How Our Marriages Might be Like the 'Fiscal Cliff'

It's been hard to avoid all the talk about the economic "Fiscal Cliff" over the past few months. Going over this cliff means a combination of higher taxes for everyone, cutting vital programs, and the continued deficit funding of expensive entitlements.

Going over the cliff, the analysts say, spells economic disaster.

As a family/ divorce lawyer I often observe us playing this same "fast and loose" game with our marriages. We tax the relationship, we cut important programs, and we cheapen spontaneity, love, and generosity by acting like we're entitled.

As a result, we go over the marriage cliff. We make a wreck of a good thing, and we can even leave the entire relationship broken and in pieces at the bottom.

Here are 6 things the fiscal cliff and your marriage cliff have in common:

The entire scenario is avoidable from the get-go:

Elected representatives swear an oath to work on behalf of the people, and married couples promise to put one another first. Revisiting our vows and following through on our promises not only strengthens the relationship, but it avoids the freefall of schism.

We empty the bank faster than we put capital in:

Both the country and our relationships tend to practice deficit spending. Rather than investing and stocking up emotional capital in terms of kindness, encouragement, love, gentleness, self-sacrifice and self-control, we keep the balance at zero or less via selfishness, unkindness, thoughtlessness, and more.

We cut vital programs:

When was the last time you took your wife on a date? Don't cut this, it's a vital program! Ditto bringing her flowers! When did you last make sure she knew how much you appreciated her? How often do you say, "I love you" during the day? These are all important programs. Cut them, and the slippery slope to the edge of the cliff gets a little steeper every time.

Both parties value themselves more than the relationship:

The idea of government is to work together for the common good. The idea of marriage is to pool our resources and value the relationship ahead of our own agenda. Unfortunately, just like many politicians, we often forget the big picture. Sometimes we even knowingly steer over the cliff just to prove a point.

We put our feet on the coffee table, turn on the TV, snap our fingers, and put our hand out for a drink:

Not only that, but we expect sex without offering affection, we leave our dirty laundry on the floor, we act offended if our laundry's not ironed the next day, we forget to thank our wife for cooking our favorite meal, and we act entitled in so many ways. We forget that marriage is a covenant. A covenant requires all parties involved to nurture the relationship.

The solution lies in sacrifice more than it does in victory:

When we insist on winning, we also insist that someone else lose. When that happens, everyone tends to lose. But when we work for the other person to win, it seems like no one has to lose a thing. Self-sacrificial love is win-win.