Resources for teaching men on marriage?

Can anyone suggest resources for teaching men on marriage? I’ve done a search through topics here, but nothing much turned up.

I usually develop my own material for practical applications of biblical truth, but when it comes to this topic, I’ve realized that my innate personality, family background, life experiences, etc. are pretty different from most other men. This makes it difficult for me to use my personal experience as a springboard for instruction and advice.

What I’ve read from complementarian material on marriage gives me the impression that it compromises biblical teaching and offers a somewhat distorted view of reality. In fact, I’ve often found that manosphere observations about men and women are more congruent with the facts on the ground than the complementarian view even though the red pill offers no positive vision for the Christian husband and father.

Probably anything by Doug Wilson will be a non-starter since he has become so notorious.

Any suggestions or ideas?

Lou Priolo’s ‘The Complete Husband’ is the best book I know for men. I’ve used it many times.

The Complete Husband, Revised and Expanded: A Practical Guide for Improved Biblical Husbanding

Two more suggestions…

Rather less practical than Priolo’s book but still very useful, Stuart Scott’s ‘The Exemplary Husband’ is richly theological and a very good help for husbands.

It has a companion volume for wives that’s an amazing treatment on biblical womanhood (Martha Peace’s ‘The Excellent Wife’). Peace’s work is hefty, cask-strength, and unapologetically complementarian (Peace herself sparked a minor crisis in certain quarters of the Reformed world with her teaching to women on submission in marriage), but it’s not a book to everyone’s taste.

But interested to see if anyone has found any of these three books less helpful than I did…

We went through the Exemplary Husband with a few other couples. It seemed like a faithful resource to me.

Thanks, all, for the suggestions.

Someone IRL suggested William Gouge’s Of Domestical Duties (1622). Is anyone familiar with that?

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Nope, but if it’s any good, please let us know!

It’s excellent. Very Puritan, very not modern (egalitarian). Lots of stuff you won’t get any most authors today.

I think Gouge has several books on the family, all of which are very helpful.

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Domestical Duties is fantastic. You can’t just copy and paste everything said directly to our context but otherwise it’s good.

Here’s one good quote.

“Lastly, men must first learn to obey well before they can rule well. They who scorn to be subject to their governors while they are under authority are likely to prove intolerably insolent when they are in authority.”

— Building a Godly Home, Volume 1: A Holy Vision for Family Life by William Gouge


This is true for many men, but in my circles the problem is passivity, lack of vision, and fear of offending wives.

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I’ve often been this man, wish someone had confronted and encouraged!

Same book:

“Contrary is a servile and timorous mind of many husbands, who are loath to offend, and [as they think] to provoke their wives; and thereupon choose rather to let them continue in sin, than tell them of it. Wherein they both dishonour their place, and the image of God, which by virtue of their place they carry, and also in effect and in truth hate their wives; which the Law implieth, where it saith, Thou shalt not hate thy brother in thine heart, but shalt plainly rebuke thy neighbour, and not suffer sin upon him (Lev 19: 17).”

— Domestical Duties by William Gouge

There is a whole section on reproving wives in the book that’s pretty good. Some quotes from it:

That an husband may evidently demonstrate that his reproving his wife is indeed a fruit of his love, he must have an especial care to sweeten it, especially with mildness: for it is the bitterest pill that by an husband can be given to a wife. It is a verbal correction, and in that respect a middle means [as I may so speak] betwixt admonition and correction; partaking somewhat of both: it goeth no further than words, and so is an admonition: the words of a reproof are sharp, and so it is a correction: though it be but a mild correction, yet it is a sharp admonition; and all the correction which by himself an husband can give his wife: for we shall after shew that he may not proceed to blows, and strokes”

“Respect must be had by husbands to the manner of using their authority in commanding as well as to the matter.

In regard of the manner his commandments must be

  1. Rare, not too frequent.

  2. By way of entreating, not too peremptory.

Authority is like a sword, which with over much using will be blunted, and so fail to do that service which otherwise it might when there is most need. A wise, grave, peaceable man, may always have his sword in readiness, and that also very bright, keen, and sharp: but he will not be very ready to pluck it out of his scabbard; he rather keepeth it for a time of need, when it should stand him in most stead. Such husbands therefore as are too frequent in their commands, shew themselves not grave, nor wise, nor lovers of peace.”

After reading through the first chapter, parts of later chapters, and skimming the rest, I would say that this book has some good practical advice, but nonetheless I would not recommend it because the author works under a fundamentally flawed framework. It seems obvious to me from the opening chapter that the author has adopted what I call the “romantic soulmate” model of marriage. For example,

Many believe that the primary purpose of marriage is to propagate the human race. But marriage was designed by God to deal with the issue of being alone… Love, in marriage, focuses upon giving one’s spouse the companionship he/she needs to eliminate loneliness.


Deep down in her heart is all the personal information you need in order to understand and nurture your wife according to the Bible… it is your job to get that valuable information out of her heart… (1 Pet. 3:7). The Bible places the burden of understanding on you, as the husband. You’re the one who must take the initiative to draw out of your wife the information necessary to developing and maintaining the one-flesh intimacy that God intends you to have with her.

