Making Marriage Simple by Harville Hendrix, PhD and Helen LaKelly Hunt, PhD
As a girl, I watched my parents fight and feared their divorce. I was often scared that their fights, silence, and unhappiness would lead to a fractured family. For better or worse, I’ve carried some of that fear into my own marriage. I enjoyed reading Making Marriage Simple. It’s a slim volume, a charming, self-effacing and utterly sincere book with tips and exercises to help couples communicate, handle conflict, and enjoy their relationships.
Making Marriage Simple is written by the couple who penned the famous Getting the Love You Want. Readers familiar with that book will recognize some of the principles and exercises in this book. I appreciated that this text wasn’t couched in a religious context. Hendrix has experience as a Baptist preacher, so I prepared for language like “wives, submit to your husbands; husbands, love your wives” and the “complementarian skill sets” which were a troubling part of my religious education.
But none of that was present. In fact, this book takes steps to make it applicable to all kinds of unions, secular or sacred, same-sex or hetero. This sensitivity and broadmindedness went a long way with me as a reader.
In less than 150 pages, Making Marriage Simple is a quick, simple read made for people without an expansive knowledge of relationship theory. Each chapter explores a theory or truth about relationships. Some of my favorites were: “Romantic Love Is a Trick,” the surprising “Incompatibility Is Grounds for Marriage,” and two chapters I continued to think about for weeks after reading them, “Conflict is Growth Trying to Happen,” and “Negativity is Invisible Abuse.” At the end of each chapter, there’s an exercise for couples to work through on their own.
Fair warning: it’s a bit campy. There are metaphors for the way people behave in conflict (are you a turtle or a hailstorm?) and cartoons illustrating salient points discussed in each chapter. On the bright side, they’re actually quite insightful. I found myself nodding my head in recognition when Hendrix discussed how hailstorms handle conflict, recognizing my partner in some language too. The cartoons, while dippy at times, were gender-neutral—another way the text didn’t reinforce any gender or sex-based bias. If you can get over the camp and release the need to “look cool” in relationship, Making Marriage Simple offers some real, accessible wisdom.
This is an uncomplicated book. If you’re looking for a text replete with technical language about relationship theory, this isn’t it. Its charm, humor and advice could appeal to a wide readership; regardless of the demographics of your monogamous relationship, you could glean some useful practices from this book that might strengthen it.
At the back of the book, the appendix features tips for how to use it: you can set aside a special weekend with your partner to work through the exercises laid out at the ends of chapters and in the back, or you can commit to a certain time or day during the week to practice them. While reading the appendix, I found myself thinking that it’d probably be most effective if both partners read this book together so both people are working with the same vocabulary and context for quick, effective communication.
In a culture where some citizens must fight for their right to marry, but where happy marriage is often rare, Making Marriage Simple can be a helpful tool to make sure you and your partner are in a relationship that is good and healthy for your family. Whether your relationship is on the rocks or every day is bliss and you want to maintain the magic, this simple, powerful book can be a useful tool in maintaining a healthy relationship with your partner.
Buy Making Marriage Simple here.