There are ups and downs in marriage. And there are also ins and outs—where sometimes it appears that we are on a type of roller coaster ride in our marriage relationship. But that’s just how it goes! The marriage relationship is dynamic. It doesn’t stand still (even when it seems like it does). Life continually changes so our relationship continually changes. We most often don’t realize this before we marry. And even after we marry, all of this still can take us by surprise. (It sure has surprised us many, many times.)
For some reason, we get lulled into thinking that once we get past the wedding, we will experience a natural uphill climb in the growth of our love relationship. But usually, the opposite is true. We most often discover we’re on quite a different journey. And even if we’re braced for it, we find that our marriage relationship will go through different dynamics at different times.
Sometimes life together can be so, so good! Other times it’s not so good (maybe even downright terrible). There can also be short or long periods of time where the dynamics of our relationship seems to flatten into being boring. But hang on. Life doesn’t stand still. Most often, when you least expect it, life hits us between the eyes. That’s when our world starts spinning, and we feel the need to find some leveling ground.
Ups and Downs
That’s where we are right now in our marriage. We told you in our last email Insight mailing that Steve had a small stroke a few weeks ago. Plus, we’ve recently experienced some other huge losses—deaths of some very close friends.
So, we’re on one of those roller coaster rides again in our life together. But we’re grabbing onto Jesus and are grabbing onto each other as tightly as ever! The Lord has taught us to do this when we’re going through a “down” time. The foundation of our marriage does not have to crack apart if we stand firm in the Lord. And we’re determined not to let it!
And actually, Steve is doing SO much better than we thought possible just a few weeks ago. For that we are thankful! We’re praying, looking to God, holding close to each other; we’re going through the medical system, and are doing what we can to help Steve progress forward.
But even in the midst of this up and down roller coaster ride we’re on, we don’t want this Marriage Insight to be about us. That’s because we will all experience various types of roller coaster rides in our marriages. Here’s what Jay Dee wrote:
“There are a lot of scenarios when marriage can have a lot of ups and downs. Often people will tend to focus only on where they are. When they’re high, everything is good, and fun; but when they’re down in the dips, the world feels like it’s going to end. Life becomes a constant swinging from one end to the other.”
But hang on tight! It can be worth it if you do!
Ups and Downs in Marriage
To better illustrate this point, we have a fun video clip to share with you. In this movie clip, you’ll see Grandma telling a story about the ups and downs in life. She’s referring to parenthood. But you can also apply this point to marriage. View this YouTube clip to see what we mean:
The message the Lord gave us, concerning the Roller Coaster ride of marriage, is two-fold.
1. When you get on a roller coaster, make sure you’re committed to riding it out.
The marriage “ride” is not designed to stop when someone wants to get off. You’re to ride it out to the end. That’s why you make vows to each other and to God on your wedding day. You are to take those vows very seriously. There is to be total commitment involved. The godly principle is that if you don’t want to be totally committed to hanging on and getting through it, don’t get on in the first place. Marriage is for grownups; and it’s for those who are totally committed to being promise keepers.
Yes, we know there are extenuating circumstances where abuse and deception can change things in marriage. We aren’t in control of everything our spouse does—only what we do. But as a general rule, too many couples are not riding it out as they vowed, they would. They want out when their life together is no longer “fun” or when the “fun” has worn off. And they fully believe it can’t ever come back again—which isn’t true. (We know that as a fact!) And even if it was true, why make the vow if you’re going to tie to fluctuating circumstances? Is that what God asks of us when we marry?
If you are married, do your part and lean into the Lord to help you live as God would have you. God will redeem every experience you encounter when you look to Him.
This brings us to the next point:
2. It’s only natural to experience ups and downs in your marriage.
If you want to play it safe, stay on the alone Merry-go-round of life; don’t allow yourself to fall in love and commit to marriage. Love and the marriage relationship is messy. It goes with the nature of the whole thing!
The average marriage has a lifetime of highs and lows, even when we work on it. But work on it, we must! That’s what we commit to do when we say, “I do.” It’s important to note that:
“Marriage changes as we change. The process is like any natural phenomenon—uneven, unpredictable, relentless. Take the surges as they come.” (Toni Sciarra Poynter)
That’s an important point — “take the surges as they come.” And they will come. There are “up” surges, and “down” surges.
What to Do When Your Marriage is Up
Now, when your marriage relationship is going well, here’s some great advice from Jay Dee that we totally agree with:
“When your marriage is going well, you need to enjoy it. You also need to make it productive. When things are going well, this is the time to be productive. Set new habits and lay the foundation for better things. This is the time to store up loving feelings in your bank, to create good memories, to build momentum.
