What is love? Love is everything. At the same time, it's not enough. How can both statements be true? In too many marriages, there are fleeting feelings of romance posing for love. If this book does nothing else, it should demonstrate the difference. For any marriage to work, love must be understood and experienced as a thoughtful commitment to an imperfect person.
In a good marriage, the excitement of romantic love ultimately leads to a lively, ongoing communication, a deep knowing of your partner's most intimate joys and fears, sacred sex, a bedrock of trust, and a set of practical agreements to guide how you'll conduct your lives together. When all these things are present you have fulfilled the promise of love in marriage. For the majority of happy couples, this process takes many years together to achieve — and the results of these long-term marriages are well worth the effort. In the chapters that follow, the knowledge and skills required to sustain the love that brought you together are laid out with step-by-step guides for traversing the areas that throw roadblocks into every marriage. These areas of contention are self, money, sex, and children, and because these topics wreak the most havoc in marriage, they receive the most attention.
Other chapters address the special challenges that frequently occur in new marriages and stepfamilies. The joys of long-term marriages are also explored. Finally, Stephen Martin offers his sober assessment of what anyone should consider before making the decision to go through with a divorce.
To help you find out where your marriage is weak and where it's strong, be sure to try the Marriage Self-Test; in fact, it may be the perfect place to start reading. This test works best if you and your partner answer the questions separately, and discuss the results together, but there are insights available to anyone who opens up to the process. The same can be said for the rest of this book, and of marriage itself. One of you can have a positive impact on the marriage by identifying and changing your own thoughts and behaviors, but if both of you take on the same tasks, a working marriage is virtually guaranteed.