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Tuesday, February 11, 2014

"Love to Stay" (Adam Hamilton)

TITLE: Love to Stay: Sex, Grace, and Commitment
AUTHOR: Adam Hamilton
PUBLISHER: Nashville, TN: Abingdon Press, 2013, (176 pages).

With Valentine's Day just a few more days away, it is rather appropriate to have a book about love, sex, and marriage. It is easy for anyone to locate statistics about how bad the divorce rates are and how many marriages are struggling. There are also negative connotations whenever couples go for marriage counseling sessions, for the assumption is always problematic couples going for counseling together. We all know that the institution of marriage is increasingly under threat. More people are choosing instead to live together without bothering to get married. "It's just a piece of paper." They say. Is it?

Pastor and author, Adam Hamilton says it is more than a piece of paper. Marriage is a calling. It is good. It is a union of two person's all for the benefit of the marriage relationship. Both are counterparts, partners, lovers, helpers, companions, and mutual blessors. It is a relationship that is eros transformed into agape. The mission and vision for marriage is to reach an agape of selfless service, beautiful, profound, and holy. The wedding vows present the reality and scope of such love.

In order to achieve that, five things are necessary. First, both husband and wife are to know their gender uniqueness. It is about selfless living to put the interests of one's spouse to be selfless loving. Marriages are worth investing and worth our time and resources to cultivate. It means building up a healthy "love bank." Second, sexual intimacy protects the marriage. Hamilton notes that the older the couple is, the lesser the number of times they made love.  Plumbing through the expert studies and research journals, he encourages couples to schedule times of lovemaking, see the sex act as part of the mission of marriage, and learn fun and play in the process with each other. Of interest is the link between sexual intimacy and regular conversations. The more couples communicate, the better their lovemaking. This one point is probably worth the price of the book! Third, cultivate good habits that heal rather than hurt. One particular habit is how we speak of our spouses to other people. Do we do so respectfully? Have we done it lovingly? What would we like our spouses to speak of us? Habits do make a relationship. Otherwise, we risk exposing our marriages to temptations. Hamilton suggests five steps to protect our marriage from temptations. Fourth, marriages must be filled with forbearance and forgiveness. In order to make love last, note the behaviours that will turn off our spouses and then refrain from doing them. Recognize the bad habits that irritate and stop doing them out of love. Remember that relationships do not rise or fall overnight due to any one major crisis. Most of the time, the small little issues that build up over time are more fatal. Do an annual marriage review. Make room for honest and healthy conflict. Fight not to break but fight for the marriage. Recognize the "four horsemen of the apocalypse" (criticism, defensiveness, contempt, stonewalling). Pray together. Finally, learn to return to the first love moment in our marriage, just like the biblical truth that urges us to return to our first love. This is another way of going back to first principles. It means returning to what the Bible teaches and then obey them. Learn to say "Thank you" to each other. Learn to pray together.

This book is a nice summary of many popular marriage manuals. Sometimes, I wonder whether we still need another book on marriage. After all, there are already so many books out there. In the light of the many challenges in marriage nowadays, I think the need is greater each day. Marriage is worth writing for. That is why I encourage readers to pick up this book and learn all over again. I like the way Hamilton puts it, especially the part about married couples going for couples only when their marriage is in trouble. The point is, why do we need to wait until a problem occurs before going for counseling? Like a car that needs regular maintenance in order to run reliably, so do marriages. Another point is about the sex component. I find that Hamilton may have spent relatively more time on the physical sex at the expense of stressing sexual intimacy. Yes, the act is important, but the intimacy is also equally important. Personally, I would note that sexual intimacy is more than sex. Itt is different from sex although sex is a component of it. Sexual intimacy means knowing one another, being vulnerable, being open, and naked before the other. It is a special union that is beautiful, profound, and holy. Hollywood and perverted sexual images have marred our understanding of sex and intimacy. Having sex does not mean intimacy for one can have sex without establishing intimacy. At the same time, being intimate does not necessarily mean one must perform the sexual act. I appreciate the way Hamilton suggests ideas and recommendations from the standpoint of those who are singles or still unmarried. It makes this book more inclusive.

This is a worthy addition to one's marriage resource library, but don't just buy it and shelve it. Read it and practice it. For love is here to stay.

Rating: 4.25 stars of 5.


This book is provided to me courtesy of Abingdon Press and NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. All opinions offered above are mine unless otherwise stated or implied.

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