I grew up on the water, on the coast of New England. If I wasn't swimming in it, I was sailing or boating on it, or just walking along the shore. After spending so much time in boats and near the water, one thing I came to realize was that the slightest change in heading while sailing would land you miles off course. Any good captain knows that he has to find and learn to use the best tools available in order to navigate correctly. South of Cape Cod, there are two relatively small islands called Nantucket and Martha's Vineyard. They're not all that far from the mainland, but considering the scale of the Atlantic Ocean, they're easy to miss. Sailing there is a challenge to anyone, but particularly for an inexperienced captain, especially if he's in a small vessel. Without proper preparation and constant training in new (and sometimes 'new to you') techniques, the islands could be missed altogether and he'd find himself somewhere near the Bahamas. Way off course, at a destination he never intended (although the Bahamas are rarely a bad place to be).
Just like that inexperienced captain, on our wedding day we stand on an altar, on a beach or in front of an officiant and we exchange our vows with God and each other. We then turn and walk away, side-by-side. Headed in the same direction, off towards our intended destination, thinking we've charted a heading to wedded bliss. Then, life happens. Careers, children, in-laws, football season, black Friday sales and other stressors threaten our relationship and threaten to blow us off course and into unknown or dangerous waters.
As the captain of your vessel, the first step in recovering from a navigational error is to realize and admit you've made a mistake. Reorient yourself and chart a new heading, back towards your original destination. Then you've got to decide that you're going to sail towards that heading. The same is true in your marriage. Even in the midst of a storm, you must stop. Understand that where you are is not where you wanted to be, admit you've made a mistake and then chart a new heading. Back towards the place you wanted to go, back on course.
After more than 20 years of marriage, I've found the best way to keep from getting lost in my relationship with Sherry is to first find and confirm my heading, then simply maintain course. There are many ways to maintain course in your marriage, too numerous to list here, but one that stands out clearly to me is loving my wife well. Husbands, only you know your wife well enough to know what will show her your love for her (and if you feel like you don't, get to know her better, try dating and pursuing her again!) but here are a few tried and true suggestions for you:
Five ways to love your wife well:
#5: Husbands, remember the things you say to your wife are replayed in her head many times over. What's replaying right now? Fill her head with words of love, security and affirmation. Even if words of affirmation are not her "love language", trust me, she'll appreciate your words of kindness. Don't know her love language? Don't know yours? Take the assessment here: www.5lovelanguages.com/assessments/love/
#4: Don't try to multitask when you are spending time together. Turn off the TV, the computer, anything with a screen and give her your full attention. If you can't turn it off at that moment, use what we call the "stand by" rule. When Sherry approaches me to talk when I'm in the middle of something else, sometimes if I turn and pay attention to her my train of thought will derail. In those moments, instead of getting frustrated with her (which I've done too many times to count), I'll just say "Please stand by". Since we've discussed it ahead of time, she knows that this just means I have to finish my thought before I can give her my full attention. (*Disclaimer: I haven't tried to use this in this midst of a football game...yet. I'll let you know how that goes.)
#3: Buy your wife a pair of shoes you'd like to see her wear. Before you leave the house and without her knowing, look at her shoe size. Even if you have to return the shoes, she'll know you're thinking of her when you're apart and you'll be buying her an unexpected gift that she'll enjoy. Keep it somewhat practical though, ok guys? If your wife recently had knee surgery, don't bring home a pair of 6 inch stilettos.
#2: Take care of the "Dirty Jobs" around the house like unclogging a toilet or cleaning up after the dog (or kids) so she doesn't have to. You can be her hero when something gross happens. Wear a cape while you do it for extra fun.
#1: Text, email or call your wife throughout the day just to tell her you think she's pretty, you're proud to have her as your wife, or that you love her. It will lift her spirits and show her that you're thinking about her, even when you're apart.
Remember: the best way to stay on course in your marriage is to do everything within your power to find and then maintain course! This requires constant attention and many minor corrections along the way. Go do it men!