For Better or for Best: A Valuable Guide to Knowing, Understanding, and Loving your Husband by Gary Smalley | Paperback | Barnes & Noble
For Better or for Best: A Valuable Guide to Knowing, Understanding, and Loving your Husband

For Better or for Best: A Valuable Guide to Knowing, Understanding, and Loving your Husband

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by Gary Smalley

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In this newly revised edition of the classic bestseller For Better or for Best, Gary Smalley speaks to women and explains what motivates men and how wives can use their natural qualities and abilities to build a better marriage. Using case histories and biblical illustrations, as well as stories from his own marriage, Smalley offers empathy, humor, and wisdom to


In this newly revised edition of the classic bestseller For Better or for Best, Gary Smalley speaks to women and explains what motivates men and how wives can use their natural qualities and abilities to build a better marriage. Using case histories and biblical illustrations, as well as stories from his own marriage, Smalley offers empathy, humor, and wisdom to women who wish to more fully understand their husbands and love them better. With over 750,000 copies in print and now updated and expanded to integrate the latest research and cultural changes for today’s readers, For Better or for Best offers women an insider’s perspective into the world of men, including practical help and application so they can deepen their relationships with their husbands and build a lasting marriage.

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For Better or for Best

A valuable guide to knowing, understanding, and loving your husband
By Gary Smalley


Copyright © 2012 Gary Smalley
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-0-310-32837-7

Chapter One


* * *

An excellent wife, who can find? For her worth is far above jewels. Proverbs 31:10

Jim stared silently at the television set while Carol ached inside, wondering why he was angry at her again. They had only been married a year, and Carol could already see their relationship deteriorating. She couldn't help but wonder if she would soon join the millions of other couples whose marriages have ended in divorce. When she finally broke the silence by asking Jim what was wrong, he refused to answer her. Hurting for a few minutes, she repeated the question. his response wounded her so deeply, she began to doubt her adequacy as a wife.

He said, "I'm sick and tired of you taking everything so seriously. you're just too sensitive! If I had known you were this emotional, I probably never would have married you. But since we are married, I think you need to do your part. Cut out the overreacting and stop being so touchy about what I say and do. If we're going to have any kind of marriage, you have to stop being so childish!"

Sound familiar? With these harsh words, Jim unknowingly has set their relationship on a destructive path leading to some very unattractive changes—changes that will likely lead to the ultimate disintegration of their relationship. Jim's main problem, shared by thousands of other husbands, is that he fails to understand the basic differences between men and women. Jim has taken two of his wife's greatest natural strengths, her sensitivity and intuitive awareness of life, and labeled them weaknesses. In response to Jim's reproof, Carol, like thousands of other wives, will begin to form a calloused, hardened attitude toward life in general, and Jim in particular. If their marriage lasts more than a few years, Jim will find to his dismay that Carol's sensitivity has finally been subdued and that he has lost most or all of his attraction to her. If only he could remember that her sensitivity was one of the first things that attracted him. If only he understood that her alertness was one of her greatest strengths. And if only he began treating her with tenderness, gentleness, and kindness, their relationship would grow stronger and more fulfilling.

The emotional and mental differences between men and women (described in detail in chapter 3) can become insurmountable obstacles to a lasting, fulfilling relationship when ignored or misunderstood. however, those same differences, when recognized and appreciated, can become stepping stones to a meaningful, fulfilling relationship.

Women, for example, have a tremendous advantage in two of life's most important areas: loving God and loving others (Matt. 22:36–40). Women have an intuitive ability to develop meaningful relationships and a desire for intimate communication, and this gives them the edge in what Jesus described as the two greatest commandments. God said that it was not good for man to dwell alone, and He created a significant helper and completer—woman. Men definitely need help with making and maintaining relationships, but how women can help so that men listen and receive their help is the thrust of this book.

