When I got married 17 years ago, I imagined a life of unending romance and teamwork with my husband that would satisfy all of my dreams and desires. Needless to say, I had a rude awakening. The first year was much more difficult than anyone ever told me it would be, and by year nine I was so disenchanted, I thought I could never turn my marriage around.
I then had an epiphany.
Instead of trying to change everything that I thought was "wrong" with my husband, I needed to look in the mirror at myself. I found that I was not the wife I needed to be, and changing my approaches led to an overall change in not only my husband, but our entire marriage as well. I have made the analogy that marriage is like a journey on open water - the seven seas to be exact - that you must navigate.
After writing the book, Sailing the Seven C's of Marriage: Having the Marriage You've Always Wanted, I have gained insights that I hope will strengthen all marriages, no matter where on the marriage journey they are.
We embark on our marriage journey like a honeymooning couple embarks on a cruise ship - holding hands, looking each other in the eye, and having easy conversation that never ends. After leaving port, we may encounter our first of many waves - a fight or misunderstanding - that rocks our boat a little bit. Eventually we regain our footing and reach for our spouse's hand, but something has been damaged ever so slightly.
After a while, a series of waves reaches the bow and each one does a little more damage until we don't reach for each other's hand, look each other in the eye, or wish to converse any more. In order to navigate these storms, we must be intentional and know they are coming. We can weather-proof our marriage to some extent, but we must also know how to repair it in order to be stronger after the storms.
The key to a strong marriage is the approach of being self-less. Our society tells us that we should look to self-gratification in everything we do. We should get personal pleasure out of our efforts; otherwise they are not worth our energy.
Unfortunately, many people have bought into this way of thinking. A wife dwells on the fact that her husband hasn't paid much attention to her or done anything for her lately and a husband is bothered by the wife that nags him about every little thing he does or doesn't do. This is a recipe for disaster, and that is what our society is experiencing as evidenced by a divorce rate of 33-50% depending on the source. Without a strong marriage, a family weakens. Without strong families, society weakens. We must regain the commitment to a strong society through a strong family structure and that requires a self-less commitment to the marriage relationship.
I argue that through this commitment, a husband and wife will find gratification above and beyond any the world promises them. They can do that by understanding the "Seven C's" of marriage which include the Command for marriage, a Commitment to marriage, Communication, Couple time, agreeing on issues with their Currency, putting Christ at the center of the marriage, and supporting each other's endeavors in the Community.
Our lives are very hectic. It doesn't matter if you have children or not, the age of your children if you have them, or whether or not you work outside of the home. We are busy prioritizing all of the things that we are told will get us or our family ahead in life. We are urged to make time for exercise and time for ourselves.
To be a better person we may give our time to help a friend in need. What gets neglected in the daily schedule is our husband or wife. Forgetting to prioritize the most important person in your life, the person you embarked on the journey with in the first place, weakens even the strongest of romances.
After two years the initial infatuation is gone, and unless we rekindle the spark regularly, it may seem to burn out. You can rekindle the flame and have it burn strong again. I have learned that this takes constant effort and attention.
Strengthening your marriage will seem like strengthening your muscles. It may be hard to get motivated, especially if you feel your spouse is unappreciative. Just start. Start with one act of kindness, one small word, one kiss. Stay devoted to this priority each day.
You may feel "sore" at first, just like after a workout, but it will get easier. You will become more accustomed to thinking about your spouse and trying to find different ways to serve them. Thinking "self-lessly" will begin to come naturally. Just as your body becomes stronger and healthier, so will your marriage. You will be surprised and pleased at the results.
To learn more about or to order the book Sailing the Seven C's of Marriage: Having the Marriage You've Always Wanted, visit email@example.com. To learn more about or to schedule a speaking engagement on the topic, or to read Amy’s daily marriage blog, visit www.findwhatmatters.net.
Amy Bindas is an author and speaker on the topic of marriage. She served as a middle school principal for 14 years and as a public school administrator for a total of 17 years. She currently teaches at the college level. She has been married for 17 years and is the mother of two boys.
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