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    Love That Lasts: Final Thoughts

    April 15, 2011 by Brandy Vencel

    I already mentioned that I started off impressed with the book Love That Lasts: When Marriage Meets Grace. I was not disappointed. Gary and Betsy Ricucci wrote a brief little book, it’s true, but it was packed with the hope of the gospel for marriage.

    But First, My One Dislike Annoyance
    Sometimes, I think my calling will turn out to be writing a book called Marriage for the Poor when I’m older and wiser. Surely, a successful marriage is not a luxury item, even in the 21st century.

    In a chapter on romance, we are told to “prioritize romance as a way of life.” Some of the suggested ways of doing this are:

    • Date nights.

      A top priority for any marriage should be consistent date nights.

    • Weekend getaways.

      Spending concentrated time with each other in a different environment is an excellent way to refresh and refocus your marriage.

    • Celebrations and traditions.

      Celebration punctuates the daily routine with life and color.

      This sounds good, but it’s followed by:

      Because we were married in mid-October, we developed a tradition of going away for our wedding anniversary and beginning our Christmas shopping together.

    • In their defense, they also mention watching a certain special movie together each Christmas.

    • Gifts.

      If giving your spouse a new food processor or leaf rake is your idea of romance, you’re to be commended for reading this far! Practical items like those should be given only if seriously needed or requested.

    I am not against vacations and dates. My husband and I aim for a date night each month, and there is the possibility that I have been known to harass sweetly remind him if it gets forgotten.

    However, comma.

    This is obviously written by people who either have no clue what it is like to be poor, or have forgotten.

    Recently, I read a blog post from a woman musing about her tenth anniversary. She and her husband dressed up and went out; “splurging” for their anniversary involved actually buying dessert at the restaurant. This was all they could afford, but it was an excess for them and served as a celebration of the life they were building together.

    I can tell you from experience that when a couple is young, poor, and newly married, the last thing they need is someone pressuring them by saying that, in order to have a successful, romantic marriage, they need date nights and vacations. {They need intimate, uninterrupted time, yes, but this does not necessarily translate into a date or a vacation.} On the whole, we Americans have more money than any civilization ever recorded. We have more leisure time {for the most part}, and we have the ability to spend our money on dates and toys and trips and whatever else.

    And we also have an astronomically high divorce rate.

    All of our expenditures on romantic dates and vacations and gifts have gotten us nowhere.

    I’ve been intrigued lately as I’ve been reading through old books. Whether it is the plays of Shakespeare, the novels of Jane Austen, or the real life of John and Abigail Adams, I have been increasingly convinced that couples of the past knew how to have a rich, fulfilling marriage without dates. John and Abigail Adams lived apart for years while he was an ambassador; their marriage “survived” solely by tenderly written letters.

    Remember, dates were invented around the same time as the horseless carriage {a.k.a. the car} making the whole concept only a little over a century old. If we say that dates, vacations {which, until recently, were a luxury belonging to the upper classes and the lucky servants who got to tag along}, and gifts {impractical ones at that!} are required for a really good marriage, we are saying that a good marriage is inaccessible to the needy, and I refuse to believe this is true.

    Later in this same chapter, the Ricucci’s write:

    You’ve probably guessed this by now, but when Betsy and I think of romance, we don’t think first in terms of champagne, exotic vacations, dozens of roses, or expensive gifts.

    I was actually shocked to read this. That is exactly the impression I had! I was glad to see them backtrack a little there at the end.

    The letters of John and Abigail Adams are a reminder that the secret of abiding love is firm and faithful friendship. My suspicion is that the divorce rate in this country is not reflecting a lack of romance, but an inability to be a good and faithful friend. It is possible that, culturally speaking, we have forgotten what true friendship, fidelity, loyalty look like. And how can we emulate what we do not know?

    My Likes
    Love That Lasts: When Marriage Meets GracePlease don’t let this one thing keep you from this book! I just wanted to take the opportunity to set the record straight because this is common thing people say, and the worse the economy gets, the more folks are going to feel like “romance” is out of their reach {if we make it dependent upon things which require money}.

    There was a lot to like here, and I can’t possibly list all of it. Of course, any book which begins with a solid theology is going to have an advantage.

    This book is written for both husbands and wives, and there is a wealth of wisdom in its pages. Here are a few excerpts:

    I can’t count the number of times, during the past twenty-eight-plus years of pastoral ministry, that an individual or couple has come to me with a persistent problem or struggle with sin notably present, yet the consistent practice of fellowship with God notably absent. And so often when I raise with a husband his relationship with God, he wants to focus on his relationship with his wife. Men, there will be no progress in leading and loving your wife if you fail to fellowship with God.

    In my experience, healthy and growing marriages are invariably led by men who are consistent and intentional in their pursuit of God. Struggling marriages usually are not. It’s just that simple.

    [B]efore you look at your marriage union and perhaps begin to labor under the weight of discouragement, remember the gospel and grace. Remember that God is at work in your marriage for good. His love and power are far more effective than your weakness, failure, and sin. Remember also that in your marriage, as in your life, sanctification is both a gradual and a continual process.

    Be especially wary of television, that little square thing {or big rectangular thing} whose seductive glow can suck the life out of a marriage.

    [I]n marriage, genuine peace does not mean the absence of all conflict. It means that when conflicts arise, they are handled and resolved biblically because loving, pleasing, and honoring God is reestablished as our greatest desire and pursuit.

    Jesus taught that a willingness to extend forgiveness is a mark of a true disciple. Forgiveness is a necessary element of biblical conflict resolution.

    The granting and extension of forgiveness creates a lasting reconciliation and converts a destructive event into a redemptive one. This process echoes the gospel and is only possible because of the gospel.

