Marriage By Design: The Keys To Create, Cultivate, and Claim The Marriage You’ve Always Wanted, by Eric A. Disney
[Note: This book was provided free of charge by Outskirts Press in exchange for an honest review.]
I feel I must state at the outset that this is an excellent book, but it is also a powerful and deeply personal one. This particular book seems mostly designed for married couples who are having trouble, but there are other audiences that can certainly find much useful in this book (if not necessarily all of the exercises at the end of chapters). Those people who have had previous marriages or have a lot of personal baggage that would make marriage a challenge will also find much in this book to be particularly relevant. Given the delicate nature of this book, it should be a relief that readers will find that this book combines a lot of useful elements that make it a particularly worthwhile guide. Among them is the consistency of theme that this book, urging its readers (presumably Christian believers) to live life with intentionality rather than to adopt the default positions that we gain from our generally dysfunctional backgrounds. Another aspect that is of particular use is the combination of gracious approach, personal stories from the author (and his wife) as well as others about such harrowing issues as child abuse, abortion, and adultery. This book does not shy away from difficult subjects, yet always does so from a perspective of hope and grace, with a strong scriptural backing.
The contents of this book are very well and thoughtfully organized. The first third of the book or so looks at how to lay the foundation for a good marriage (this is especially useful for those readers who have not yet gotten married but are contemplating it). Included among these principles are visualizing what marriage is supposed to look like, deal with our often unspoken expectations about our partner’s behavior, a focus on selflessness rather than selfishness, an examination of feelings and behavior, and a talk about forgiveness. The second part of the book looks at how to build a good marriage relationship. This part contains chapters on such subjects as building the right foundation for intimacy, an examination of differences, a discussion about principles of good communication, an examination of conflict and its dangers to a harmonious marriage, and looking at the other side of forgiveness (namely, asking for forgiveness when one has wronged one’s partner). The third and final section of the book deals with issues that divide couples, including money, sex and respect, raising godly children, addiction (another aspect of selfishness), as well as issues of the past (personal baggage like previous relationships or a history of sexual abuse), closing on a note of encouragement along with including some references (including the AACC ).
Although this is an excellent book, there are likely to be some people who are not particularly pleased by what this book has to say. Among the more notable patterns this book repeats over and over again is that even in marriages where there is adultery involved, both parties usually have something that they are responsible for that contribute to the difficulties within the marriage. Indeed, this book is likely to be seen by some readers as being particularly difficult in urging people whose spouses have committed adultery to show understanding and forgiveness and encouragement in helping partners wrestle with their demons and struggles, even as it demands serious soul-searching on the part of those partners who do commit adultery themselves to overcoming. Although this book did not contain a great deal of new information, it did reinforce some of my own convictions about facing my struggles openly and transparently (a major issue this book talks about) as well as working on good communication skills and building trust through friendship given my own serious problems with trust and intimacy. Ultimately, this book is an encouraging one, regardless of whether one is merely thinking about marriage or whether one is married and struggling, looking for hope that the problems can be turned around with shared mutual commitment.
 One of whose leading lights was responsible for writing this excellent book:
Of course, some of us read books about our personal baggage: