Slow Progress: A Good Thing

Sometimes moving slowly leads to a better outcome.

I write the first drafts of many of my blog posts by hand.

Notes and part of the draft of this post.

People often ask me why I do it this way rather than composing directly on the computer. “Does it take longer to do it that way?”

Here’s my answer: “Yes. Yes, it does take longer—and that’s kind of the point.”

I thought it would be closer to 80 words per minute, and with errors. I don’t usually type this well.

Just in case you’re wondering if that’s a cop-out and that I’m a lousy typist, that is definitely not the case. I am a pretty decent typist, according to I definitely don’t write that fast!

I can compose quickly on the computer when I want to—but I rarely get the outcome I want when I make a decision based on getting it done quickly.

Writing by hand slows me down—and that is the major benefit of doing it. (For other benefits, check out this infographic.)

Taking time to compose by hand yields several benefits supported by research and matched by my experience as a writer and a writing teacher.

  • We are better able to think ahead about where the writing is headed. We more effectively plan—and refine our plans—when we slow down.
  • We are more aware of how various ideas relate to each other, even if at first they seem completely unrelated.
  • More time to think about our words and ideas inspires more creative thinking.
  • We can better recall what we have written because we spent more time on it. The learning “sticks.” This means that we are better able to pick up earlier ideas and connect them to other ideas in the piece.

While I do compose on-screen frequently, and it often works just fine, when I am writing about a challenging subject or am struggling to focus my thoughts, I revert to my old-school pen and paper to get me through.

I rarely write a complete first draft by hand—but I handwrite enough to get a sense of the tone and the major threads and ideas I want to weave together. I take what I’ve written, prop it up next to the computer, and start typing. Once I finish typing what I’ve written out, the rest of the post usually flows on the computer from there.

Taking time with the process leads to better results. Significantly, time spent early in the process seems to be what matters the most.

What This Has to Do with Marriage Growth

I’ve often said that slow progress is still progress. That is, even if things aren’t moving as quickly as we would like them to, any movement forward counts as growth and progress.

I’ve written about slow progress, baby steps, and attention to process countless times. I’ve written about it in relation to saying yes to sex, trusting your husband, getting comfortable with your husband’s penis or oral sex, and understanding why you have a negative visceral reaction to your husband’s request for a particular sex act.

It’s okay to take your time, as long as you’re generally moving forward. And by the way, if you’re stuck and are standing still, sometimes that counts as progress, too, because you at least aren’t backing up.

Slow progress is progress.

But I’ve been wondering: What if slow progress is actually better progress? What if taking your time to grow actually makes the growth more effective?

Now, there’s a fine line between moving slowly and dragging your feet. Calling something intentionally slow progress to justify minimal effort isn’t what I’m talking about. Full disclosure: I know this from personal experience. Lifelong habit. I know I should work on it, but I’m, um, making really slow progress . . . Yeah, I don’t buy it, either.

The benefits of time that can help us produce better writing can also apply to all sorts of areas of marriage growth. This is especially the case when we are dealing with something difficult or we struggle to focus our attention on what really matters.

  • We are better able to think ahead about where we are headed. We can effectively plan—and refine our plans—when we slow down. If you’ve always resisted giving oral sex, and you’ve decided that you are really going to make it work (and even swallow), slowing down into small steps allows you to learn what challenges you face. If you’ve avoided giving oral because you’re grossed out by the idea, you might not have any idea yet that it might be hard to find a position that’s comfortable for you. Working slowly gives you time to know this and really think ahead to what kinds of issues you’ll be addressing.
  • We are more aware of how different things relate to each other, even if at first they seem completely unrelated. I had always assumed my resistance to sex had to do with hurt that grew out of our relationship. As I slowly unfolded into the fullness of being a wife, I was able to see many other pieces of my life that had come to bear on my views about sex. I saw my struggle to have a relationship with God. I saw my feelings of insecurity and not belonging. I probably would have recognized these problems at some point in my life, but I might not have made the connection to how they affected my marriage and our sex life.
  • We have more time to think about what we do and say. We can think more creatively. Instead of plowing our way through things just to get to the finish line, slow progress allows us to be more deeply thoughtful about what we are doing, and how.
  • Because we spend more time on it, the learning that we do “sticks” better. When any of my old habits or thought patterns emerges, it is easier for me to combat them because I so deeply learned the tools that I acquired as I was moving slowly.

You may find that working slowly is the only way to really get moving. As you continue to make progress, you may find that the rest of it flows fairly quickly from there. If it’s early in the process of growth, moving slowly might actually lead to better long-term results.


