Thursday, April 5, 2012

Book Review: Friends for Life

A Book You Can Buy From Me

Book Title: Friends for Life: Building a Loving and Lasting Relationship with Your Mate

Author: Jim Coleman with Sheila Schuller Coleman

Publisher: Word

Date: 1992

Length: 183 pages

ISBN: 084993351X

Quote: "Just because a marriage relationship is struggling doesn't mean that it is dead."

Gentle Readers, I have been making a study of the lives and work of the perpetually annoying Schuller family. They're Christians; they've seemed to lead decent, if not exactly exemplary, lives; they've ridden high and lived on the fat of the land for as long as I've been alive, and recently their Crystal Cathedral has filed for bankruptcy, which just might be why books by this family have been donated to local charity sales by disappointed viewers. After all, if failure is a choice...

My intention was not to kick any of the Schullers when they're down. I've wanted to kick them while they were rich and famous, and regret that the moment has passed. The fact is that Robert Harold Schuller, the founder of the Crystal Cathedral, has been preaching for about as long as can reasonably be expected of any man; and it's not the first time the children (or students) of a gifted person have failed to inherit the father's (or teacher's) gifts. Stuff happens. Maybe the Schullers will be easier for most of us to take once they've learned this basic truth.

So, fair disclosure: I don't think Friends for Life is nearly as good as an older book by Barb and Chuck Snyder, Incompatibility: Grounds for a Great Marriage. Another fair disclosure, though: it's not meant to be good in the same way. The Snyders wrote as elders and counsellors; the Colemans write as a relatively young celebrity couple sharing stories from their glamorous, sheltered, overprivileged, TV-star's-children world.

What they have to tell us is that even the overprivileged have to learn and adjust as they grow up. Jim learns the benefits of a "no-lunch policy"--not going out alone, even to lunch, with women other than Sheila. Sheila learns the benefits of watching her weight. That kind of thing. Both of them are so bland and airbrushed and perky that...er, well...they sound about thirty years old. Come to think of it, at the time of writing they must have been about thirty years old.

Some of the things they learned are, not surprisingly, things that just might be useful to other young couples. And a few of their stories are even funny.

There still hovers around this book a faint odor of...well, apart from resurgent mildew, because my paperback copy of this book was not built to last and has had to be cleaned repeatedly...a faint emotional "odor" of, shall we say, glitter. A Crystal Cathedral has much in common with an ivory tower. How much would you trust a relationship book by Lisa Marie Presley and Michael Jackson? In the evangelical Christian world the Schuller-Coleman relationship was almost as overprivileged and consequently surreal as the Presley-Jackson relationship. My overall impression is that they've chosen stories about situations similar to those the rest of us face in real life, but when you're all that rich and famous, "similar" is never quite the same.

Nevertheless, this couple have had their own problems, to which they've not really asked the rest of us to try to relate, and apparently they've stayed together. So maybe their stories about the first years of their lives together make a worthwhile first book on relationships after all.

For a clean copy, send $5 for the book plus $5 for shipping to salolianigodagewi@yahoo.com.