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Shifting from a "work" mentality to an "investment" perspective.

Individuals who have been married for more than two weeks can attest that marriage requires a little more than just "work". Depending on who you ask, having a can be described as spouse is draining, laborious, and downright exhausting. One thing for sure, the understanding that marriage is about building a family legacy sometimes escapes one or both. Bottom line there is no magic wand, a tarot card reader to predict change or a prayer to fix a spouse. To build, sustain, and enjoy a healthy, vibrant marriage requires total commitment and effective communication by two mature individuals determined to live happily ever after.

By far, marriage is not for the faint at heart. It takes commitment, dedication, and sometimes grit to experience the couple's version of a perfect relationship. According to the Association of Psychological Association, each year 40 to 50 percent of marriages will end in divorce. For marriages to remain on the 50 percent not ending in divorce, effective communication, routine maintenance, and expert advice are essential to its longevity. There are complex situations combined with day to day life to cause marriages to succumb to divorce. However, there are strategies couples can employ to preserve their legacy.

One of the ways couples can experience true fulfillment in their relationship is to work smarter and not harder. This requires a paradigm shift from the idea that marriage is "work" to the perspective that marriage as an "investment" in a legacy.

Ideally, marriage should be considered a long-term investment. Investment is defined as to put resources into someone or something in hopes of increasing the value of the person or thing. Increasing the value of each other builds self-esteem, shows commitment to growth and fortifies the relationship.

There are three approaches couples can take towards investing in their marriage. This includes (1) a pre-investor, (2) a passive investor, and (3) an active investor. For all intent purposes, the goal is to be an active investor. Here is why.

(1) A pre-investor refers to someone who isn't investing. Pre-investors in a marriage can be characterized by minimal relationship consciousness or awareness. There's little thought about making "love bank" deposits, and there's correspondingly little to no growth in the relationship. They are usually the one who is waiting for their partner to do something. They can be found complaining about what is not going right in the relationship or how it sucks. Consequently, the pre-investors have the highest probability of being on the 50 percent side of divorcee's

(2) Passive investors in a marriage delegate the responsibility of investing to their spouse. This is accomplished by simply minimal "love bank" deposits with individual interests in mind or spending valuable time and resources on individual activities. Individuals engaging in passive investing will often respond to counseling or advice with "I've tried that". They usually keep score and are reluctant to accept responsibility or account for their contributions to the state of the relationship. A marriage with passive investors can be at high risk for infidelity, a sexless marriage, separation, and being on the 50 percent side of divorcee's.

(3) Active investors in a marriage have embraced full responsibility for their legacy. They are committed to experiencing the fullness of effective communication, routine maintenance, and value expert advice of coaches, counselors, and therapists. They make love bank deposits and take responsibility for the return on their investment through active strategies that add value. Active investing in your marriage will not guarantee it will last forever, but reduces the risk of it ending in divorce.

Marriage requires consistent investments. Just like the stock market, no relationship is perfect. There will be times when relationships take an unexpected hit or experience a crisis. These challenges come with life. Therefore, it is important to communicate and execute a strategic response during tough times. The fascinating phenomenon about marriage is that LOVE believes all things, bears all things and never fails. Here are some investment strategies that can pay dividends in your relationship.

A. Invest in cultivating all four variations of intimacy with each other. The four variations of intimacy are cognitive, emotional, sexual, and spiritual. Unfortunately, most people believe that intimacy only involves sex. According to the Journal of Black Sexuality and Relationships, intimacy is defined as "the level of commitment and positive affective, cognitive and physical closeness one experiences with a partner in a reciprocal (although not necessarily symmetrical) relationship". Experiencing the four wonders of your spouse's unique intimate expressions can be a journey filled with joy, love, and excitement. Nevertheless, investing the time for discovery and "in to me see" will take on a shared commitment, openness, and vulnerability.

It is important to note that couples have the shared responsibility to mutually exchange with their partner in all four aspects of intimacy. This can be difficult for many because their concept of intimacy is distorted, impractical, or laser-focused. This expressed through goal-driven behaviors to support their cultural understanding of intimacy.

A study in 2016 by Shrier L. A. and Blood E. A. noted "some women prioritized emotional intimacy and some men emphasized sexual intimacy". Consequently, the desire to experience closeness with their partner in a reciprocal manner often goes unfulfilled. Unfortunately, such behaviors can create an imbalance of intimacy during the mutual exchange. If not corrected, some men and women will establish those unmet intimate connections through outside relationships or extramarital affairs. In such cases, investing in counseling, a therapist, or an intimacy coach should be implemented as a strategy to sustaining the relationship.

B. Invest in a preventative maintenance package. The preventative maintenance package for your relationship could be the smartest investment in the relationship. Relationship maintenance is one of the most overlooked and neglected components in a healthy relationship. Couples should look at their relationship as buying a luxury car. For example, purchasing a BMW and making the monthly payments will avoid the repo man. However, neglecting or forgoing the maintenance prevents the couple from experiencing heated seats in the winter and adds red and yellow lights on the dashboard. Therefore, couples should prioritize investing in a preventive maintenance package such as couple retreats, intimacy workshops, a financial advisor, etc. Enlisting experienced experts enriches the relationship, promotes growth and preserves the couple's legacy.

C. Invest in an environment that maximizes individual strengths and covers weaknesses. Marriage is a covenant that ensures a win-win situation for both partners. In doing so, the relationship flourishes, legacy is built and both achieve a sense of fulfillment.

Marriage can be one of the most dynamic, powerful, sustained relationships you will ever assemble. This is actualized when roles are assumed based on strengths and not gender. Both shareholders must understand that utilizing strengths puts the family in the best possible situation. Effective communication and submitting one to the other will be the hallmark of developing a strong and prosperous legacy for ages to come.

In conclusion, marriage is for mature audiences. It requires commitment, communication, and continuous investment in the couple's legacy. Regardless of the conditions in the relationship, couples must incorporate sound strategies to protect their investments. They are encouraged to cultivate all four aspects of intimacy, plan routine maintenance and maximizes each other's strengths. Many successful couples will attest that marriage a marathon that requires work. There is no way around this fact. However, couples who are committed to work together as active investors will leave a legacy and an inheritance for their children's children.

For more information about developing investment strategies to strengthen your marriage attend one of our upcoming couples retreats in Blue Ridge, GA.

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