When a woman understands her strengths for what they are, her self-image will be practically indestructible, no matter how her husband belittles her. When both husband and wife understand each other and begin to respond to one another accordingly, their relationship can blossom into the marriage they dreamed of. Carol can begin to make Jim aware of her deeper needs for love, assurance, and security, without feeling selfish for desiring fulfillment of her needs. Unfortunately, at the rate Jim and Carol are going, it probably won't be long before they end their marriage in divorce.

But don't despair! Your marriage does not have to become part of these grave divorce statistics. With the right tools, you can carve a more fulfilling marriage out of a seemingly hopeless one, and this book will provide you with many of those tools. But the tools by themselves will never get the job done. They have to be picked up and used properly and consistently if they are to bring the intended results.

If your husband is willing to work beside you, you'll strengthen your marriage that much faster. That's why I believe the greatest benefits will result when this book is used in conjunction with the book for your husband, If Only He Knew. When a husband understands his wife's needs and learns how to meet those needs, the relationship will grow more quickly.

In counseling, I have found that if I can get the husband to do his part first, it's much easier for the wife to carry out her responsibilities in the relationship with greater enthusiasm and commitment. Unfortunately, women are usually more concerned about deepening their marital relationships than men. That's why your book was written first; I felt that you would be the one with the greater interest n strengthening your marriage and the one to initiate change in the relationship.

I also believe that you will be the key to motivate your husband to read his book. Consequently, a whole chapter in this book (chapter 5) explains how to motivate your husband to read his corresponding book, If Only He Knew. If he reads his book carefully, I feel confident that he will begin to become aware of the special person you really are and will begin treating you with more tenderness, gentleness, sensitivity, and understanding.

If your relationship with your husband is less than you desire and he shows little concern for your feelings, you may at first find it difficult to take the steps given in this book. However, if you are willing to overlook his lack of response for the moment and put forth some extra effort, the ideas presented in this book can work. I am also confident that your husband's desire for a better relationship will increase in response to the changes he sees in you.

I have spoken to thousands and thousands of married women. I found very few who did not want an improvement in their relationships with their husbands. Some women were more content than others, but most of them longed for more loving and romantic husbands. many said they wanted their husbands to love them more than he loved anyone or anything. You might think, "That's impossible. There's not a man alive who loves like that!" But I have personally seen a growing number of husbands transformed into "impossible" lovers. The changes necessary don't just happen though; men make them happen when they know what to do!

One Big Reason Marriages Fail

All too often, people marry before acquiring the knowledge and skills necessary to take care of their mates: to meet their emotional, mental, and physical needs. One of the ironies in our society is that a person has to have four years of training to receive a plumber's license, but absolutely no training is required for a marriage license. our educational system doesn't even require communication courses basic to the meaningful development of any relationship. As a result, many men and women enter marriage with virtually no knowledge of how to meet the basic emotional needs of their mates. And I must confess, I was certainly among the untrained when I married. it has taken my wife, Norma, and my friends many years to help me become a more loving husband. It is typical for a man to marry without knowing how to talk to his wife. Some men don't even know that their wives need intimate communication. Often a man is completely unaware of his wife's sensitive nature. He doesn't know that things he considers trivial can be extremely important to her—things like anniversaries and holidays. Nor does he realize why such things are special to her, and so he is unable to meet her needs. Many men don't understand a woman's physical cycles and the hormonal changes she experiences. they don't realize how a woman's home, children, family, and friends become an interwoven part of her identity.

Many women step into marriage equally handicapped. They don't understand that admiration is to a man what romance is to a woman. They don't realize that a man generally relies on reasoning rather than intuitive sensitivity. It is obvious, then, that if both husband and wife lack the vital knowledge and skills to meet each other's needs, their needs will go unmet. One of the great psychiatrists of our time, Dr. Karl Menninger, said that when our basic needs are not met, we move in one of two directions. We either withdraw in "flight" or turn to "fight." the woman who takes the "flight" approach is certainly not escaping her problems. As she runs, she begins to doubt her self-worth. On the other hand, if she takes the "fight" approach, she may become an unattractive nag to her husband.

