One of the greatest things about having colleagues that support healthy marriages is the occasional invitation to read a book before it even hits the stores. I’ve actually been given this opportunity many times over. Sometimes, this book-lover has to turn down these invites because I get a lot of requests to read material and I just don’t always have the time to devote to it. By the way, if anyone knows of a job where I can just sit around and read books all day, send me an email so I can apply. 🙂
I’m putting my stamp of approval on this one!
Like I said, I don’t have nearly enough time to read all of the wonderful material that my colleagues and other marriage proponents are writing, but when Aaron gave me the opportunity to read his book, A Stronger Knot, and send my thoughts, I quickly agreed. Aaron and I have had the opportunity to do a couple of webinars together where we’ve talked about establishing healthy boundaries and where we’ve discussed how to handle sexual desire differences in marriage. And, we have plans to do some more work together in the future. This is how I knew, even before reading A Stronger Knot, that there would be some great content in his book.
By the way – I never endorse something that I haven’t experienced myself. I just can’t allow myself to share a resource I don’t fully believe in. And, if I share a resource that I only mostly like, you’re going to get a disclaimer about it.
Aaron’s book is gold! I’m such a big fan of this book, that I’ve already got two copies coming to me. One for me to keep (I just had an unpublished electronic version when I reviewed it) and one to give away to one of you. Deets on the giveaway at the bottom of this blog.
A Few Take-Aways
I love this book (and will recommend it to many of the couples I work with) for several reasons. I’m sharing three of them here.
Vulnerability is okay
Aaron is a firm believer in allowing yourself to be vulnerable as long as you’re in a safe relationship. In fact, one of his core beliefs is that we can only be intimate with our spouse to the degree that we’re willing to be vulnerable. I couldn’t agree with him more on this one. I find that vulnerability can be incredibly difficult, especially when there are past hurts in the relationship, but I know that vulnerability leads to intimacy. And, if you’re going to have a marriage you love, there’s just no substitute for intimacy.
What I loved about reading A Stronger Knot, is that Aaron shows some of his own vulnerability in the book. He shares examples of differences between him and his wife, Hannah, and he talks about the ways in which vulnerability with her has given them an intimate connection. I just love that a man is writing about the importance of vulnerability. I really believe this is a message we just don’t hear often enough.
God always has a plan
Without giving too much away (I mean c’mon…I really think you should own this book), I’m going to share a tiny bit of a story. Aaron and Hannah have adopted two of the cutest kiddos ever. I’m serious. Hannah writes about adoption (among other things) and you can see their family’s cute little pictures all over her blog.
In this book, Aaron shares their story of adoption and how their marriage was impacted, while showing the reader how God was working on their behalf the entire time. It becomes this incredibly hopeful story and reminder that God is working on your behalf to heal your marriage, even when you can’t really see the signs of Him moving on your behalf.
Be careful of expectations
Aaron has this saying that “expectations are pre-meditated disappointments.” He reminds his readers that one of our bigger problems in marriage comes from these unnecessary and impossible to meet expectations. But, he doesn’t stop there. He offers sound advice about not expecting too much of our spouse. This doesn’t mean that we should have no expectations. Some are healthy and he helps you distinguish healthy versus harmful expectations.
After reading his book, I had a few questions that I asked Aaron so I could understand some of the concepts better and he was kind enough to humor me and send me some answers. Here they are word for word. 🙂
You have a set of family rules that you and your wife wrote together. These rules are beautifully descriptive and incredibly encouraging. Basically, I would describe them as hopes and goals you two have for your marriage. What advice would you have for a couple trying to set some of their own rules for their relationship?
Hopes and dreams are a good way of describing them. They are things that we are aspiring to be as a family. Proverbs 29:18 says that “where there is no vision, the people perish.” These are aspirations for what we want our family to long for. Hopefully they are not just for our marriage but our entire family unit. Couples should pray about what they want their marriage to represent. What do they want their marriage/family legacy to be? Honestly I used to call it your marriage epitaph but legacy sounds so much more beautiful, poetic, and true. What do you want your marriage to represent? Most people have not thought about what their marriage vision is and have not really thought about the direction they want to head in. This is dreaming taken to a different level. The rules are what you want your marriage DNA to be composed of. If people asked what your marriage or relationship valued, what would you want them to say? These rules are our foundation for why we do what we do as a couple and in our marriage.
