Both of us have performed hundreds of weddings and talked with thousands of couples about their marriages, and we’re strongly convinced that how you build your marriage foundation during these first few years is the primary factor for long-term happiness and marital success. Research backs up that statement: Couples who persevere through the first few years of marriage are much more likely to have long, happy, and lasting relationships with their spouses.
We’re going to assume you agree that learning about marriage, developing new relational skills, and putting those skills into practice is critical to the future health of your marriage and is an important part of growing as a spouse. We feel safe making that assumption because you’re reading this reading plan. We want to congratulate you for your desire to learn about being successful in marriage. Desire is an essential foundational action that makes all the difference in a marriage. Without the desire to grow, learn, and change, you’ll drift from your intended destination and what’s most important in your marriage.
Brian and Jenny had desire, but it was focused in the wrong direction. They became a busy, distracted young married couple. They met right out of college, dated for two and a half years, got engaged, and quickly married. Two years later, they were surprised to discover that Jenny was pregnant. They hadn’t planned on having a baby so soon, and they weren’t prepared for the changes that would entail. Their marriage was experiencing a subtle yet unresolved tension, and they knew a baby was only going to inflame the issues that were bubbling under the surface.
Thankfully they realized it wasn’t too late to shift their misplaced desire from their vocations and focus instead on improving their relationship. They read a couple of marriage books, got into counseling, participated in a couples’ conference, and joined a small group from their church. Fortunately, Jenny’s pregnancy triggered a desire in both of them to emphasize their marriage. The effort Brian and Jenny put into improving their marriage as a result of Jenny’s pregnancy has paid off, and they now enjoy a happier, healthier, and deeper relationship.
Jenny’s pregnancy served as a wake-up call for their marriage. They admitted to us that they had simply stopped doing some of the things they knew would benefit their marriage. They hadn’t intentionally stopped; it was an innocent “We just got too busy and distracted” stop. This phenomenon is so very common in the marriages we study that we refer to it as the drift. When Brian and Jenny stopped desiring to grow, learn, and change as a couple, they began to drift from their intended destination. An undercurrent of apathy moved them away from the promises they made to each other on their wedding day.
Here’s what’s tricky: The drift sneaks up on couples. It gradually pulls husbands and wives apart and moves them away from their intended target of a healthy marriage. At first the drift doesn’t seem as if it’s even happening. It’s deceptive. Couples go about their ordinary daily lives, becoming busy and preoccupied, and when they have a wake-up call (like Brian and Jenny) or a relational blowup, they look at each other and realize their marriage has drifted off course.