Our goals for marriage growth shouldn’t be to just knock it out and get it done. Rather, our goals are intimacy and oneness. Some things you just can’t speed up.

In fact, the Bible tells us not to rush.

Desire without knowledge is not good—how much more will hasty feet miss the way! Proverbs 19:2

Next time you’re feeling frustrated because the process of growth seems to be taking forever, just remember that not only is slow progress still progress, it just might be better progress, too.

Sometimes moving slowly leads to a better outcome.

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13 Comments on “Slow Progress: A Good Thing”

  1. From a husband’s perspective, when does one know that progress is being made vs. foot dragging.

    Maybe you’ve seen my posts on this site before; maybe it just sounds all too familiar a fact pattern. My situation is one in which my wife is unable (unless extremely intoxicated) to show even what I would call a “base level” of affection let alone sexual intimacy. No touch, non-sexual intimacy, no affection, not really any appreciation or acknowledgment for me as the breadwinner, so she doesn’t have to work her old 9-5 profession. And sex is relegated to once every other week, if that, something I must initiate and (seriously) can’t ask for ahead of time, can’t talk about (I don’t think she will even say the word sex), and has now turned one-sided— only focusing on me.

    Now, having sex once every other week or once every third or fourth does beat the alternative we went through – none. But I am a high-sexed individual.

    But in the last 2 years, we have had numerous talks, have thought we came to grips with our respective sexual incompatibility and my sexual needs (I think she truly believes she has none), we have sought counseling wherein the counselor acknowldged we are “mis-matched” sexually and otherwise. I have laid down the gauntlet, so to speak, before and we’re back to a bit like square 1–with the exception that we have now had some pretty candid talks past us.

    Though I do love her and am still turned on by her (every time), and we have children and although I’ve thought about leaving I just can’t, I do not see her making progress or really moving toward a goal. Again, though my desires and needs have been discussed over and over again (to the point, now, that if I raise the topic, I’m usually told, “We can’t deep talks like this right now”).

    So, progress? How do you start it when the wife will not seem to budge, even after counseling? How do you know if you’re moving forward albeit slowly vs. foot-dragging? How does a husband stand this – because it’s almost like she’s thumbing her nose when she is being entirely taken care of by her huaband but gives nothing except household support, a small job, and children’s duties back?

    1. I don’t think someone else can distinguish whether it’s progress or foot dragging. I will say that a lot of progress is internal and therefore somewhat invisible. If generally things have improved over where they were, say, five years ago, I might be inclined to see it as growth.

      I’m not the one to suggest to a husband how he can stand what is going on. I know it is frustrating and painful–and when you can’t tell if she is making any effort, it has to be especially difficult. You can’t make someone care. I wonder, though . . . you say your wife says she has no sexual needs. That may be true. Would she say that she has a need for affection or that she has emotional needs? If she can learn to frame sex as an emotional thing rather than an itch that needs scratching, it may make things easier for her to figure out.

      1. As to emotional needs, she is not emotional at all, until we have serious conversations that look like the relationship is at risk, and then the emotion is sadness. Been married almost 25yrs, and it seems she has no need for affection, emotion, intimacy, although she does have a need for kindness-she’s expressed that b4.

        She is very self-sufficient, task oriented, task-driven, kid centric (admittedly, as she stayed home during their childhood, she was their primary caretaker and rearer). So much so, however, that our relationship has taken a back seat to tasks, kids, and even to our 2 dogs, to whom she does show affection.

        So, and the counselor noted this, she is a very low-needs, self-sustaining person. The only need I see she has is the need to be treated kindly and a need for time to talk (because when we don’t talk, I sense the distance between us growing), which when it happens usually revolves around her day or issues but sometimes also involves mine; all of which is, I’d call it, very superficial and not deep.

        I do show her kindness, except at the times that, I’m reflection, I am so fed up, that anger comes out- nothing abusive, but certainly focused on our situation and what I feel and see as unfulfilled expectations on my part.

        1. Having emotional needs is not the same thing as being emotional. It might be worth having a conversation and asking her what would help her feel more fulfilled in your relationship. Her need for conversation and kindness might be a good starting point for that. Perhaps showing her how you have the same goals–the need for connection and being valued–can help her better grasp why you have the needs that you do.

        2. As to emotional needs-I get it. We have sat down and talked about needs in general, emotional, physical, and otherwise. We did a needs test, even.

          Other than being kind—I can’t recall anything else she has identified, as a specific “emotional” need. And we’ve been through this type of analysis intensely for two years, without even considering how long we’ve been married.

          Sorry for carrying on-I know this is a blog, not Marriage counseling. I suppose that when I saw the title of your topic, it intrigued me, because I think it’s difficult to discern the line between no progress and slow progress, at least on my husband’s side, for me, when he’s thoroughly expressed needs many times.


