Last year, St. Louis pastor and Vice President of Acts 29 Darrin Patrick wrote a book primarily for an audience of Christian men. In The Dude’s Guide to Manhood, Patrick aimed to walk men of all ages down a path of pursuing true, authentic, biblical manhood. The book was very well-respected and has continued to be a popular tool for men’s groups and studies. A year removed from that project, Patrick has teamed up with his wife, Amie, to produce a companion to that volume with The Dude’s Guide to Marriage: Ten Skills Every Husband Must Develop to Love His Wife Well. This book takes some of the principles outlined in Manhood and frames their importance in the context of marriage. In similar fashion, the Marriage volume has a goal of reaching primarily Christian husbands or men pursuing marriage, in hopes that they will implement some of these practices as a means of love for their wife.

Insightful Simplicity. This is the key to this Dude’s Guide, and what makes it a great and easy read. Many books on marriage are either way too shallow, or way too intensive. Some books spend 200 pages beating around the bush and not providing solutions to conflicts, while others are virtually unreadable in how plain and obvious their advice becomes. The Dude’s Guide to Marriage is a great balance of being simple and easy to read and relate to, yet also insightful and full of practical, pastoral wisdom we can all learn from. It certainly helps that Patrick is utterly vulnerable throughout the book, and even (in one of my favorite features of the book) lets his wife write about how much Darrin struggles with some of these issues. The beauty in the sections penned by Amie is not that there is this “my husband is a moron” culture being built, but that both Darrin and Amie are clearly honest enough with each other to own their mistakes and work through them to the point of wanting to share these experiences with the world, so that they may be a help to marriages in need of this kind of counsel. There is deep insight, but also simplicity. One illustration of this is that each chapter is only one word long, to help us recognize how truly simple the “road map” is to better loving our wives.

Another great feature of Marriage is that each chapter closes with “Five Good Questions” regarding the content of the chapter. These questions are designed “to initiate conversation with your wife and get another assessment of your strengths and weaknesses” (12). I actually went through some of these with my wife already and hope to do the rest of these questions soon. They’ve been an excellent way for me to take a moment to let my wife have the floor, share with me her thoughts on these questions, and allow me to learn more of how I can improve and how I’m loving her well.

There were two key chapters I enjoyed, especially for me personally. The first was chapter 2, “Talk.” As someone who frequently meets with people, preps messages or small group studies, and has lots of meetings, I do a lot of talking throughout the day. It’s very easy for me to want to come home and not talk. As I read this chapter, there’s a lot of reasons I don’t talk, and though this is one I default to, there are lots of other motivations for not “talking” how I should be. I can’t talk to Hannah the way I talk to “the boys.” There are broken routines I haven’t done a good job of repairing. There is vulnerability in talking, and especially in asking leading questions. The truth is, “I’m tired” isn’t the end-all answer. There are lots of things I should be fighting against in engaging my wife and communicating with her. One thing my wife tells me frequently is that my not talking actually affects her negatively. Sometimes I think keeping my mouth shut is going to protect her by me not saying something out of line, but in reality, the fact that I don’t want to open up to her hurts her as bad or worse. Patrick talks a lot about talking in chapter 2, and offers a lot of advice for those who struggle to talk. He emphasizes clarity, using pauses, and evaluating the power of our words.

In chapter 9, Amie Patrick talks about pursuit. This is the only chapter where she writes the majority, and it was really insightful to learn about how men should pursue their wives from a woman’s perspective. You would think we would crave this kind of access! Amie’s words in chapter 9 are full of wisdom, but here’s one nugget that stuck out to me:

A single dramatic, romantic moment makes for a compelling scene in a movie, but the real battle for a woman’s heart is won by small, frequent, and strategic moves. A woman wants a man to really go after her heart over the long-haul. Anyone can sweep in with romantic drama, but only a man of character and growing maturity can love his wife well day after day, year after year (140).

Overall, The Dude’s Guide to Marriage is a very practical book. If there is one thing I wished it would’ve done better, that is that it would’ve had more of a focus on Scripture than experience. Nothing Patrick says disagrees with Scripture per se, and Patrick does a tremendous job of becoming vulnerable and honest, but I wish there was some more arguments specifically outlined by God’s Word. Despite this, it is an excellent resource and conversation starter for husbands to learn how to love and lead their wives well. I definitely recommend it.