I like to think Andrew and I are a pretty literary couple. We were both English majors who practically owe our relationship to the class discussions of Charles Dickens and Latin American folktales in which we first caught each other's attention, we talk often about what we're reading, and we send tons of dorky, wordplay filled texts during the day. Still, when it comes to the intellectual life (which I enjoy but don't exactly aspire to, if that makes sense), we don't hold a candle to the von Hildebrands. Dietrich von Hildebrand and his wife, Alice, are both pretty prolific theologians who've written quite a bit about love, marriage, and virtue. I've actually never read anything of von Hildebrand the Mister's, but about a year ago, I did crack open this one by the Missus.
This book, By Love Refined, is subtitled Letters to a Young Bride. The setup is that Alice, writing under the name Lily, is responding to her beloved friend Julie's letters, containing Julie's reflections and questions about newlywed life. It's a pretty clever way, I think, to discuss big issues like arguments, qualitiy time, and money in a wise, gentle voice- it's like practical advice disguised as a nice note.
Usually these posts feature books I've read and loved, which leads to inordinate raving. Honestly, though, I have to tell you that I didn't completely adore this one (I do, however, think the title is awesome). We are not a perfect couple (far, far from it, in fact), but I don't feel like I gained much advice that I wasn't already aware of- we've always been pretty calm, fair fighters, for instance, and have never felt particularly awkward talking about things like sex and money. Maybe the fighting thing is just a reflection of our quieter personalities, during our engagement we read parts of the Theology of the Body while I worked as a chastity speaker, which made it pretty easy to be frank about sexuality, and we talked about spending early on, as soon as it became clear that my tendency to shop too much was at odds with Andrew's extreme (I really mean extreme) thriftiness (as a bachelor, he survived almost completely on cheap, horrible frozen burritos, eggs, and generic, fake Crunchberries).
I do realize, though, that every couple has one or two issues that need to be probed more than others, and that certain things come easier or harder for different people. That said, I do think this book is worth a read- even if some of it is kind of old fashioned (example: "I want a dishwasher and he wants a stereo"-- I'm all about the housewife thing, but I've never really coveted large kitchen applicances), it's beneficial because through each letter, Alice calls your attention to aspects of newlywed life that you might not have anticipated otherwise, like loving ways to criticize, the uselessness of comparing yourselves to other couples who seem to have it all together, and the fact that you two might have different social schedules and preferences.
Have any of you read this? Am I nuts for thinking it's not the greatest? I'm open to changing my opinion, so I'd love to hear what you think!