On a recent vacation, I spotted a long line of footprints in the sand along the coast of Lake Michigan. With no other people in sight, I still knew something about the people who left the footprints. They were heading north. Under the overcast sky, I had an epiphany... our choices are like footprints in the sand - they tell a story. And with each choice we make, we move closer to a happier or less happy ending.
Sometimes the story is about an individual. Think about food. If Susie is gluten intolerant, then she heads towards physical health as long as she remains wheat free. But if she grabs a huge bagel for breakfast on the fly, her gastronomical health could take a fast nose dive. For Susie, each choice matters, because she feels the consequences of poor eating choices pretty fast.
Sometimes the story is about a relationship. Fred and Libby's initial story had no happy ending in sight. They were stuck in a pattern of chronic, unresolved arguments. In an early session, they agreed to set limits on how they would each behave in an argument. If emotions started to get out of control, they each agreed to call a time out and resume the discussion after a specified cooling off time. So the next week, their revised story went like this: no arguments until the day of their session. Not surprisingly, that was the one day neither one chose to implement their individual limits for fighting. Fred and Libby had a wake-up call that day. They realized the importance of consistently controlling their individual responses to arguments - in order to improve their communication and enjoy sharing the same space. Suddenly a happier ending seemed possible - with daily practice.
Do we recognize the story our daily choices tell? Think of your most challenging relationship. How many times have you decided to behave in a different way in order to improve the connection? As you take a moment to look back on recent choices, what story emerges from your choices? It might help to ask questions like these:
- Do I treat my partner with respect or disrespect?
- Do my actions demonstrate that I am trustworthy or untrustworthy?
- Do I pay attention to what matters to my partner, or do I ignore or dismiss it?
- Do my choices demonstrate that I value my partner or devalue him/her?
- Do I make time for my partner, or is my attention filled with someone or something else?
According to Yogi Berra, "You've got to be very careful if you don't know where you are going because you might not get there." Do you know where your daily choices are taking your relationship? If you don't know, you may not like where you wind up.
Here's the good news: Every day we can make healthier choices in our relationships. String enough together and our relationship stories will head towards happier endings.
If your relationship needs help, a Couples Counselor or Marriage Counselor can help you change your story. If you're in Northern VA, contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org - I'd like to help you find a happier ending.
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