I believe the ideal marriage evolves when the wife concentrates on meeting her husband's desires and needs and the husband concentrates on meeting his wife's desires and needs. That combination builds the lasting qualities of a giving relationship.

This book was written to show women how to motivate their husbands to improve their relationship. Changes don't happen overnight, but the principles in this book have been proven over time in thousands of marriages. I know they work. If a woman is willing to spend the time and energy necessary to apply these principles, I am confident she will see her marriage become more of what she desires.

If you want to become a great painter, you must be dedicated. learning to master the essential techniques and skills of painting comes first. Then, after you have painted hundreds of canvases, you might display your work as an inspiration for young artists to follow. in the same way, I believe this book will give you many of the essential techniques and skills fundamental to making your marriage, with time and effort, a living example for others to follow.

Since this book was written to meet the needs of millions of people, some of the principles and ideas contained in it are, naturally, general and far-reaching. It cannot possibly answer all of the specific questions every woman would like to ask, but it does attempt to address the major aspects of love and marriage.

For Personal Reflection

1. Why is a wife so important to her husband? (See Genesis 2:18; Matthew 22:36–40.)

2. Up until now, what have you been doing to motivate your husband to invest in the marriage relationship? Are you ready to have your former methods challenged?

Chapter Two


* * *

"And if he sins against you seven times a day, and returns to you seven times, saying, 'I repent,' forgive him.: Luke 17:4

On a flight from Philadelphia to New Orleans, I mentioned to one of the flight attendants that I was writing a book about marriage. I told her one of the chapters discussed ways that a man hurts a woman without even realizing it. Before I knew it, I had been whisked up to first class and three flight attendants were telling me all of the ways their ex-husbands had hurt them. The three seemed amazed that a man would try to understand how words and actions, which seemed so innocent to their husbands, had inflicted hurts they, as women, could never forget.

For most couples I counsel, a week rarely passes without the husband saying or doing something that unintentionally offends the wife. The following true stories illustrate eight ways that husbands hurt their wives ... without even knowing it! However, I have seen men stop inflicting these hurts when their wives began applying some of the appropriate principles discussed in detail later.

He Frequently Criticizes You

Jim was great at finding all of Sarah's faults

Sarah had just slipped into her swimsuit and couldn't wait to get down to the beach. It was the first day of their vacation. Jim walked in, pinched her on the side, and casually remarked, "We better watch how much we eat on this trip." It seemed innocent to Jim, but Sarah thought he was really saying, "You're fat and ugly." the hurt was so deep that even to this day, five years and a divorce later, Sarah is extremely self-conscious in a swimsuit. (Oddly enough, Sarah is an attractive woman with a good figure.)

Several weeks after Jim made this remark, Sarah decided to try to do something about her figure. She concluded that ice skating would give her the necessary exercise. When she told Jim about her decision, he sarcastically said, "What do you want to do, become an Olympic champ?" To her, he was really saying, "I can't believe how stupid you are to come up with such a ridiculous idea. You're not worth the money it would cost."

Jim not only called attention to her weight problem but also criticized her for wanting to improve. Although he didn't realize it, Jim could find fault with almost anything Sarah said or did. He thought he could motivate her to change through sarcastic comments. Since a woman is not hard and calloused by nature, hurtful criticism rarely provides motivation to change. It usually brings deeper despair, which results in a diminished desire to please her husband. Chapters 10 and 12 will show you how to motivate your husband to replace his criticisms with appreciation and gratefulness.

He Doesn't Pay Attention to Your Words and Ideas

The only way Julia could hope to get Harry's undivided attention would be to magically transform herself into a TV program

It was eleven o'clock at night, and Susan, half-asleep, answered the phone. Across the line came the sobs of her mother thousands of miles away.