    2. Having been the wife trying to make progress in a similar situation to yours, I have to echo Chris’ response — and add a strong warning to talk to your wife lovingly about what you’ve written here, no matter how difficult it may be. And try to see things from her perspective. Things that may look like slow or no progress to you may be huge mountains to her.

      My husband made the mistake of deciding that I wasn’t making enough progress for him, and he became very bitter about it. I felt like I was flying with no safety net beneath me while he decided in his own mind that I stopped making progress and somewhat went backwards. Rather than talking to me and finding out that I was getting overwhelmed and pushing myself while he felt like I stopped making progress, he started finding other women (who claimed to have a higher sex drive) to talk to privately about his frustrations, accompanied by more porn. This finally led to online affairs and almost ended our marriage. If he had just said something to me, instead of seeking anonymous women in private chats, and tried to have some empathy and patience, he could have saved us both a lot of pain.

      I can’t imagine how difficult this must be from your perspective, but please don’t give up on your wife based on the progress she appears to be making from your perspective. And please be wary of any women who try to talk to you in any private way about these issues.

      1. Thanks so much for sharing your experience. I can’t tell you how often I hear from husbands feel frustrated by the lack of progress–yet when they describe some of the changes they’ve seen over the past year or so, I see huge effort and substantial progress.

      2. I agree with your thoughts and appreciate tour reply here. Thank you. This has been one of the most difficult parts of my life and, I dare say, a truly emasculating experience for about 20 years. I have throughout most of this time just grinned and bared it, until anger (or resentment) surfaced and I went to counseling. She agreed to go, and things changed for a few years, but they are back to the staua quo.

        I agree that communication is key. But what happens when you, As the husband, try to open up, be vulnerable, share your thoughts in a loving way, express your needs, but are met with a wife who does not want to talk about it. “No deep talks,” is what I receive in reaponse.

        What happens when, over and over again you do what you know your wife needs and wants, make life easier for her (you think), try to please her, and things are copacetic except there is nothing reciprocated—not even emotion, affection or non-sexual intimacy? (She won’t ecen touch me, and she can’t say the word sex let alone talk about it.). Couple that with the inability to even have a conversation, and where does one find himself?

        What happens when you do get your wife to counseling, things she needs to resolve from the past are revealed that she must work through to get out of the rut, so to speak, and she refuses to address them with further counseling? When I gently nudge and ask, the responses I received 3. 6. 8. 10 month’s later were, “I haven’t thought about that.”

        Unfortunately, this type of relationship and dynamic I find myself in. It has stirred at the base level an anger for feeling rejected and unwanted that has manifested itself as resentment at times when my inhibitions to hold it in are let down. Sex only when completely drunk and a refusal to discuss the issue and follow up with her own health are a form of rejection that stings, not just hurts. And I don’t know what to do with all that.

        Again, I don’t want to be perceived as the guy who complains and wants to stay in a rut. I try and have tried and nothing seems to change. The willingness on her part — the progress — is simply non-existent.

        1. One other thing I want to elaborate on. Not that I’m trying to toot my own horn, but to give you an idea of the level of effort I have made to go deeper and why I perceive no progress or desire to progress.

          As I said-we cannot have deep talks. I’m unable to share my thoughts, my needs, my concerns without an eye roll or a complete shut-down. She will not even converse with me in a deeper level than what has happened that day—nothing deep or addressing “us” or our relationship. She does not say “I love you,” or if she does it is rapaonsive to mine.

          I have been the one- for years and years, to raise issues, address deep topics, try to get to the root of things, show affection and intimacy, suggest counseling and actually go, suggest reading books on marriage, intimacy, affection, sex and similar topics. I’m the one who has suggested exercises together on some of this stuff— finding our differing needs and how we can help meet each other’s.

          It has been a one-way Street. Save 2 times when she wrote me on my birthdays in years 3 and 7 and, on her own, told me she knew she was not treating me right and vowed to change that. We’ve been married 24 years now.

          All that is to merely add context to my perception of progress and willingness to change. Again, the topic is a valid one — but the question remains: when do you know progress is simply slow, or when progress is refused?

  2. A wonderful post! I’ll keep this in mind as my husband and I reconcile from a long separation. I want to do this “right” so I think slow is what is necessary! Thank you!

    1. After a long separation, a slow reconciliation would help you identify potential snags and unresolved hurt and give you a chance to make adjustments along the way. May God bless your journey!

  3. Great points here. It makes me think of experts who say that losing weight slowly, rather than through crash diets or exercise binges, makes the results far more likely to stick.

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