My husband and I attend a couples’ small group offered by our church. Our group recently read Not Your Parents’ Marriage: Bold Partnership for a New Generation by Jerome and Kellie Daley. The basic idea presented by the authors is that you bring with you into marriage expectations based on your past experiences with marriage (especially your parents’ marriage). They challenge couples to examine their expectations in order to determine which to keep and which to toss out, with a goal of letting God do a “new thing” in their relationships.
The Daleys drew on their experiences to guide their discussion. While this gives their writing a personal tone, I believe it limits the applicability of the book. They spent significant amounts of time addressing two common challenges. For various reasons, these challenges were magnified in their newlywed years. It was difficult for me and many others in my small group to associate with them because these challenges have not been as significant in our lives.
The first challenge was “leaving and cleaving.” While this is an issue faced by many couples, the Daleys’ found it especially difficult because they lived and worked in incredibly close proximity to one set of their parents. (As they tell it, they had to move 1,600 miles away for a year-long sabbatical to successfully leave and cleave.) Their discussion was not of routine issues such as deciding which parents to visit for Christmas. They discussed situations where parents and children were so enmeshed that they could not separate physically, emotionally, or spiritually. This was not an experience my husband and I had, so we felt there wasn’t much for us to take away from the two chapters that addressed it. Many couples in our small group felt similarly.
The second challenge had to do with personality types. Through their experiences, the Daleys have identified two types of souls (the Warrior and the Artist). They developed a simple questionnaire to help readers identify which personality they have. I am suspect of the personality assessment because it isn’t based on research; it’s based solely on the authors’ observations. One member of my small group commented that the two types of souls identified by the authors corresponded with their personalities so it appears as though they simply developed an instrument to classify everyone else into one of those two types. While I’m sure this isn’t what they did, their subjective approach doesn’t lend credence to the personality types. There is likely some truth in their classifications, but with so much diversity within each category (there are only 2, after all) it is difficult to draw useful generalizations about the people in each. The Daleys spent 3 somewhat redundant chapters discussing these personality types (this is noteworthy given there are only 10 chapters in the book).
Though these two challenges were discussed in depth, the Daleys addressed many other issues in a superficial manner. As they introduced numerous topics throughout the book, I often wondered exactly what they were talking about because I felt their explanations were vague. At the conclusion of many chapters, I found myself wondering what key concept I was supposed to take with me.
Is there anything positive I can say about the book? Sure. It has a conversational tone and the Daleys’ honesty about their own relationship develops rapport with the reader. I appreciate the emphasis they placed on honoring the past. This is critical given the book focused on letting go of preconceived expectations and discovering what God has for your marriage.
Not Your Parents’ Marriage isn’t a book my husband and I will keep and reread. However, it might benefit couples who wonder if their marriages are supposed to conform to those of their parents, couples who haven’t been successful in “leaving and cleaving,” and newlyweds who didn’t have premarital counseling (or a similar experience) to help them discuss issues they may experience in the early years of marriage.
What books on marriage have you read recently? Would you recommend them?