S curves and marital growth

Whitney Johnson, a Harvard Business Review blogger, has some interesting ideas I think apply to marriage nicely. In Throw Your Life a Curve Johnson talks about the S curve model for understanding how we learn new things.

S curve based on an image © 2012 Juan C. Mendez & Whitney Johnson

You start to do something new to improve some aspect of your marriage, or just to make your wife happier. This could be a change of habit, a new approach to sex, trying to listen better, whatever. You start at the lower left of the curve, unsure of how it is going to work or exactly what to do – you are in the yellow area of the chart above. After you struggle for a while, you get the hang of it, and you start to improve rapidly. You get positive feedback from your bride because she is seeing the rapid change; this is the green area. Finally, you have almost mastered what it is you are doing, which means there is not much room to grow or improve. Your wife may stop bragging on you; you may start doing it out of habit without much thought, or you may get bored with it. This is the red area.

Each phase has dangers:

  • YELLOW: The danger here is giving up. This is the most frustrating part of doing something new, with plenty of failure and little or no recognition of what you are trying to do. The important thing here is just to keep going.
  • GREEN: The greatest danger here is getting a big head. Do not let your success or her praise cause you to slack off in other areas – you need to add this to the other ways you meet her wants and needs. Another danger is thinking you are owed something (see yesterday’s Say no to Quid Pro Quo).
  • RED: One danger here is backing off just before you master whatever it is you are doing. Another danger is slipping into autopilot, which means you won’t do as good a job. You might also just get so bored you stop doing it, do it less often, or not do it as well.

Do you see any of this in your past when you tried to improve your marriage? Do you tend to drop out in the yellow zone? Do you think too much of yourself in the green zone or think she owes you? Do you get to the red zone and drop what you are doing to start a new curve?

Our year end giving push is in the yellow zone right now; we’ve had some wonderful gifts, but we have a long way to go. We are looking for 800 of you to give $5 a month, or $60 one time for the year, or half as many to give double that – $10 a month or $120 a year, or some mix of the two. A little bit of help from many of you would allow us to focus all our time on marriage ministry and do far more than we already do. Donate here – thanks!

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