This week Jackie and I celebrate 24 years of marriage. That also means 24 years of trying to figure out what works and what doesn’t. Isn’t that what marriage really is? A continuous miniseries of “Let’s keep doing this,” or “Let’s never do that again.”
I admit, I’m the one with the short-term memory, so I usually cause the re-runs. I don’t know why I do it. For some reason when things get hard or stressful I tend to forget where we’re trying to go and point the finger in the wrong direction.
Know anyone else with that skill? I kind of hope I’m not the only one who’s got it mastered. I’m thinking of holding seminars. I mean, why spend time trying to work on myself when it’s so much easier to point out the faults in someone else?
Breaking the habit of finding fault, especially with the ones you love most, can be hard. So I’ve been working on a new approach. I call it It’s OK to Look for Faults. But it has just one rule, and that is to find only good faults. I haven’t mastered it yet, but here’s an example of the technique. (Sorry, Jackie. You weren’t in the room to ask permission.)
The next time tensions rise or you feel like turning on the fault factory, start looking for the good. So if I get upset because Jackie threw something away that I really wanted to keep around, I’m not allowed to leapfrog from missing my shirt to my car seat not being put back in the same spot to whatever else might bug me. Instead, I bust out a different list of faults until the urge to spiral out of control goes away. In my case, it might go something like this:
It’s your fault our family is always sending birthday cards and dropping off thank you notes.
It’s your fault I haven’t missed a belt loop in years.
It’s your fault I don’t walk out the door with smelly breath and contaminate the earth’s atmosphere. Gum freak.
It’s your fault I have a comfortable, peaceful home that smells nice.
It’s your fault we’ve got family pictures and photo books all over our house so we never forget what really matters.
It’s your fault our children’s school lunches are made and homework assignments get checked off. Wake up, honey!
It’s your fault I know the first name of the sweet mother trying to make ends meet that works at Chevron. And that she worked on Thanksgiving and Christmas. Talk about clueless.
It’s your fault our DVDs are in alphabetical order. Lazy.
It’s your fault I’ve gained nearly 40 pounds since 1989. You’re the one always making Sunday roast beef dinners, Café Rio burritos, french toast delight with kneaders syrup, dirty Diet Cokes, and burnt butter brownies. Not me.
Get the idea? Pointing out and focusing on the weakness in others is easy. It’s like hiking downhill. No resistance, and you can practically do it all day and tell yourself you’ve accomplished something.
Looking for and finding the good in others is a whole different kind of show. Up for the challenge? If not, well, it’s your fault.