by Grant Porteous, LMSW
I’ve noticed most of the people that come in to work on a marriage related issue have some things in common. One of those things is they focus on the stuff that’s gone wrong. You know, the bad stuff. “You didn’t cut the grass.” “You don’t make my breakfast or pack my lunch anymore.” “We never have sex.” “You don’t bring me flowers.” “We don’t do this… You don’t do that…” On and on it goes. Negative, negative, negative.
I’m guessing it wasn’t that way when they were dating, and if they can remember back to that time, most people usually agree (though some honest souls admit to always having been glass half empty kind of people). But what’s with all the Debbie Downer stuff, anyway? How do we get to be that way?
Here’s the Reader’s Digest version: what I once held as my ‘heart’s desire’ for how we’d spend time, raise kids, do careers, spend money, enjoy intimacy, and live our lives in general at some point turns into a list of my ‘marital rights.’ The unconditional love of the covenant that marriage is supposed to be turns into a contract, a grueling exercise of scorekeeping and fault finding.
As that happens and our disappointments pile up we begin to focus less and less on what we hoped for, and focus instead on what we don’t get or don’t have. In other words, we begin to focus on the negative stuff. Be honest - are you focusing on negative stuff? Do you see your glass half empty?
When I learned to ride a motorcycle, I was taught that “you go where you look.” The trees may be pretty, but if you wind up staring at them too long, you may find yourself getting a much closer look than you wanted to. So if you’re marriage is heading in a direction you don’t want to go, and you don’t even know how you got there, maybe your focus is off. Maybe you need to start saying what you want instead of what you don’t want. Start focusing on what’s good all around you. If you’re so inclined, take a look at Phil. 4:6 – 8. And in the meantime, watch out for those trees!