Arthur and I make an effort to do some sort of marriage building activity each year (e.g. read a book, do a course, etc.) Recently when friends loaned us Laugh your way to a better marriage, we thought we’d give that a go.
It’s a set of 3 DVD sessions – better than a book because you can do it together and it’s less time-consuming. Mark Gungor is an American pastor / marriage counsellor /comedian. While he comes with a Christian worldview, this is definitely more pop-psychology than theology and would be suitable for most married couples, not just Christians.
The three sessions are on the differences between men and women; sex; and forgiveness. We didn’t find the latter two very funny (the one on sex was a bit ranty and didn’t really get past ‘don’t use porn’ and the one on forgiveness was just pretty serious) so I’ll confine myself to the first session here.
Gungor says his approach is different from other marriage seminars which are basically aimed at making men be like women. Instead, he focuses on helping women and men understand each other and how God has designed them. One limitation of this emphasis on God’s design is that is doesn’t leave much room for sin or brokenness: men and women are the way they are because that’s how God designed them. So problems really just arise because we don’t recognise the differences in design. (But what about selfishness? laziness? neglect?) Nevertheless, I appreciated his positive approach towards men. We’ve done marriage counselling approach where most of it was directed at Arthur and I was frustrated that I wasn’t given anything to work on.
Gungor’s approach does mean that he talks in stereotypes, but he owns that and even gives examples from his own marriage where he and his wife don’t fit the generalisation. Because he was being funny rather than serious, I took most of what he was saying as hyperbole rather than rigid gender roles anyway.
Gungor’s basic premise in this session is that women have an over-romanticised view of marriage. They want their husband to want to do things for them just because. (Like, say, sort the laundry, because he has some internal desire to do so.) He considers this unrealistic and instead encourages wives to give their husband some motivation to do that task – by using sex as a bargaining tool, for example. Gungor’s contractual approach to marriage is aimed at helping women to motivate husbands positively rather than putting them down or getting frustrated. Still, I couldn’t see much room in his bartering system for a husband’s sacrificial love for his wife.
Nevertheless, we identified with a number of the issues that he was discussing and had some fruitful chats as a result of that. Watching this first session also gave us the chance to reflect on the things we appreciate about one another and how much each of us have grown in knowing and serving the other since we got married.
I’d recommend it as something a bit different and a good conversation starter.
Tamie Davis is an Aussie living in Tanzania, writing at meetjesusatuni.com.