I affirm that spousal companionship is important and that a husband ought to understand something of his wife’s heart, but my concern is that the author is giving greatest emphasis to the aspect of marriage that the secular culture emphasizes most. That increases the likelihood that the author’s reading of Scripture is distorted by the lens of modern culture and that the book is not going to provide enough balance to errors in the culture. In fact, the romantic soulmate model of marriage has been the explicit justification for no-fault divorce and love-is-love jurisprudence.

I have no doubt that the author is against those outcomes, but the author’s remedy against divorce is not to abandon the romantic soulmate model but rather to try harder to make it work. But I think we would be better off not loading up husbands with an unbiblical burden.

Ha! There are a number of critiques of this book that I expected, but this was not one of them! That Jay Adams’ mini-me is accused of being too romantic and overly governed by the culture rather than scripture is indeed a source of great mirth to me.

Look, in saying this is the best book I know, I’m not saying it’s perfect. It’s not. I find his language on some of these things annoying as well. There are other things I wish he would have said. But to argue that this book is overly dependent on some secular model of romance seems uncharitable to me. He’s arguing (even in the second section you quoted) that husbands need to take responsibility for understanding and loving their wives. I’d emphasise the historic reformed three-fold purpose of marriage rather than pushing back so hard against the Roman Catholic view of marriage, but is Priolo really so far off from the ‘mutual help’ and Genesis 2.18 purpose in the statement you quoted? Does he do so in a more-flowery-than-I’d-prefer kind of way? Sure. Personally, I’d rather everyone today read Baxter and Gouge. But back in the real world, we need authors who can apply scripture to the context at hand.

I still maintain Priolo does this very well. And it’s intensely practical in a way that many of the clueless husbands I’ve counselled as a pastor (myself included!) really need. A quick look at the table of contents bears this out. How many other books on being a husband point so deliberately at both Ephesians 5 and 1 Peter 3? How many other books today teach men how to confront their wives, lovingly but firmly? What other books teach on how husbands and wives should communicate with each other? How to have a conflict (how to fight!) with your spouse? The diagnostic lists at the end of each chapter are worth the book alone. And all with a deliberate focus on finding the answers on what it means to be a husband - to both love and lead one’s wife - from scripture rather than secular therapeutic models.

Maybe it’s not to your taste, and that’s completely fine. But I think ‘a fundamentally flawed framework’ might be a slightly exaggerated perspective. Of course it needs an elder’s adaptation to the situation at hand - as does virtually any book. But it’s a better starting place to begin that discussion than most others I know.

Genuinely happy to hear your recommendation when you find the book that you think nails it. I find the search for good materials really frustrating.

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Give people the helpful marriage book. It’s helpful in the most fundamental, non-esoteric, practical ways no one else is today. For instance, it has an entire chapter arguing for the marriage bed’s fruitfulness. Maybe that’s too practical; not spiritual enough?

Concerning the 3 purposes of marriage, if we’re going to claim the Roman view is one purpose—fruitfulness, the contemp Reformed view one purpose—intimacy, no one today is one purpose—avoiding burning. And it is this theme which is the heart of all the errors concerning LGBTQism in the church today. This is the Biblical doctrine which the souls under your care need MOST today, b/c it innoculates them against the whole Revoice/spiritual friendship British invasion/Gospel Coalition compromise. The sheep are utterly confused by the gay monogamous Trojan Horse infiltrating all our churches today, so teach the purpose of marriage which no one teaches today. Gay men must obey Scripture and marry. Teaching this fundamental Biblical truth has the added advantage of busting up the romantic boyfriend view of marriage which prevails everywhere today.

BTW, yesterday at our family reunion (in a room filled with noise and twenty people old and young), a young couple abt to get married asked whether God is opposed to polygamy? We spent an hour and a half over in the corner discussing the question, beginning! with! a thorough deconstruction of the Romantic view of marriage. It’s very hard to morph helpmate into soulmate, biblically. I’ve not read Priolo and don’t want to address him, but the cloying best-friend of each other view of marriage is repulsive to most men, and especially those of us who have the best marriages and take delight in the wife of our youth, constantly. (My 15 year old grandson was just sitting next to me on couch and I said to him, ‘Nana is so cute. She’s always so cheerful!’ He responds, ‘yup.’ He loves her too.)

One more thing: I’ve often warned couples against the romantic-hyper-intimacy-boyfriend/girlfriend guilt trip by quoting Jim Dobson’s warning that no woman should look to her husband to be her best friend because he can’t never, ever be that. He’s a man, and if he is able to do that, she’s probably secretly a wee bit disgusted by him and their sex is less than stellar (truth be told). But that’s another discussion.

Dobson went on to say that women need women’s intimacy, and should cultivate it rather than looking for it from their husband. Crucially important point in marriage counselling, and this point in no way contradicts or relegates the “it is not good for the man to be alone” purpose and the sweet emotional intimacy significant part of this helpmateship. In no way. Love,


Thanks for your response, @aaron.prelock.

