Margaret Kim Peterson and Dwight N. Peterson
IVP Books, 2011, 226 pp., $16

As someone who frequently is asked to offer pre-marital counseling as a requirement for being married by the engaged couple’s pastor, I am often asked to recommend my go-to book list for the couple to read. The truth is there really isn’t much out there to recommend. The Petersons, who co-authored Are You Waiting for The One?, have settled that dilemma wonderfully for me. Many student leaders are tasked with preparing couples for marriage; and as much as this is a privilege, it is also a risky endeavor in our current culture. I have decided to make this book required reading for all future pre-marital counseling. It really is that good and impactful.

The Petersons bring to the work a credibility that often is missing in this genre. They are married, educators working with college-age students, part of a local church and other functioning communities. This book was birthed from being curious and questioning the inner workings in their students’ hearts and minds on relationships and marriage. The class they taught at Eastern University became so popular that eventually it was limited to only seniors. Their thoughts, ideas and conclusions put together in this book have come from the richness of relationship with these students.

From the beginning of the book, the Petersons feel the definitive need to dismantle what they conclude is prevalent amid the Christian dating culture: There is a perfect love, a perfect trouble-free relationship:

“Over and over again our students tell us that this is what they have been taught by their elders and their peers to want and expect in a relationship. A good many of these things we have found explicitly stated in one Christian romantic advice book or another. And these books are very clear: this is all of God. God is the author of romance, and if you allow God to shape your destiny, perfect love will be your reward.”

The book is hopeful in its realism. The authors cover topics all couples should consider, whether preparing for marriage or already on the journey.
• Young Love: Beyond the Fantasy of Romance
• Marriage: What Makes It Christian?
• Families: Telling the Stories that Have Shaped Us
• Peace: Handling Conflict Constructively
• Friendship: From Acquaintance to Intimacy
• Sex: Embodied Communion
• Hospitality: Welcoming Children and Other Strangers
• Households: Forming an Economic Partnership
• Old Love: Growing into Maturity

If you need assistance with pre-marriage stuff or working with couples already married, the topics covered can be offered as a complete guide or stand alone as individual studies in relationships. The epilogue itself is enough to make the book worthy of your attention. Relationships are a wonderful challenge. Utilizing this book will make that challenge more glorious.

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