Studies in Crap

The world's saddest self-help book, discovered in Pasadena: How to Save Your Marriage Alone

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Mon, Jan 17, 2011 at 9:00 AM
click to enlarge sichowtosaveyourmarriage.jpg

Each Monday, your Crap Archivist brings you the finest in forgotten and bewildering crap culled from basements, thrift stores, estate sales and flea markets around Los Angeles.

How to Save Your Marriage Alone

Author: Ed Wheat, MD

Date: 1983

Publisher: Zondervan

Discovered at: Cliff's Books, Pasadena

The Cover Promises: You will soon be getting a divorce . . . together.

Representative Quotes:

"The special advice I have for you will run counter to everything the worldly mind teaches, and it will go against your own nature to do it." (page 20)

"Totally avoid criticism of your mate. Accept whatever your partner is doing without comment or histrionics. Do not even suggest a secret disapproval." (page 32)

Seriously, just try to find a sadder title than that. Yes, there's shelves of horrifying books that deal with abuse, or addiction, or getting over genocide or whatever. But do any of those confirm in their very title that all hope is illusory? It's like titling a book on depression How to Succeed by Curling Up Into a Teensy Ball in Your Shower.

And Wheat's advice is even more sad than his title.

We'll get to it momentarily, but first some thoughts on Crap classification. Over the years, your Crap Archivist has worked out several guidelines helpful in determining whether or not a book is complete, irredeemable crap. Ed Wheat's slender, useless How to Save Your Marriage Alone exemplifies three of these.

1. Is the author identified with "PhD" or "MD" right there on the cover?

Yes. Insecure authors - and many hoping to snowjob impressionable readers - spew their crap from behind a bulwark of credentials. This is the John E. Mack Memorial Rule of Crap Identification, named for the late Harvard psychiatrist whose biography of T.E. Lawrence was credited to "John E. Mack but whose Abduction: Human Encounters with Aliens is credited to "John E. Mack, M.D."

click to enlarge sicsaveyourmarriageback.jpg

2. Does the author suggest that to fully appreciate this book you must purchase many more books?

Yes. This is the L. Ron Hubbard/Robert Jordan Rule of Book-Buyer Exploitation. In How to Save Your Marriage Alone, Wheat promises his readers the tools they will need to save their marriages.

But then, just 19 pages in, he drops this:

"In short, you will need to apply all the principles discussed in my book Love Life for Every married Couple concerning the five ways of loving and how to love. The easiest way to establish an effective habit of loving behavior is to follow the B-E-S-T prescription of Chapter 13 of that book."

He follows that with another page lionizing his "B-E-S-T" plan . . . and he never even explains the acronym. See, you really are saving your marriage alone, because this Wheat guy isn't helping much.

And Wheat isn't satisfied shilling other books he's written. He also wants you to send off to Arkansas for his hawt sex tapes!

click to enlarge sichowtosaveyourmarriagerecvid.jpg

3. Is the book's title sufficiently ass-headed that a reasonable person would ask, "Wait, what? That's a real book?"

Yes. This was once the Do Cats Have ESP? Rule. And before that the How to Be Happy Though Married Rule. But now, thanks to the efforts of Ed Wheat, MD - efforts that, judging from his book's meager 62 pages, are the opposite of "tireless"-- this most gut-level of Crap guidelines is hereby renamed The How to Save Your Marriage Alone Rule of Crap Titling. Congratulations, Dr. Wheat!

Anyway, most of this book is cribbed from Wheat's longer work, Love Life for Every married Couple . Sometimes, he even refers to this book as a mere "chapter," which suggests some serious cutting-and-pasting. But even in these few pages Wheat offers much advice you won't find in most places.

Here he addresses the husband or wife whose spouse is trying to end the marriage . . . or even stepping out:

"You must be prepared to respond in a loving way, even to a continuing infidelity . . . Your only option is to become the husband or wife God has commanded you to be in Scripture, and to apply every principle of behavior from the Word of God to the day-by-day challenges of your situation. You may well save your marriage. Without question, you will enjoy God's blessing and favor."

Yes, bottle up your hurt and rage so long that it ferments. Then, drink deeply from it some night when you're home alone - again.

Wheat recommends cheerful passivity whenever there's marital trouble. Betrayed wives, for example, should gracefully endure their husband's tomcatting.

"You have the opportunity, if he is still coming home at least part of the time, to show him genuine sweetness with no bitter aftertaste and the gracious, stable serenity that only Christ can give. Your behavior can remind him of the continuing joy and dignity of remaining as the head of his family in contrast to the social, spiritual degradation that biblically is promised to the man who casts his lot with an adulteresses."
click to enlarge At Cliff's Books, you'll find Howard's End right where it belongs: between The Hulk and Burt Reynolds' Hooper.
  • At Cliff's Books, you'll find Howard's End right where it belongs: between The Hulk and Burt Reynolds' Hooper.

Or maybe this will show him that he can just keep casting his lot on all the adulteresses he wants!

Wheat offers the same advice to men with cheating wives. But when it comes to wooing back an errant spouse, the best approach differs by gender.

"A husband must win his wife back by initiating love and pursuing, when necessary. A wife must win her husband back by responding with love at every opportunity. This is in keeping with the biblical roles and distinctive natures of husband and wife since the Creation."

At all times hold to the most ancient of sex roles. If your husband passes his days rutting with strange females, and therefore fails to provide meat for your family, harvest berries from whatever bushes you can find, and thank your God for their bitterness.

click to enlarge Cliff's shelves swell with depressing, counter-intuitive advice books.
  • Cliff's shelves swell with depressing, counter-intuitive advice books.

Shocking Detail:

Wheat shares the story of "a lovely young wife" who found it difficult "dressing to go out in the evening because she knew in advance that [her husband] would not treat her the way she longed to be treated."


"She developed the habit of thinking of Lord Jesus as her friend and escort for the evening. 'It helped me tremendously,' she said. 'I looked my best for him, I behaved my best for Him, and I was constantly aware of his steadying presence within me!'"

Good for her! But here's a caveat: that trick didn't work out so well for me when I tried it at prom.


"This may come as shocking information, but if you want to save your marriage you cannot just be a 'good' husband or wife. You have to be perfect in your behavior toward your partner."

In short: in the eyes of God and spouse and Dr. Wheat, when you fail to save your marriage it's your fault for not being perfect.

Also, in his book Intended for Pleasure,Wheat dismisses oral sex as lacking the "unity and oneness" of what he calls "basic sexual intercourse."

Just remember: next time a partner tries to treat your genitals to mouth romance, you say, "No, baby. Let's do it basic."

Hey, why not follow the new @studiesincrap on Twitter?

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