What Growth Really Looks Like (Roller-Coasters)

One thing I hear from women is, “Dealing with my husband’s porn problem is like being on a roller-coaster. One day we’re doing fine, and the next day we’re back at ground zero.  It’s like we’re getting nowhere.”

I get it. We were like that, especially early on.

But instead of staying still we went backwards, taking one step forward and two steps back. This was because we healed backwards, meaning the critical things we needed were the last things we found.

I was on the roller-coaster for years:

-from feeling great to wanting to scream

-from drawing near him to crying alone

-from being sane and stable to falling apart

-from feeling comforted by him to allowing him to drift away

and back again.

I’ve written about how porn in marriage leads some women to shut down, to not really live, and I did that for a long time. Early in my life and marriage I lived small, and it was like a child’s roller-coaster with small peaks and valleys. No real highs, no real lows, no real living.

As we began working on our issues, however, my highs got higher and my lows got lower because I wasn’t shut down anymore.

For a time we weren’t dealing with the real issues, and it felt like we weren’t moving at all, but we were moving.

We were slowly but surely going downhill.

Later it was one step forward, one step back; long stretches of time with no real progress, frozen in place by the sheer panic of “Are we going to make it?”—not improving, not regressing, just not moving at all—including toward each other.

Early in my walk with God, I had seasons of faith and seasons of sin and doubt. No matter how much I tried, I couldn’t stop this roller-coaster-ing, and because of this I felt like a failure.

Then God taught me another way of looking at it. He showed me that I believed spiritual and relational growth were supposed to be on a constant, upward-only slope, like this:

 

 

But He knows life throws too many obstacles at us to be a steady slope upward. Instead it is more of a roller-coaster, like this:

And when it came to growth, He showed me that while upward-only movement was a good standard, when humans were involved, it was unrealistic.

He then showed me upward-only improvement wasn’t the only way to measure progress. Realistic progress looks like a roller-coaster with its peaks and valleys, only on an upward trajectory, like this:

This applies to relationships too.  When we heal from betrayal, we will have healthy behaviors and less-healthy behaviors, but growth will still show an upward trend.

Even after our relationship healed a bit, we still showed unhealthy behaviors sometimes, but they weren’t quite as unhealthy as before. And this growth showed in our marriage. Our lows weren’t as low as they used to be, and our highs were higher than we expected.

We kept moving upward because we were coping with real life and improving at the same time.

For Those of Faith

If you’re a spiritual person and feel your progress is observed in the heavens, I believe the roller-coaster sloping upward is what God wants for us.

I used to get frustrated with myself because I had too many valleys in my progress, but I feel God gave me that visual picture to give myself some grace.

It was His way of saying, “You’re growing, yes, but you thought once you overcame a certain obstacle, you’d be finished growing. Since obstacles will always appear, I hope you won’t stop growing until you die.”

Or to sum it up another way: Progress, not perfection.

Here’s something else: The roller-coaster sloping upward is not just growth. He also calls it tenacity and commitment and endurance and perseverance.

And those things make Him smile.