The Mediterranean Love Plan: 7 Secrets To Lifelong Passion In Marriage, by Stephen & Misty Arterburn with Becky Johnson
[Note: This book was provided free of charge by BookLook/Zondervan. All thoughts and opinions are my own.]
Being a person of generally northern and western European ancestry with a certain tragic tendency to combine intense romanticism and passion with extreme awkwardness and glacial emotional restraint, from time to time I find myself reading about the history and culture of the Mediterranean . If you’ve heard of the Mediterranean diet, which this book references on numerous occasions, you’re familiar with the routine of busy and uptight Americans visiting the Mediterranean, falling in love with the culture there, and coming back to make their fellow uptight Americans feel guilty about being in so much of a hurry all the time. This book follows precisely that thread, at least when seen through somewhat critical eyes. One of the great mysteries of this book is why three writers were necessary–apparently the husband and wife team, whom I have never heard of before, were famous enough people that it was thought worthwhile for them to have an additional co-writer because they could not write this book on their own given their own extensive travels. They were likely, ironically enough, either too busy or not talented enough to write this book on their own.
That is not to say that this is any way a bad book, although as a single man this book is immensely depressing on a variety of levels. In a little bit less than two hundred pages the authors discuss what they view as seven secrets that they take from a variety of Mediterranean places: Italy, Spain, France, Greece, and Israel, although perhaps not surprisingly not Turkey, Cyprus, Syria, or Lebanon, or North Africa. The secrets are as follows: be attuned to your partner through touch and time, be playful, savor food and not eat it like a Hoover vac, enjoy beauty, be creative, live a healthy life of moderation and exercise, blend the sacred and sexual by being responsible but keeping a hint of the forbidden in one’s life. At least some of these come fairly naturally to me, although not in the way that this book is aimed at. What makes this book particularly frustrating is the framing of it. The authors assume that the choices the readers are facing is between the boring monotony of an unexciting marriage or a grande amorè with one’s husband or wife. For some readers, boring monotony would be a step up from the crushing weight of frustrated longings. Even when the authors talk, as they frequently do, about their lack of interest in encouraging others to engage in casual affairs and empty relationships, the authors assume that the reader does not have any problems in forming intimate relationships to begin with .
Ultimately, this book is aimed at more or less “normal” people who have both a sense of moral decency in desiring to be monogamous but are looking for spark in their marriage after some years or decades of being married. If you’re in a marriage with someone who is fundamentally decent but may often strike you as somewhat boring and dull and monotonous, this would likely be a helpful book that would encourage those who are willing to add a bit of spark back into a relationship that has gone a bit stale to take the time and develop habits that make people more interesting and more interested. The authors take a few swipes, whether warranted or not, at our busy cultures and make some broad and sweeping generalizations about which nations are good lovers or bad lovers. (Somehow Germans, Americans, and the English are bad lovers and Canadians are good lovers, but the authors choose not to explain why. It might be entertaining to read a book on the Canadian love plan, which would probably involve a lot of politeness and maybe a bit of hockey.) If this is not a bad book, this is not a book for everyone. The authors assume that the reader is competent enough at intimacy to be able to have gotten into a good marriage and merely need some help and encouragement in how to make it better. Some of us, clearly, are not.
 See, for example:
 Notably, the few times the authors address those who struggle with intimacy, their comments are less than particularly helpful:
“Deeply ingrained personality disorders (such as borderline or narcissistic personality disorder) or Asperger’s syndrome or a mental illness (such as bipolar disorder or schizophrenia) can also be serious challenges or even roadblocks to a passionate, intimate marriage. Past sexual abuse may need to be handled with tender loving care and the guidance of experts who understand the unique path required for recovery. (19)..”