You may have noticed we named the book The Four Steps to a Successful Marriage, and not “to a ‘happy’ marriage.” Marriage is not always happy. You will not always run barefoot across lush meadows, in slow motion, with sunlight gleaming in your hair. Happiness is elusive and must be viewed within a larger context. But marriage can surely be richly rewarding and satisfying. And for those of us who intend to spend a lifetime leap-frogging the hurdles that dot our individual landscapes, there is no more powerful and demanding personal trainer than marriage.
The purpose of this book is to teach the reader certain proven principles that will bring you to a successful marriage which will reward you with more pleasure and delight than you are currently experiencing.
Before we get to The Four Steps, we would like to make some distinctions which will enable the reader to grasp and implement The Four Steps. You see, The Four Steps are “simple,” but they are not “easy.” Preparation will make them easier.
The distinction between “Context” and “Content.”
Our favorite online dictionary defines “context” as: the interrelated conditions in which something exists or occurs environment, setting. We define context as “the space in which an event occurs.” And that event which occurs in the space is the “content.”
Content, then, is the “stuff” that shows up within the context.
Think of context as a gigantic stage and content as the production: the actors, props, scenery, etc., which populate that stage.
Your skill at creating context will determine the success of your content.
Your marriage, is the context, and your spouse, children, home, bills and all the day-to-day circumstances you encounter are the content.
How have you “set the stage” for the production called your marriage? That is to say, what ideas and beliefs have molded and shaped your notion of marriage?
We assert that how you have set the stage can make the difference between a successful and a failed marriage. In the following pages we will introduce some ideas that will inform what you “believe to be true” about marriage. These concepts will help you create a foundation for The Four Steps which, if followed, will result in a marriage “that works.”
If someone asks, “How are you?” where do you look for the answer?
Do you look at your physical well-being to determine how you are?
Let’s say you woke up at 6:00 AM, jogged two miles and stopped for a fruit smoothie on the way home. Let’s say the fruit smoothie vendor even mentioned how fantastic you’re looking after six weeks of your morning jogging regimen. You’re feeling in-control and on top of the world.
“How am I? I’m GREAT!”
Then, as you unlock your front door, you glance at your car in the driveway and notice your driver- side window has been smashed in. Your physical well-being is still tip-top, but “how are you” now?
Then, let’s say you enter your house to make a police report, and the phone rings with news that your sister has just given birth to her first baby. Suddenly you realize that your vandalized car pales in comparison to your sister’s ecstatic voice.
So, how are you now?
Even when we feel fine physically, where we tend to look for the answer to the question, “How are you?” is at the circumstances around us. So, it seems, how we are relates to how the world around us is. How is your job? How are your relationships?
You can tell “how you are,” by looking around you. Your family, friends, co-workers, neighbors, and even the cashiers at your local supermarket are powerful indicators of how you are.
If they’re thriving, you’re thriving. If they’re not, you’re not.
How the things and people outside of you are doing is the content. The result of their well-being—a global sense of well-being, if you will—is the context in which you live your life. “How is your global sense of well-being?” is the REAL question, even though the way we phrase it is “how are you?”
This is why our book and its principles are so important. If you can put your attention on the lives of the people around you, then the quality of YOUR life will improve. And even more important, you will discover and actualize the very purpose for which you were put on this earth.
Let’s roll up our sleeves and get to work.