When Annabelle Robertson began writing for Crosswalk in January of 2004, the award-winning journalist, seminary graduate and attorney had no idea that just three years later, she would also be a published author.

During the course of her twelve year marriage, Annabelle had often assisted her husband, a hospital-turned-Air Force chaplain, with weddings and premarital counseling.  So she had seen firsthand the frustration that tends to plague newlywed couples.  Finally, after years of dispensing advice – and watching far too many marriages fall apart – she decided to compile it into a book. 

The result is "The Southern Girl’s Guide to Surviving the Newlywed Years: How to Stay Sane Once You’ve Caught Your Man" (Penguin/NAL), a hilarious marriage manual that has just been honored with the 2006 USA Best Book Award for humor.  Annabelle, who is about to launch her southeastern book tour, is being hailed as the “Erma Bombeck of the South.”  But this Christian author is about far more than just laughs.  She’s on a mission to help married couples beat the odds.

We recently spoke with her about newlyweds, marriage and what it means to spread truth in an increasingly secular culture.

Why is your book called "The Southern Girl’s Guide"?

I come from a long line of Southern Girls, who tend to be sassy and smart.  We tell it like it is, with a heaping dose of humor.  But my book is for anyone who’s ever been married or who intends to marry – no matter where you’re from.  The Southern part is just who I am.

Why marriage?

Marriage defines us both individually and culturally.  Statistics indicate that 85 to 90 percent of all Americans will eventually marry, and 75 percent will do so before their 35th birthday.  In fact, a mere 8 percent of American women consider remaining single ideal – a proportion that hasn’t changed during the past twenty years.

Yet, as many as 65 percent of new marriages don’t survive.  The number of divorced adults quadrupled from 4.3 million in 1970 to 17.4 million in 1994, and “divorced persons” is the fastest growing marital status category in the country.  Many of those marriages end during the first 3 to 5 years.  In fact, the median length of marriage before divorce for first marriages among women aged 25 to 29 is just 3.4 years.  Clearly, staying married is one of the most difficult tasks we face.

Why is that?

Basically, we’re sinful, wounded people.  We sin, but we’ve also been sinned against.  So when the “honeymoon high” wears off, usually about four months after the wedding, marriage tends to become a boxing ring for all of our unresolved emotional issues.
Secondly, I’m concerned that the church is not adequately preparing couples for marriage.  Everyone talks about how wonderful and romantic it is.  But no one comes right out and says that sometimes, being married is a bit like staying at a Motel 6, three blocks from the beach, when you’ve been expecting a waterfront suite at the Ritz-Carlton your whole life.  It’s way better than being at work, but you won’t be getting any monogrammed bathrobes.