    Begin with what God has done for you in Jesus Christ. That’s humility and faith. The gospel redeems the past, provides for the present, and prepares for the future. In marriage, it is God’s activity through the finished work of Christ, applied in our lives by the indwelling Holy Spirit, that encourages and enables us and ensures our future. Every journey must begin here.

    In all, I think it’s the most gospel-centered marriage book I’ve ever read. I’ve been looking to have one or two go-to books on my shelf to loan out when someone says they are looking for a good marriage book. I had basic criteria in my mind: something simple, not too long, written for both men and women, and {most importantly} solidly empowered by the gospel.

    This book totally made the cut.

    Related Thoughts on Dates, Vacations, and Gifts:
    Unnecessary Dates and Vacations
    Frugal Moment: Planning for Christmas

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  • Reply KayPelham April 18, 2011 at 6:51 pm

    Trying to imagine Ma and Pa Ingalls going out on date nights. Mr. Bennet would have probably preferred that Mrs. Bennet go out by herself for their date nights πŸ™‚ Now there’s a marriage that needed some help!

    I appreciate you observation that “dating” is a fairly new convention. Sometimes I think there is too much stress on keeping “the romance” alive. It seems to me the most valuable thing is a shared commitment and love for truth and righteousness. Stay truthful with each other and keep the ol’ lines of communication open.

  • Reply Brandy @ Afterthoughts April 15, 2011 at 10:40 pm

    Mystie, For our 10th my husband found a bed and breakfast not very far away that is in the mountains near a national park. He has even made reservations. We’ll go “hike” {I use that term loosely as I am more of a meander-er} both days, sit on their patio to watch the stars, and generally be quiet. πŸ™‚

    We haven’t been on vacation just the two of us…goodness…in five years or so, I guess. It’ll be nice. But some of best anniversaries have been exactly as you described: our own house, but to ourselves. πŸ™‚

  • Reply Mystie April 15, 2011 at 9:54 pm

    We decided to get intentional about making time to sit together and have the opportunity to talk. Being both introverts, we have actually found that our time together at home after kids are in bed are more conducive to conversation than when we go to some public place. My husband is too alert to picking up on everything that’s going on around him (if we ever happen to be at the scene of a crime, my husband will not have missed a detail) and I have a hard time hearing with all the auditory clutter. πŸ™‚

    We will do something for our 10th anniversary this year, but we haven’t decided what yet. Letting the kids stay at Grandma’s house and having the house to ourselves honestly seems more appealing than going to sleep in a strange bed somewhere else. We’ll see.

  • Reply Brandy @ Afterthoughts April 15, 2011 at 9:14 pm

    Goodness, when I got home and saw three comments, I was afraid I’d crossed the line. Thanks for not stringing me up! πŸ™‚

    I think my issue is making these things imperative. Now that we can afford date nights, I love to take them. But back when we a date meant sharing a drink at Starbucks (and only then when we could afford it), I always wished there was a book that thought outside the box on this issue.

    There was a brief mention of setting aside time at home, but then they explained that slowly they had allowed chores to creep into that time. The solution offered was to leave the house. I kept thinking that some of us need to just be told to really guard and protect that time. One of my favorite things to do with my husband is simply sitting out on our patio after the children are in bed, drinking hot cocoa and looking at the stars. As long as we are good about getting kids to bed, that is the sort of “date night” we could afford to have every single night if we wanted to! πŸ™‚

    Walks: yes! Now that the weather is warmer and the sun is up longer, we have been enjoying family walks in the evenings. Funny thing: after pushing a stroller for nine years, I suddenly can hold my husband’s hand again. It is revolutionary…even if I am holding onto a 2-year-old with the other hand! πŸ™‚

  • Reply Pam... April 15, 2011 at 5:19 pm

    Good work Brandi. (I like the flowers under the post too.)

    We have never had money, and there were many years that we could not afford a babysitter or a coke, let alone a date night. No loss there; we just lit candles and talked after kids went to bed. Or walks, etc.
    But now, we do have 4 teens, and they don’t go to bed early like they used to. Also, they are very mature and willing to watch each other so we can do an overnight on our anniversary. It often takes 3 or 4 months to save up, but when one spends their days continuously with 10 children I will say that an overnight,when possible, is the most wonderful thing!!!

    It doesn’t make the marriage; and you are right on about what you said. Thanks for being a spokesperson in this day and age for those who have less, for marriage, and for God. Refreshing.

  • Reply Karen@Candid Diversions April 15, 2011 at 4:36 pm

    Ah, the date night entitlement! That is a personal pet peeve of mine. I enjoy 1 on 1 time with my beloved just as much as the next girl (more?) but we are not entitled to it. It is a perk – not a pillar – of our marriage.

    I loved this book and I don’t remember feeling like there was too much emphasis on dates, gifts, or vacations, but my memory may be faulty. When added to all the other marriage books out there, and the many relationship blog posts, not to mention the TV jewelry commercials, it would seem that if we’re not going out at least once a week sans children, taking a weekend getaway “just the two of us” or buying expensive gifts to “show we care”, then we don’t care about our relationship.

    To which I say: phooey. I’d say something stronger but I’m not a swearing woman. πŸ˜‰

  • Reply GretchenJoanna April 15, 2011 at 4:25 pm

    Thanks for a balanced review. You are helping so many people when you take the time to give the caveats as well as the specific praise.

    On the subject of dates for couples, I was blessed to read about one couple who had a houseful of children, and still a need for frequent getaways by themselves. Their solution was a near-daily walk up and down the street in front of their house, always in sight of the older children who were supervising and could call them inside if there was need.
    This practice gave them some privacy and time together, and even a little exercise, all for free.

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