Since we’re both sex therapists, we know that people often come to us looking to improve their sex lives and we often have to start at the base level of improving the marriage. If you were working with a couple and helping them improve their marriage, how might this flow over into their marital intimacy?
Great Question! This is the natural flow. When our spiritual and emotional connection and intimacy are strong it helps influence a healthier and more satisfying sexual experience. One of my absolute favorite verse is Genesis 2:25 “They were naked, and yet they felt no shame.” When we are truly naked and unashamed emotionally, then we automatically feel closer to our partner. I truly believe that when we care about a relationship that vulnerability automatically pushes us toward a healthier intimacy. If a couple does not have a healthy emotional connection and friendship then sex just becomes a physical release or a way to achieve an outcome. Sex is the overflow of a deeply connected and loving couple. When you do not have the emotional intimacy and connection in a marriage it is just sex. When that happens, it is not about truly exploring the art of who the other spouse is. I believe a relationship moves forward to the extent that we are vulnerable. So, the richness, deepens, maturity and growth in a relationship is directly correlated to how vulnerable we will be with them. I have told women before that you want your husband to pursue your heart first before he pursues your vagina. When a couple both pursue their spouses heart first then the sexual adventure and pleasure is the extension of their love for one another. We are not using sex as a benchmark for our identity. We pursue God first, we pursue our partner emotionally through deep intimacy then out of that we pursue a vibrant sexual dance.
One key thing you said in your book is that you know you have to love God more than you love Hannah. Can you tell us why that is?
There have been many times in my life where I have gotten this backwards. I have put Hannah’s needs and desires above my relationship with God. When Jesus is asked what the greatest commandment is, he sates that the first and greatest commandment is to “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and most important command. The second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself. All the Law and the Prophets depend on these two commands” (Matthew 22:37-40).
When I put Hannah above God then I’m committing idolatry and God is a jealous God and wants no other gods before him. My allegiance is to King Jesus and out of my love and allegiance to God I then love my wife well. Actually, I do not think you can love God well without loving people well since God is love. I do think you can try to love people well without loving God well. When I get to Heaven God is not going to ask me how happy my wife is. I am responsible for my walk with the Lord and my heart to be drawn to Him and for the pruning that takes place to assist me in looking like Jesus everyday. Putting Hannah first in my life is something that I have to try very hard at doing. If I am loving Hannah only to help her feel better or to meet her needs, or even worse only to get my own needs met then I am missing the entire point of biblical love. I love because God first loved me. I love because God overwhelms me with His love for me that I naturally want to share that love to others. If all I do is love Hannah well and I forgot my first love of God, then I am just a kind and loving husband. I strive to be a godly and loving husband who looks like Jesus more everyday and as a result of my time and fellowship with the Lord, I learn to love and cherish my bride more than I ever could on my own power or ability.
Like I said earlier, I have an extra copy of A Stronger Knot that I can hardly wait to bless someone with. That someone could be you! Click here for your chance to have a free copy sent to you. There will only be one winner and you’ll get your copy shortly after A Stronger Knot is released on Feb. 12th. The winner will be announced on Valentine’s Day!!! Enter here!
A Little About the Author
As a licensed professional counselor who has the spiritual gift of being an exhorter, Aaron can be honest and direct, yet graceful and kind at the same time. Aaron enjoys having one on one deep conversations that are encouraging and challenging towards a person’s growth. He has a passion for helping making marriages stronger in order for them to look more like Christ. He has spent the last several years in full time counseling, working in both a church setting and secular private practice and desires to use this space to reach a bigger audience in order to help more marriages. If you stabbed Aaron he would bleed coffee. But please don’t do that. Aaron watches sports when he can and enjoys a round of golf if time allows. Aaron is honored to be the father of his twin kiddos who continue to remind him that he is imperfect in his love for them and that he has to lean on the perfect love of Christ in order to be an example for them.
Also, Aaron is a Certified Sex Therapist through the American Board of Christian Sex Therapists.