We were driving down the road one afternoon when we saw a disabled car being pushed uphill by a couple of men. They were making very slow progress, so I decided to help. When I joined the two men in their effort, we immediately doubled our speed. Then, my teenage son who had been waiting in the car joined us – and again we about doubled our speed. When we helped them get the car safely along the roadside at the top of the hill, they breathlessly thanked us. My son and I walked back to our car with a little more bounce in our step.
As I think back on that experience, I’m tempted to believe that I was twice as strong as the two men who were originally pushing the car. I’d been working out, so it was possible! Except for the fact that when my son joined us we again doubled our speed – and I know he’s not stronger than me (Well, he wasn’t at that time, anyway).
This simple story illustrates the power of momentum. Now, I’m not a scientist, but this much I know – it’s better to have momentum working for you than working against you. As a counselor and a marriage coach, I often work with people wrestling against the momentum that has built up in their marriage. The momentum of bad decisions, painful interactions, and frequent neglect.
Life can be hard and demanding at times – bills to pay, snow to shovel, appointments to make, bills to pay, kids to transport, project deadlines to keep, bills to pay. We can be tempted to rely on occasional celebrations like Valentine’s Day or anniversaries, to demonstrate our love for one another. I believe this is a bit like the four men in my story taking turns pushing the car uphill, rather than building on the momentum of each other’s efforts to keep the car going in the right direction. If we are not building the momentum of love and romance, our sporadic efforts might produce less impact and may even discourage us from making any effort at all.
Here is my suggestion: instead of making February 14th the hallmark of your undying love, why not build up to it now, and let Valentine’s Day add another oomph of momentum?
In his book, Why Marriages Succeed or Fail, psychologist John Gottman states that the key to happiness in marriage is NOT the amount of conflict you have or the communication style you use, but whether you have AT LEAST five times as many positive moments as you do negative moments together.
With this in mind, I suggest you make the commitment to initiate five positive interactions with your spouse each day. They can be small – a smile, a hug, words of gratitude, an extra chore, a small gift – but it must be something a little out of the ordinary that affirms how much you value him or her. Challenge yourself at the end of the day to be able to identify those five loving actions, even if your spouse has not yet noticed.
Take the lead in creating a positive moment together with your spouse, and keep the momentum going now through your next anniversary!