Our marriage was going to be different. I had been listening to everyone’s wisdom, warnings, and time- tested advice. “Marriage takes work,” they said. I was not afraid of a little work. Besides, we were different. We loved each other—a lot. We were not going to struggle like other couples. We would not lose the spark, we would not develop unrealistic expectations, we would not say hurtful things. If we did, we surely would not let the sun go down on our anger. Our marriage was going to be better than anyone else’s.
I was not so naïve to think the Beatles had nailed the truth with “all you need is love.” I was smarter than that. I knew the real truth: all you need is genuine love. So while the kind-hearted and broken-hearted offered their wisdom, warnings, and advice, we stood tall before God and man, certain we had more than enough love. Ours would be the marriage against which to judge all other marriages. Turns out we were exactly like everyone else. We had unrealistic expectations. We underestimated the amount of work a marriage takes.
We discovered that even a loving, generous, kind-hearted person can be a real jerk sometimes. We realized that in order to have a great marriage, we would need to do what every other successful couple did: Work at it. Embrace change. Grow up. Realization was just the first step. The second—and most import- ant—step was doing something about it. You have probably heard all kinds of scary statistics about marriage. For example, according to author and psychologist Dr. Kevin Lehman, the average marriage in America lasts seven years. This is far from the “forever” we agree to in the wedding ceremony. Dr. Neil Clark Warren tells of an even more staggering statistic, stating that “200,000 marriages will end this year that did not make it to the second anniversary.”
Granted, some of the statistics we hear these days like “50% of marriages end in divorce” are unsubstantiated and blown out of proportion, and end up producing either exaggerated fears or an unfounded sense of hopelessness. Does the idea that someone could have a complete marriage make- over in ten days seem simplistic to you? Does it seem impossible? Do you think I’m overpromising or trivializing what you are facing? You might be thinking, “Philip, do you really think people can solve any marriage problem in ten days? Give me a break!”
I realize that many marriage problems are complicated and are connected to deep places in our soul. Here is what I know: in ten days, you can radically change the environment of your marriage from hostile to trusting, from cold to warm, or from distant to embracing. In ten days you can drastically change the tone of your relationship and you can create the environment in which any problem can be worked on in a safe and promising atmosphere. Do you know what I believe is the greatest threat to marriage today?
Us! It’s just us. People. We do not know how to do relationships very well. Reading this book puts you in a special category of people: those who are not afraid to admit their marriage needs work. You could be one of those people who simply wants to make a good thing great. Maybe you’re noticing you’ve lost that lovin’ feeling, or maybe you are staring the D-word in the face.
Wherever you are, you know your marriage is not what it could be and should be. People who make the effort to understand what is not working in their marriage are a rare breed. People who make genuine changes in their attitudes and actions are rarer still. Welcome to rarified air. The single most important earthly relationship anyone will have in this life is with their spouse. Yet so many people never read a single thing about how to do marriage right. We think our love will be enough. We think we will figure it out, or that problems will solve themselves. Then we hit a wall. Something feels broken. Something is not right. We may still say and mean, “I love you” every morning, but if we are honest, we may feel angry, tired, frustrated, or lonely.
We Need Help! A few years ago, I went to traffic school. This may have had something to do with my driving. Let’s just say attendance was not optional. I drive every day. (It’s a California thing.) I rely on my driving skill for my work, my family, and my life. I thought I knew all I needed to know about driving, but soon after the class started I was surprised to discover how many things I did not know or had forgotten. What is the difference between a double yellow line and a broken white line?
How many feet before an intersection should you signal? What do all these different traffic signs mean? Did you know that having a driver’s license is a privilege and not a right? I’m pretty sure I hadn’t thought of that prior to traffic school. If I wanted to pass the test at the end of the class, I needed to know the answers.