Merridith Frediani reviews Edward and Beth Sri's new book on the joys, struggles, and holiness of marriage.
It was bad chicken that brought us to this place. I’d just barfed in a rather unladylike manner (although I’m not certain barfing could ever be ladylike) and was lying in bed wondering if it was bad that I wished for death. My husband was six feet away engulfed in his own ungentlemanly throw-up experience. As I lay there, I thought, “This is marriage. I should write about the lived experience of marriage. Sometimes marriage is laughing so hard your face twitches and sometimes it’s a loud vomiting sound.” Then I fell into blissful sleep.
Neither of us died from our bad chicken and while it was a miserable experience that led me to swear off poultry for a bit (leaving only fish since we’ve already deleted beef and pork, which is also part of this particular marriage), it also makes for a fun story when talking to young adults about married life.
I really did think there was a book in there somewhere, but Edward and Beth Sri beat me to it—and good thing, because The Good, the Messy, and the Beautiful is a gem.
The Sris are open in their experience of married life, and I wish I could have read this 30 years ago before I walked down the aisle. I felt like I was sitting with an older sibling who was sharing wisdom in a non-preachy, non-judgmental, loving way. They are honest about the challenges of married life but don’t dwell too much on it. Underlying it all is our directive to love the other and strive for heaven.
Their depiction of family life in chapter three, "Two Kinds of Love," is dead on.
Real love is more about husband and wife standing shoulder to shoulder and looking outward together—outward to serving something bigger than themselves.
It’s a reminder that love is not transactional, whether it’s the love between two spouses or the love we have for our children. Love is willing the good of the other and that calls for sacrifice.
Another theme is the great responsibility we have toward our spouse. They present six words that need to be spoken over and over again: “I am sorry” and “I forgive you.” These words require vulnerability and humility but build a healthy relationship. They advise against stubbornness and blame because “you can make your case and win an argument and still completely lose your spouse’s heart because you crushed it.” Wow.
The Sris emphasize the precious gift of our spouse’s heart given in marriage and offer two beautiful chapters that lean into the truths our culture is in danger of forgetting: men and women are different, not just physically, but in how they relate and communicate. Part of marriage is knowing and respecting these things.
Each chapter includes reflection questions for both married and engaged couples making this book doubly useful. I imagine an engaged couple reading and learning together, and then returning to it years later and reading it with the lens of experience.
The Good, the Messy, and the Beautiful is a wonderful ode to marriage. It is real, honest, and relatable. What the Sris have given the world through this book is valuable and I will be getting copies for my children when they enter into this most beautiful and challenging sacrament.
This book reminds me that marriage is fluid and growing and requires constant effort. A holy marriage doesn’t just happen when we say “I do.” It is made by two people intentionally uniting their lives to each other and to God and becoming one entity that is often good, sometimes messy and always beautiful.
Copyright 2022 Merridith Frediani
About the Author
Merridith Frediani loves words and is delighted by good sentences. She also loves Lake Michigan, dahlias, the first sip of hot coffee in the morning, millennials, and playing Sheepshead with her husband and three kids. Merridith writes for Catholic Mom, Diocesan.com, and her local Catholic Herald. Her first book, Draw Close to Jesus: A Woman’s Guide to Adoration, is available at Our Sunday Visitor and Amazon. You can read more at MerridithFrediani.com.