Why do you prefer Priolo to Gouge? Do you think the Puritan mode of discourse and cultural presuppositions are too alien?

The book begins by positing that a husband wants and needs an “owner’s manual” for his wife and then directs him to find that manual within his wife’s heart.

Allow me to let you in on a little-known secret: your wife, does, in fact, come with an operator’s manual. The reason you’ve never seen it is because it is tucked away in her heart. Deep down in her heart is all the personal information you need in order to understand and nurture your wife according to the Bible.**
** footnote stating that actually the ultimate authority is the Bible

Now, I am not widely read, but I have a hard time imagining that the Church Fathers or the the Reformers would ever write something like that. But the subjective, inward focus seems very much to channel the spirit of the present age.

I think it is troubling that Priolo juxtaposes marital fruitfulness and marital intimacy because it implicitly places them in opposition. Certainly it is the case that children are gigantic disruptors to marital intimacy, and many couples these days decide to remain barren so as not to disturb their own companionship

My concern is that that Priolo imports some critical assumptions from modern culture, and this frame can distort how Scripture is subsequently applied. Starting the book off by directing a husband to look into his wife’s heart for how to nurture her is going to undermine him later on when he tries to apply the Bible but his wife tells him he isn’t loving her if he doesn’t go along with what she says she needs. And suggesting that children are not a primary purpose for marriage will be perceived as affirming by those couples who limit their number of children so they can have more time for themselves. Maybe the checklists still make the book worthwhile, but my view is that development of right thoughts and attitudes is most important because without that in place, useful advice can go awry.

All books have errors, but the danger of the Priolo book is that it is from our time and therefore shares our biases and prejudices. If it was from a more distant century, it would be safer to read because the cultural frame of reference would be more alien and therefore more likely to be passed over.

Thanks, I’ll have a look at it.

Concur with ‘The Helpful Marriage Book’ recommendation. I found it very, well, helpful. That said, it’s trying to do different things to ‘The Complete Husband,’ so they’re not exactly parallel books. You asked for resource on teaching men specifically. THMB has a lot of great theology and some brilliant application, but it doesn’t (through no fault of it’s own) get into the weeds of men and marriage the way TCH does.

I don’t! I prefer Baxter or Gouge, but not every man today either can or is willing to read them. I’ve used Thomas Watson in a men’s Bible study with really encouraging fruit. Other Puritans would have harder to use directly in discipleship today. The discourse and presuppositions do make application to 21st century society difficult, and in picking battles, I’ve looked for materials that provide much the same in substance, even if the form is different. Interestingly enough, Priolo is one of the few practical counselling authors I know of today who does make regular use of Baxter’s ‘Christian Directory.’

Brother, if this is your problem with the book, I think you’re straining at gnats. I know so many men who have struggled to understand how and why their wives work the way they do. How many men are completely baffled by their wives? He’s using a manual as an illustration, not making metaphysical arguments from it. Do you think a manual is a poor illustration, or do you object to using illustrations from daily life?

Completely agree with you on this point. This was one of the significant theological defects in the old NANC/ACBC model of counselling. That said, I recommended this book because it’s useful, not because it’s perfect.

That’s simply not what Priolo says. Nor is it what he means. He’s urging husbands to look in their wives’ hearts so they can know them. He’s urging husbands to live considerately with their wives, to live with them according to knowledge - that’s an emphasis is taken from a direct command in 1 Peter 3.7, not a romantic-soulmate paradigm of marriage. And he explicitly argues against what you say he says later in the book. This is anything but a ‘love me the way I want to be loved’ kind of book. It is definitely a ‘learn to discipline yourself to know your wife so you can love her the way Christ loves his church’ kind of book.

You don’t have to like or even use the book - it makes no difference to me - but you asked for resources for teaching men about marriage. How many contemporary references have been given so far? This book does teach men about what the Bible says about being a husband, and I’ve used it to great profit in my own life and in my ministry. It’s not man (or woman) centred, and it’s absolutely soaked in what scripture says about the importance of scripture in marriage, about men and women’s roles in marriage, conflict resolution, parenting, training, confrontation, and reconciliation. It also helps husbands know how their wives see them versus how they see themselves. Haven’t you seen a major problem in marriage being that husbands and wives perceive themselves and each other different to reality?

You say alien cultural frames of reference are more like to be passed over. I’ve seen that makes those resources more likely to be ignored altogether - especially in the large urban culture I gather you and I share. Priolo is intentionally building on a Puritan understanding of marriage, even if imperfectly (particularly regarding sexuality and children), but he’s also trying (as did Luther) to apply the truths of scripture in the language of today. It isn’t a perfect book, but no book is. I truly hope we’re not expecting every book to agree with every one of our positions on every issue. And I also hope we don’t think that only 400 year old answers can be used to contemporary problems. I’ve done several turns on that merry-go-round. It doesn’t go well.