"What's wrong, Mom?"

Her mother replied, "I have to take two thousand dollars out of savings and buy your father a new flat-screen TV."

Now fully awake, Susan asked, "What happened?"

"For weeks I have been trying to get your father's attention long enough to explain a sensitive problem your little sister has had. I couldn't drag your father away from the TV set long enough to tell him. Finally I couldn't take it any longer. I marched into the den with a hammer, stepped between him and the TV, and with one blow smashed the screen in!"

"Mom, it could have exploded and you could have been hurt."

"I know, but I really didn't care. I just wanted him to listen. You know what your father did?"



Excerpted from For Better or for Best by Gary Smalley Copyright © 2012 by Gary Smalley . Excerpted by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Meet the Author

Gary Smalley was one of the country's best-known authors and speakers on family relationships. He was the award-winning, best-selling author or coauthor of sixteen books, as well as several popular films and videos. The Blessing and The Two Sides of Love have won Gold Medallions, The Language of Love won the Angel Award as the best contribution to family life, and his other titles have received Silver Medallions. His national infomercial Hidden Keys to Loving Relationships has been viewed by television audiences all over the world.

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For Better or for Best 3.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 6 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I got this book years ago and still use it. It is great! It helps you to understand your husband. He will begin to appreciate you and all that you do. He will even help you agian around the house. Smalley gives you all the techniques you need to get your marriage going in the right direction.
Liolania More than 1 year ago
The key to getting anything out of marriage books is understanding that you chose to read it because you needed help.  Being this is a Christian book, as long as nothing contradicts the Bible (which I see nothing in here that does), why wouldn't you give what the book says a true test run.  Meaning, actually apply the principles the book teaches instead of assuming hey are biased or sexist.      Having been married for 5yrs, even though I have read somewhere in the range of 50-100 marriage books, there is always something new  to learn and something to improve upon.  If you think there isn't, problem solved right there;  YOU DO NEED TO IMPROVE PERIOD.  No one outside of heaven is perfect, though we are called to be (or Holy depending upon your Bible Translation).  I have a host of marriage books to suggest, in fact this book would fit along nicely with "The Love Dare" because that gives practical application to what this book says.  It also will help you understand why if you are a woman,  your husband is very rude to you when you try to be nice, or follow "The Love Dare".  After reading those two books, I highly suggest reading "Your Personality Tree", "Love and Respect", "Am I Coming in Clear", "The 5 Love Languages", 'For Women Only" , "Boundaries", and  "Every Women's Battle".   After you reading those books, and apply what they teach, along with consistently reading the Bible EVERY SINGLE DAY, not sporadically, and praying daily, you will absolutely see a change in your marriage.  The number one problem with marriages is that people refuse to change themselves.  They may blame themselves, but news flash, the problems are not all your fault, and blaming yourself helps nothing, there is a huge difference between the victim mentality of blaming yourself and the proactive mentality to change yourself.  Back to this book, the biggest thing I got out of this, that my husband did too because I read some passages to him (we have been reading marriage and communication books together since we courted)., was the section on how men are like Buffalos and women are like Butterflies.  Once you read it, it will make sense.  :)  I didn't find one thing in this book that I haven't  found to be true in our marriage in some way shape or form when I am honest with myself.  When I smile when my husband comes home and hug him, it changes EVERYTHING.  Literally.  He is happy to be with me and feels good when I do that, and you know what, I am the EXACT same way.  The "Salt Principle" is very true as well, whenever I create curiosity in my husband he is DYING to know what I want to tell him as opposed to him feeling like I am bashing him over the head.  : ) These are all things I had all ready learned, but this  book will be invaluable to anyone, especially a newly wed, or a  disillusioned wife.  :)  Really, you can't lose anything by reading this, just keep an open mind, while you don't need to agree withe every single part of this book to get things out of it, just realize if you're offended, it's probably because you do need to change.  
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