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Don’t Fear the Ups & Downs

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My 36th wedding anniversary is just a few days away, and that has caused me to contemplate some of the things I’ve learned over the course of my marriage. While I can say that my marriage has definitely gotten better over time, I’d be a liar to say that every single day was better than the one before it. Every marriage has its ups and downs, ebbs and flows, high and low seasons or (insert your favorite analogy here). I suppose this is because we’re human. As individuals we go through these emotional fluctuations over time, it only makes sense that when two individuals come together in a one-flesh relationship, the same variation will take place.

Problems occur when we overreact to these natural changes. It’s easy to get paranoid in a low season of marriage and begin to wonder if you’re growing apart, or if the love is fading, or the romance is gone. Pursuing such a thought pattern can actually exacerbate the problem, causing the negative feelings to grow in intensity.

I’ve been a businessman for most of my career, I see these same characteristics happen in the corporate world. A company has a down quarter, so they cut spending, enact travel restrictions and freeze hiring. A second down quarter and they start laying off employees and downsizing in an effort to right the ship. While sometimes these actions can turn things around, other times they spell the beginning of the end. They enter a downward spiral they just can’t recover from.

Warren Buffet, one of the richest men in the world and an expert on investing, is credited as saying that the very best time to invest in the future is in a downturn. In other words, if the economy goes into a recession, don’t cut expenditures to the bone, but rather invest heavily in the company. His rationale is that when the economy turns back around, companies that do this will have a huge advantage over companies that merely tightened their belts. These companies are not living day by day but rather investing in a profitable future. A given company cannot control the economy, but they can prepare for health in a brighter future.

I believe this same concept can apply to marriage as well. When you find yourself in a relational downturn, turn up the investment. What does this look like?

  • Plan a date night or a get away weekend
  • Begin planning a spouse only vacation (just the act of dreaming and planning can bring you closer together)
  • Create some goals that you would like to achieve as a couple in the next 6 months, 1 year, 3 years
  • Write your spouse a letter recalling all the reasons you originally fell in love with them

This is not an exhaustive list. But the one thing each of the items has in common is that they get you out of the moment (where you’re feeling isolated) and either look forward or backward to a better time. Unlike companies, a couple can intentionally move out of a low season to a high season with the proper focus and investment. It is important to do these things even when you may not “feel” like it.

When you invest in your marriage (and in your spouse), you are acknowledging that tough times exist, but you are committed to a brighter future together. Take the fears out of highs and lows. Live with the expectation of an ever improving marriage.

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