MANUAL FOR MARRIAGE
By Dan and Danielle Bean
TAN Books, 2020
320 pages, $29.95
To order: TANbooks.com
After 25 years of marriage, Dan and Danielle Bean were confident that they should not be writing a marriage manual. The messiness of married life and raising eight children sometimes contradicted marital bliss. If not for clinging to the Catholic Church’s teachings and sacraments, who even knows where they would be? Sure, they believed the work in everyday living is worth loving one another in good times and bad until death do they part. But still.
Upon further reflection, however, and considering that they still find great joy in their relationship after all these years, the Beans accepted the invitation to write the Manual for Marriage. Danielle is a well-known author, a brand manager at CatholicMom.com and a talk-show host on Catholic TV. She and her husband, Dan, are the parents of eight children, yet still manage to make their marriage a priority. How and why they manage to do that is part of their story. In the first section of the book, they share individual perspectives with glimpses of their own marriage and family life, along with practical ideas for keeping the relationship strong. Part Two includes the wisdom of the Church from councils and conferences and teachings from the popes to scriptural passages on love and marriage, inspiration from the saints and prayers. In its entirety, the book is a personal encounter with the Beans and with the Church, filled with inspiration and references to help ground a marriage in love and God’s grace.
Dan and Danielle challenge readers at the outset to consider how their marriage can reflect the greater glory of God and how he is guiding them to heaven through their spouse. Vocation, sacrament, sacrificial love, complementarity, unbreakable bonds, and home and family life are all a part of the conversation.
“Vocation is a concept that is foreign to many in our modern world,” Danielle writes. “The ironic thing is that, ultimately, what truly ‘makes us happy’ is doing what God wills for us and what God wills for us is that we give ourselves to another.”
Marriage and family life are a holy calling from God, according to Dan. “Outside of God, these are the most important things in my life and this must be reflected in my priorities,” he writes. “Remember how you got here. There is true goodness in your relationship. The two of you fell in love. You belong together.” Dan recalls a two-day getaway without their children that included attending a concert. They were having so much fun that the lady sitting next to Danielle assumed the married couple were experiencing the first blush of romance usually associated with dating. “To receive grace well, you must remember your love for each other,” he explains.
Dan and Danielle acknowledge that the pull of the world creates challenges to making one’s spouse a priority, but stress the importance of finding ways to do that. Here are a few of their suggestions:
- Find creative ways to spend time together, such as doing errands together on the weekend or taking a walk after dinner.
- Start and end your days together.
- Have shared goals and hobbies.
- Have fun together like you did when you were dating.
- Look for small connections such as simple text messages or leaving a note on the bathroom mirror, letting your spouse know you are praying for him.
- Have no-phone times.
- Pray with your spouse as a way to be open to the grace God gives you in the sacrament of marriage.
- Look for things to offer up.
- Soak up the sacraments.
- Make sex a priority.
- Plan date nights.
- Let go of petty things.
- Make good apologies.
Addressing home and family life, Danielle pointed out that although marriage is about the two becoming one, when baby makes three, it is no longer just about the two of you. “Parents must be a visible sign of love to our children,” she explains. Although there is no magic formula, according to her, God will lead the way: “There is only God’s grace, the means by which any of us accomplish anything worthwhile. And the means by which God means to pour his grace into the hearts of your children is right there inside of everyday stuff that happens in your ordinary family.”
Marriage is an ongoing call we must hear and respond to over and over, from one mess up to the next, Dan and Danielle explain. “Marriage can be a mess and it can be beautifully perfect. It’s simple and complex. It’s easy and it’s hard. It’s all of these things for all of us generally, but it’s all of these things uniquely in your own marriage too.”
They conclude their own reflections by assuring readers that they can step into the work of marriage in confidence. “God has big plans for you and your marriage,” they state. “He has plans for your holiness and joy. The goal he has for you — ordinary you, your ordinary spouse and your ordinary children — is nothing less than the extraordinary gift of eternal life in heaven.”
Patti Armstrong writes from North Dakota.