Thursday, May 26, 2011

Book Review - What Makes a Man Feel Loved?

The Book: What Makes a Man Feel Loved: Understanding What Your Husband Really Wants
by Bob Barnes
Harvest House Publishers (1998) $12.99

I have pretty wide-ranging reading tastes, everything from fiction to history to theology to homemaking guides and guides to Christian living. I've seen plenty of marriage books written by women and when I saw this one was written for women by a man, it piqued my interest. In the end, I found it to be a decent read for the most part, though not the best marriage book I've ever tried.

Barnes starts off on solid ground, unpacking many of the lies that we have been told about marriage by the world. These are things such as "Men and women are fundamentally the same," "Today's woman should abandon'softness' for 'assertiveness,'" or "A woman should look for senstivity, not strength, in a man." His descriptions of how the world has warped views of relationships between men and women rang true and marked a good starting point for the book.

From there, Barnes uses a mixture of stories from his own 40+ year marriage as well as Biblical wisdom to explain not only what men seek from their wives, but also what a good marriage can look like. His reminders of the need for grace because we are all fallen creatures and we are all going to sin and make mistakes at some point were comforting, and his reminder that women need to look to God first and to be ever in prayer was helpful. It can be easy to focus on our spouses and forget that we need to bring our marriages before God and not just talk to each other without seeking Him.

While I've heard from many sources that men value their wives' softness and quiet, gentle spirits or that men need to be providers and heroes to their wives and families, Barnes explains in his book why that is so. Most of what he says is more commonsensical than earth-shattering, but I still found it helpful to read. Likewise his discussion of what men primarily seek from their wives and how different (yet complementary) that is from what women report seeking from their husbands made for thoughtful reading.

I also found his use of Scripture helpful. Not surprisingly, he talks about Proverbs 31 and Ephesians, but in discussing helpmeets as well as men's needs to work and provide for their families, he also quotes several times from 1 Peter 3 about the women who were in submission to their husbands or as Barnes saw it (using the Living Bible translation) "fitted in with their husbands' plans." I'm not normally a fan of the Living Bible because I don't find it the most accurate translation, but I did find this translation helpful in thinking about what being in submission can look like. Barnes talks a great deal about how much men need the support of their wives in important decisions.

And I really enjoyed the supplemental material in this book. The book is filled with sidebars containing inspirational quotations, Bible verses and "Expressions of Love" which are little ways in which a wife can show her husband how she feels about him. Some are cute and flirtatious while others involve serious discussion and prayer over ways to improve the marriage. I know my husband would love many of these ideas!

On the less than positive side, this book contains a bit too much modern psychobabble for me. I'm not completely anti-psychology as I do think there is a role for Christians in counseling and in treating mental health problems, but the personality/temperament test discussion was more cheesy than helpful to me. In addition, the author talks about submission and the role of women, but then clearly contemplates that some married women would not only take on full-time careers, but perhaps even be in a supervisory capacity over their husbands which while carefully phrased in the book, still didn't seem to have Scriptural authority quoted for it. That dichotomy in thinking didn't make sense. Likewise the use of a paraphrase of the Song of Solomon toward the end seemed unnecessary. As I read the paraphrase, all I could think was, "The original is beautiful. Why didn't they just use that?"

So, while it has its flaws, I did find What Makes a Man Feel Loved an interesting read and even if I didn't find it to be The Best Book Ever, I did get some helpful insight from it. And I know I'll be trying some of the cute ideas like leaving notes in my husband's lunch, flirting with him "just because", and otherwise letting him know I love him. Bottom line? This isn't an earth-shattering book and it does contain some things I would consider possible error, but it can still be a helpful read if you're interested in getting an everyday man's perspective on love and marriage. I would just recommend reading with discernment.

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