials and treasures.
There are 25 pages or so of extra material that will help your marriage in pretty much whatever season or situation you will find. Interspersed throughout the book are “tweetables”–quotes you could use on Twitter to remind you and others what you are learning. Also included are reflection points and questions to consider. The questions are divided into questions for the husband and questions for the wife.
Finally, it must be noted that this book is not a how-to, necessarily. Instead, it was written as a conversation between Gary and Norma (sort of like if you were attending one of their conferences). You will see the short comings and strengths of each person from the others perspective.
I need to be upfront and honest. I was very critical of this book as I was reading it. While I do find some value to it, I found it to be a bit more psychological than what I would have preferred. I realize that this is an ongoing debate within the Christian church, but I think there was definitely some room for improvement.
Perhaps my biggest critique was the focus on the spouses felt needs rather than the heart issue underlying those needs. If what me mostly focus on is one another’s felt needs, we will never be able to please our spouse. Those felt needs will continue to escalate until or unless the heart issues are taken care of.
The gospel seemed to me to be assumed until the end of the 4-day challenge. I would have liked to have seen that throughout the entire challenge. The truth is, apart from Christ, our marriages are doomed…happy and satisfying marriages in a true sense, anyway.
Not all was negative, however. I did find there to be some very practical and informative nuggets of truth. I would ask my wife some questions about what was said in the book and she would most often confirm what was said. I found Smalley’s 4 decades of marriage and years of experience as a marriage counselor to be of more value as a whole than the book. That being said, it was those two factors (a long marriage and ministry) that led, in my estimation to the writing of this book.
I can honestly recommend this book to mature Christian couples who are struggling in their marriage. Sometimes the pragmatic side of the equation is all that is needed. If you take Smalley up on this challenge, I would be careful to search your heart diligently as you seek to have that lasting and happy marriage.