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    Book Review: Young and in Love

    July 12, 2011 by Brandy Vencel

    I wasn’t sure what to expect when I began reading Young and in Love by Ted Cunningham. On the one hand, I knew I agreed with his thesis–that this cultural trend of putting off marriage {on purpose} until 25, 30, or even 40 is not healthy. On the other hand, Cunningham took a not-so-subtle swipe at I Kissed Dating Goodbye, and even though I haven’t read it in probably fifteen years, I still think of it as a positive book in terms of its influence.

    Let’s Talk About the Good Points

    Young and in Love

     Cunningham builds a good case for getting married young. Say…as young as I got married, for instance. The funny thing is, I didn’t think of it as being so very young. I was living on my own, providing entirely for myself {except for various types of insurance–thanks, Dad}…I even had a college degree! And yet we were told by a couple people that we were “young” and oughtn’t we to wait a bit longer?

    One poor soul even suggested we try living together first, to make sure we liked it. Siah squeezed my hand so that I kept my mouth shut. Am I a car, that someone might take me for a test drive? What kind of girl does he think I am? I was also pondering what my loving father might have done to this person had he been there!
    But that’s another story.
    The point–Mr. Cunningham’s point–is that a lot of people who are “young and in love” get this kind of negative feedback. They hear it from their parents, or from the church. Everywhere they turn, folks are discouraging them from getting married.
    This book wasn’t exactly what I expected in that it was really the “young and in love” who are his audience. It’s a sort of premarital counseling packaged up in a book. He tells them they aren’t necessarily too young {that young marriage isn’t a cause of divorce}, and then he helps them sort through various issues. What are necessary delays? What are unnecessary delays? What should a person look for in a spouse? What are signs of trouble? And so on.
    I think I would have found this encouraging way back when I was 22-years-old and engaged to be married, and I find myself pondering what the future holds for my own children. How will I respond biblically to them when the time comes?
    I’ll post a bunch of quotes separately {probably tomorrow} because this book was full of little gems worth thinking about, but I just wanted to briefly mention Cunningham’s pro-marriage argument. Yes, he talks about marriage being normative for human existence; he’s correct, I think. But what I found interesting was that he used Genesis 2:24:

    For this reason a man shall leave his father and his mother, and be joined to his wife; and they shall become one flesh.

    Cunningham sees this as a biblical argument for early marriage. Man leaves home and gets married. This all happens in quick succession. This idea of leaving home and being unattached for years and years–perhaps decades–is a foreign concept. In other words, marriage ought to happen on the front end of adulthood, as a general rule.

    For what it’s worth, I think I agree with him, to a point. But I also know that certain guys we knew that I thought were delaying marriage really just hadn’t met the right gal. Once they did–BOOM!–they were married before we knew it. Even though it is normal and natural to leave home and take a wife, it doesn’t always work out that way, and I don’t think that’s horrible or anti-marriage.

    A Couple Precautions
    This book is written to encourage those considering marriage not to unnecessarily delay it. As long as we consider this being its primary message, I think it does okay. But there are little bits of advice nestled within it that I thought were at least slightly questionable.

    For instance, at one point, in response to what single girls ought to do who really want to be married, the response was that they ought to learn to flirt smarter. Well, okay, I suppose that is good advice for some girls. Some girls are not responsive to men, and if they are interested in getting married they probably should learn to be. But one person’s idea of flirting can vary greatly from another, and I hope that Cunningham isn’t accidently suggesting that women throw themselves at men. Some young women will read that and think their inappropriately familiar ways with men are acceptable.

    As an aside I’ll mention that I appreciated what Carolyn Mahoney said in Did I Kiss Marriage Goodbye? Proverbs 30:19 says:

    There are three things which are too wonderful for me,
    Four which I do not understand:
    The way of an eagle in the sky,
    The way of a serpent on a rock,
    The way of a ship in the middle of the sea,
    And the way of a man with a maid.

    It is easy for us to try and explain why someone isn’t married. She’s too fat, he’s too thin, she’s socially awkward, he’s a jerk–or maybe she just doesn’t have her flirting down?–and all of this might be true. But how many fat, awkward, or ugly people are married? Lots! Solomon himself didn’t understand the way of a man with a maid–it is a great mystery. Though individual singles may be helped by individual advice tailored specifically to them, to say that girls need more effective flirting skills is really asserting that we know more about this issue than Solomon.

    Also, Cunningham doesn’t mention Joshua Harris by name, but more than once he implies that “kissing dating goodbye” is part of the world’s anti-marriage movement, and I’d just like to point out that we’re all on the same team here. Harris kissed dating goodbye because he was pursuing marriage and he didn’t think dating was the best path to a great marriage.

    I would agree with this, too. I know that there are strange sub-cultures out there with their “boys” staying home until 30, and their girls so tightly locked up that they’re hardly able to meet eligible bachelors to marry, but still. Every family I’ve met in real life that practices the Harris-version of courtship seems very reasonable. Because they believe in marriage, they focus their children on preparing themselves in maturity when they are teens, and then they usually marry the first or second sweet thing that comes along.

    In contrast, Cunningham seems to ignore the degree to which casual dating contributes to the promiscuity problem. I suppose if you are really seeking marriage, then no dating can really be viewed as casual, but as someone who used to work in the dean’s office of a Christian college, let me just say that young couples, dating towards marriage, and totally in love, still ended up pregnant before marriage, or getting caught doing things they ought not. This was not {in my opinion} because they were putting off marriage. Many of them were planning weddings a few months out. It was because the culture of dating made them vulnerable to temptation.

    That, and they were sinners like the rest of us.

    In short, I think it is possible to have a casual courtship culture that is more pro-marriage than a serious dating culture like the one Cunningham promotes.

    Then again, he’s a pastor who’s given thousands of hours of premarital counseling to young couples, and I’m just me…with opinions, so take them for what they’re worth.

    In Summary
    It’s a good book. I think I’ll keep it on my shelf. I’m building a little library on this subject and starting to think about these things, so that I have some fodder for thinking through how we’ll handle these issues alongside our own children. We are definitely pro-marriage {and pro-grandchildren!} and we got married young {my own parents married as teens and will be celebrating their 40th anniversary next year}, and we have no problem with our children following in our footsteps. I think that our family already sends the message to our children that people leave home…and get married. When our son asks us at what age people usually get married, our answer tends to be that men get married when they have a job that allows them to afford a wife. Nothing fancy, but wives do this thing called having babies as a general rule, so a job is a must.

    If you find yourself holding on to the idea that your child has to have everything perfectly together before getting married, I’d highly suggest checking out this book. It’ll help you let go.

    Legal Drivel
    I received a free copy of Young and in Love from The B & B Media Group in exchange for a frank and unbiased review.

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    1 Comment

  • Reply ~Kela~ September 10, 2011 at 1:44 am

    Thank you for this review! I just purchased it for myself and my 17 y/o daughter to read. She and her guy are serious about each other. She’s a graduating senior (we home educate also, btw) and he is a freshman in college.
    She knows that in a couple years she’ll be ready for marriage, but for him, he can’t see it just yet; but after he graduates college. It’s a work and prayer in progress.

    I’m looking forward to reading the book even more now! Thanks again! Blessings, Kela

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