“Have long talks about the future, about your hopes and dreams. Learn how to be more effective in your communication. Smile, love, laugh and enjoy the time, but don’t waste it. (From the Uncoveringintimacy.com article, When Marriage is Like a Roller Coaster)
This is SO true. The “ups” of marriage usually won’t last forever. So, this is a time when it’s important to do what marriage expert Dr John Gottman learned. In his extensive marriage research, he tells spouses that the “up times” are when you “stockpile good feelings about each other to weather difficulties and keep your basic attitude toward your marriage partner positive.” So, make good memories and build upon the good so it keeps you warm during those colder, less connected times.
When Your Marriage is Going Through a Downturn
And for those “down” times Jay Dee gives this great advice:
“When marriage starts to get to a low, now is the time to draw on those reserves. Do this to leverage the stored-up happiness and joy. Reminisce about ‘remember when’ and recognize that while things are difficult now, the seasons will come around again.
“This is when you want that momentum to push you through the low points. We use the highs to power us through the dips and valleys. If you can use the high time productively, you will notice that the lows become shorter, because you’ve built the necessary speed by laying the foundation needed to tackle adversity.
“Don’t focus on the low point, in how you are feeling; but rather master your emotions. Tell yourself, and each other, that this is only temporary, that you will get through this, that you can weather it together. But also pay attention to what’s going on. What started this dip, how can you avoid, mitigate, or at least handle it better next time? Focus on the things you learned when things were good—those skills in communication to help you through the darkest times.
“Also, lean on your friends, or people you respect, who are past the rollercoaster stage. Lean on those who have managed to get to a stage of stability so they can lend you their strength, their wisdom and their prayers.”
These pointers can help you to get to a better place when you apply them with prayer and care. We know; we’ve applied them when we’ve experienced the “downs” of life together. And they work!
Another Visual Example
Dr Steve Stephens in his book, “Marriage: Experiencing the Best,” gives us another good way to look at this issue in marriage. Dr Stephens wrote:
“Relationships go up and down while love comes and goes. Someone once asked Alan Alda, the famous television and movie star, how he managed to have such a long and successful marriage. His answer was that most relationships begin with a ‘vibrant’ love, but soon fade into ‘utter discontent.’ It is easy to give up and forget that ‘love returns in waves… you just have to wait it out.’
“Alan Alda was right; love is like the tides of the ocean. Sometimes they come in and the passion is high. You feel the love and the relationship is wonderful. Then there are times when the tide is out —sometimes way out. The relationship is dry and lifeless. The love is gone.
“You look out at the sea and wonder if the tide will ever return. But if you’re patient and stay at the beach, the waves will again crash on the shore. The excitement and romance will return. You will feel love again.”
Of course, there are always exceptions to every “rule” (especially when your “partner” quits). But sometimes we’re so impatient because of uncomfortable circumstances that many spouses jump out of marriage. As a result, they land headfirst. This complicates everything all the more!
Promise In Marriage
I’m reminded of something Dr Norman Wright remarked about in his book, One Marriage Under God: Building an Everlasting Love:
“In Thornton Wilder’s ‘The Skin of Our Teeth,’ a character named Ms. Antobus says, ‘I married you because you gave me a promise. That promise made up for your faults. And the promise I gave you made up for mine. Two imperfect people got married and it was the promise that made the marriage.
“‘And when our children were growing up, it wasn’t a house that protected them; and it wasn’t our love that protected them —it was that promise.’
“That’s a great example of what a commitment to marriage looks like. It’s a promise made and kept by two imperfect people —with flaws, faults, and character weaknesses.”
Keep this in mind the next time you’re experiencing the ups and downs (particularly the “downs”) of marriage.
It might be good to ask God, “Is this an ebb or flow of marriage or one of those ups and downs, we’re experiencing?” And if it is, ask Him to show you how to hang on so you’re able to do what it takes to “ride it out” until you can get to a better place in your married life.
In our marriages, may we persevere, as God would have us, and FINISH WELL!
Cindy and Steve Wright
— ADDITIONALLY —
To help you further, we give a lot of personal stories, humor, and more practical tips in our book, 7 ESSENTIALS to Grow Your Marriage. We hope you will pick up a copy for yourself. (It’s available both electronically and in print form.) Plus, it can make a great gift for someone else. It gives you the opportunity to help them grow their marriage. And who doesn’t need that? Just click on the linked title or the picture below:
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