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Betsy Kerekes reviews Dr. Ray Guarendi’s helpful, funny marriage book, new from EWTN Publishing/Sophia Institute Press. 

As a family psychologist, Dr. Ray (if I may be so bold as to call him that) has noted that many parenting problems couples have are actually marriage problems in disguise. “Sometimes good parent counseling starts with good marriage counseling,” he writes.  

Since a myriad of studies have shown that children of divorce have poorer outcomes than those of intact families, Simple Steps to a Stronger Marriage is a great resource for married parents and, by extension, their children.  

In other words, if you love your kids, learn to better love your spouse. This book will help. 


Simple Steps to a Stronger Marriage


Dr. Ray uses the term "steps" literally. Instead of chapters, each new section starts with a “Simple Step,” of which he lists ten, to incrementally improve one’s marriage, one step at a time. 

The first step is saying you’re sorry, which can be surprisingly difficult because most people see themselves as more innocent, more agreeable, and easy to get along with than they really are, Dr. Ray notes. We need to learn to give ourselves a more objective self-appraisal. 

Even if we don’t feel like apologizing, or know our heart isn’t in it, “form the habit first, and the desire will follow.” 

A highlight from "Small Step 2: Don’t Say It" is:

Delay a verbal slap for the briefest time—ten to twenty seconds—and the compulsion behind it will drop precipitously. 


Also worthy of note: Dr. Ray punctures a hole in the notion that venting is healthy. In fact, airing all your grievances has the opposite effect of making you more stressed and upset by whatever you’re trying to just “get off your chest.” (More explanation for that on page 28.)

Another step includes accepting that that’s how the other person feels, even if you disagree or don’t understand. Naturally this follows steps on listening and asking clarifying questions to avoid, or significantly shorten, arguments.  

Step 8, “Protect,” is specifically for men and is about backing up one’s wife when disciplining children, despite differing discipline styles. That united front is important in more ways than one. 

Another step is making a list of reasons you love and appreciate your spouse. He means a physical list, as in actually writing them down and sharing them with your spouse. Can you imagine how well-received that would be? 

Each step/chapter ends with Resistance Rationales—all the objections the reader might make for why the proposed step won’t work for them, and how Dr. Ray effectively shoots those arguments down. 

There are also scenarios of wife/husband/therapist interplay that are effective illustrations of his principles at work. The imagined dialogue is not just how the situation ought to go, but how it’s likely to actually go, and what should be said to make the exchange play out better. 

Dr. Ray has decades of experience and very clearly demonstrates that he knows what he’s talking about. This book is thorough while not being long-winded. He also throws in dashes of humor every now and then, which makes the reading experience delightful even when being told what to do or what you’re doing wrong. 

After the ten steps, Dr. Ray ends with his pièce de résistance, which I won’t spoil for the reader, and then a helpful, succinct summation of each step—a cheat sheet, if you will. 

I highly recommend Simple Steps to a Stronger Marriage because even if your marriage is strong, it can always be stronger. 

Ask for Simple Steps to a Stronger Marriage at your local Catholic bookseller, or order online from Amazon.com or the publisher, Sophia Institute Press.




Copyright 2023 Betsy Kerekes
Images: Canva