Book Review – How to Act Right When Your Spouse Acts Wrong

When my wife and I were married, two imperfect individuals promised to love each other perfectly – “for better, for worse.” Like many other couples, we naively entered this new chapter of our lives with unrealistic and selfish preconceptions of how life would be like from that point on. And like many other couples, we have over time discovered the imperfectness of our union, each other, and, most of all, ourselves. We are in constant need of being reminded what the goal of our marriage should be.

In How to Act Right When Your Spouse Acts Wrong, Christian counselor Leslie Vernick dives into the murky waters of marital discord by bringing into focus what that primary purpose of all marriages should be – “to help [us] grow more like Christ.” (p.2) She says further “If we lose sight of the goal — Christlikeness — we will become frustrated in our attempts to act right when our spouse acts wrong. Our purpose in learning to act right is not to get our spouse to act right, to be fair, or to contribute more to the marriage. We cannot control our spouse’s heart. With our goal set on pleasing God and being more like Jesus in all circumstances, we will begin to grow and to know the mind of Christ.” (p.64) It is to this goal that Vernick consistently comes back in each discussion and issue.

Much of the book is centered on how we react to what our spouse does instead of focusing on the wrong that our spouse commits. Throughout the book, the underlying question is “How is God using my spouse to make me more like Christ?” The message of the book shouldn’t be seen as one that makes the one spouse a doormat while the offending spouse is given free reign to do whatever he or she wants. Vernick writes about the need to respond to our spouse’s sinful behaviors in a loving, firm, yet Christ-like manner. “Our real enemy is not our spouse, as much as it might feel that way. Our enemy is Satan and the evil he stands for.” (p.66)

Vernick is very explicit in stating that following the principles in the book will not guarantee that a marriage will turn around overnight – or even at all. What she does try to teach is that we are to view our marriage – whether good, bad, ugly or somewhere in between – as a tool used by God to shape us more into the image of Christ for his honor and glory. She doesn’t shy away from dealing with difficult marital issues nor the possible need for separation/divorce in some instances. But through it all, she emphasizes over and over our individual responsibility and calling to become more like Christ in our lives. This is an excellent book on the subject of marriage and one well worth reading.

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