I am reminded in ways, both big and small, that I truly have a wonderful life. This year, I’ve been on four continents and in five countries. I also enjoyed my first visit to the wonderful city of Boston. One of those trips was with my mom and sisters but the rest were with, and made possible by, my husband. I never imagined, when I met him thirty-three years ago, that it would turn out like this.
I’m not going to say it’s all been hearts and flowers—we did have two children and several moves in those years after all. But, on balance, it’s been a pretty good run. With the important phrase being “on balance”.
This is the both the secret and the challenge to having a successful relationship, and to life in general.
Unfortunately, the human brain is wired to pay attention to the negative. If there are blanks in our understanding of a situation, we are compelled to fill in those blanks and often choose the worst possible explanation to do so.
The studies on happiness also show this bias. It takes three to five positive interactions to balance out one negative one. That’s the power of the dark side.
So, is it any wonder that, like George Bailey in the holiday movie “It’s a Wonderful Life”, we pay attention to the things we don’t have, instead of the ones we do?
And, it can get even worse at this time of year. Yes, the holiday spirit can help us see the plight of others and inspire heartfelt generosity and kindness. Unfortunately, that charity often doesn’t extend to our spouses.
I don’t know if it’s the shorter days, colder weather, or the incessant focus on being merry and bright that has many of us at wit’s end. There’s all the normal life stuff and the extra stress of trying to make everyone’s holiday the best ever. Woe be upon anyone who isn’t sufficiently on board.
But woe is often what is felt when what you want isn’t what you think you have. As the year winds down and the days are dark and cold, more time is spent inside with more opportunity to assess where you are. Unless you take active steps to the contrary, the tendency will be to overlook the positive things in your life and relationships.
No marriage is perfect. But many are better than they seem. This is not to make light of real challenges. It’s about putting them in perspective.
I do things that annoy my husband. He does things that annoy me. But, overall, we are kind and loving to each other. The things we do for and with each other, and the life we have built together, far outweigh the temporary annoyances. Most of those we have learned to laugh about.
Gratitude is a great antidote to woe. Identifying the positives your partner brings to your life and giving them the benefit of the doubt when they miss the mark are two ways to bring a balanced perspective to your marriage.
Yes, you should absolutely pay attention to the areas of your marriage that can be improved. But don’t look at them in a vacuum. When viewed in the overall context of the relationship, they may not be as daunting as when examined in isolation.
You may find that all is not as hopeless for your marriage as the dark days of winter may suggest. If that’s the case, you may have just found the best holiday gift ever!
Finding yourself struggling with this? I would love to help. If you would like some guidance creating your Happily Ever After, click here to schedule a Marriage Breakthrough Session.