Love Must Be Tough

Title: Love Must Be Tough
Author: Dr. James Dobson
Publishing Information: Word Publishers, 1983
Reviewer: Patrina Boehringer
Review Date: June 2015

I read Love Must be Tough (LMBT) about 20 years ago and recently reread it. Dr. Dobson, the author, is a Christian psychologist and was a host on a popular Christian radio show beginning in the late 70’s and into 2000. His book, LMBT, provides helpful direction for troubled families, and in particular married couples.

When Dr. Dobson first wrote this book, it was a bit revolutionary because it opened a “new” door for struggling marriages. Marriage problems were generally “hush-hush” with victimhood and enablement the unsuccessful results. Dobson, as a Christian psychologist, was in essence giving couples permission to confront marital problems. Then, he encouraged active steps in order to bring wholeness back to the marriage relationship.

I feel that any struggling spouse could benefit from this book, especially the Christian. A Christian knows God wants them to forgive as God has forgiven them. I believe some Christians hesitate to deal with tough problems because they think they should forgive, forget and move on. Also, there can be great shame before God and Christian friends along with a fear of denunciation. Dobson’s book offers practical steps toward restoration.

As Dr. Dobson states, he “felt compelled to write this difficult book” because “infidelity and marital conflict are cancers” rising in epidemic proportion in the western world. (p.142) Throughout the book, he identifies the issues and shows how to approach and bring resolution. Adultery, abuse, passivity, finances, women’s liberation, homosexuality and addiction is discussed. He often uses correspondence or dialogue, bringing real-life practicality to the issues. Chapter 10 uses an actual radio show dialogue, hosted by Dobson on “Focus on the Family,” to help give an intimate glimpse at four spouses who faced troubled marriages. Chapter 12 examines the “Anatomy of Adultery” from the perspective of husband and wife.

I found LMBT a heartfelt discussion of the crisis in marriage today. Dobson’s tone is sympathetic yet firm, following Biblical principles. Dobson’s ability to address the fact that not all dying marriages will end alive and well gives the reader the correct perspective of the issue. Still, he encourages those who must face divorce to continue to hold to God’s love and seek his direction. In this regard I hoped Dobson would have given a stronger response. In Chapter 10, Dr. Dobson expresses his support for those who face a breakup by reminding them of God’s love and says, “You can make it, and even though it feels like God is unconcerned, He really does care!” (p. 119) I believe this response is weak. The words are encouraging but they are just that-human words. Instead, I would expand and suggest daily Scripture reading and study; attending church; and searching for Christian support. Nothing can replace the wisdom of God as found in the Bible. A study of our unworthiness and sin; Christ’s compassionate forgiveness; and God’s unfathomable purposes would provide an excellent course of action.