It’s been awhile since I’ve done an Off the Shelf book review for Beacon Hill Press. Today I am happy to be sharing The Relationship Project by Bill Strom with you. As always, my views are my own, and the only compensation I received was the book itself!
When this book arrived, I was intrigued right away. I love the subtitle: Moving from “You and Me” to We. I enjoy books that offer insights on marriage, especially from a Christian worldview. And I like books that are interactive, which including “project” in the title seemed to imply.
I was imagining that this would be a book to read with my husband, something we could work on together. We both agree that a good relationship takes work and we are committed to working on ours! But here’s where the book was different from what I was expecting. And I learned that pretty quickly, in the preface in fact: ” . . . if you picked up this book to figure out how you can save your relationship, or fix a friend, put it down . . . the more important goal is to understand that we have our own heart work to do, our own self project.” That’s not to say that you couldn’t read this in tandem with a spouse, but the point–and it’s a good point in general, is it not?–is that you are to work on yourself, not on your partner!
That’s just the start of how this book is different from other relationship books you may have read, particularly if you’ve been reading mainly secular books. In those books, you’ll learn about contracts and commitments–and those are discussed in this book too–but the focus here is on covenant relationships, which are “motivated by unconditional love and grace . . . not driven by the pursuit of personal happiness.” It’s vocabulary I’d heard before, but here it is explained well and illustrated by clear examples.
The author shares from his own marriage, and the tone of the book is informal, making reading it a bit like listening to the good advice of a friend. The Relationship Project is full of examples–stories of real people, their relationships and struggles. There are illustrative quotations–and relationship stories–from Scripture as well. There are several self-assessments along the way–I love those! And there are questions for reflection. In short, this is a book that asks you not just to read it, but to engage with it.