Marriage, according to Scripture, will always involve two flawed people living with each other in a fallen world. Yet, in pastor Paul Tripp's professional experience, the majority of couples enter marriage with unrealistic expectations, leaving them unprepared for the day-to-day realities of married life.
This unique book introduces a biblical and practical approach to those realities that is rooted in God's faithfulness and Scripture's teaching on sin and grace. "Spouses need to be reconciled to each other and to God on a daily basis," Tripp declares. "Since we're always sinners married to sinners, reconciliation isn't just the right response in moments of failure. It must be the lifestyle of any healthy marriage."
What Did You Expect? presents six practical commitments that give shape and momentum to such a lifestyle. These commitments, which include honestly facing sin, weakness, and failure; willingness to change; and embodying Christ's love, will equip couples to develop a thriving, grace-based marriage in all circumstances and seasons of their relationship.
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A Fundamental Resource
I think some negative reviews are missing the mark, so let me be clear: the measure of a successful marriage is not an absence of sin. Similarly, it's not just about practicing communication strategies to have a healthy marriage. The measure of a healthy marriage is its ability to display the gospel to a beautiful, yet broken, world. Individually it is to make your experience with Christ powerfully spirit-led. Corporately, Christ-likeness in marriage represent the reconciliatory power of the cross.
If you want something less than that then this book is not for you. If you want a book that teaches you how to avoid conflict through communication strategies, this is not the book for you. If you want a book that moves "past the gospel" then this book is not for you.
Paul Tripp roots the problem and roots the solution in the gospel. That is hard, but it is foundational to your marriage if you want to have a Godly one. He then takes the same principle and expands upon it by applying it to different scenarios, showing that the root cause is the same. In one instance, this is a polemical book--it builds an argument through persuasive examples. But in another instance it is an immediately helpful resource for those who want a way of working on the reality of marriage, namely that two broken people are trying to love each other with Christ-like love.
Better Options Available
I did not like this book.
Tim Keller’s book, the Meaning of Marriage, is a much better written, more complete, and more accurate Biblical guidance on marriage.
John Gottman’s book, Why Marriages Succeed or Fail, gives much more practical insight on how to talk about your marriage and make changes.
This book in comparison to both of the above is EXTREMELY repetitive. There are some good points, and some good insights tucked away in this book, but they are surrounded by very repetitive content. You get many details about how several couples met and how their marriage got into trouble, but then you only get generalizations and no really specific examples of how they got better. I found this continually frustrating.
His main thesis is that ALL marital trouble stems from a lack of spiritual maturity. But if this were really true, NO non-believing couples would have happy and satisfying marriages, and they do. So while spiritual maturity may be a way to help a failing marriage, it certainly cannot be the reason for why all marriages have problems in the first place.
He also only gives examples where no affairs, no abuse, or anything huge has gone wrong. Which may leave those couples feeling out in the cold when reading this book. He also touches so lightly on sex you might think this is a book written for a pre-teen audience.
While nothing he says is particularly wrong, it is all just very general. He also strategically AVOIDS the passages in the Bible which specifically address marriage, which seems strange. It is fine for him to use the whole bible and the full gospel message as a context, but the Bible has a lot to say about marriage specifically, and he avoids it completely. The Bible deserves better from someone who is basing their whole philosophy of marriage on the Bible.