Now that we know this is a problem and realize its power in our lives, what can we do to minimize its effect? Whether you perceive something is missing in your life or in your marriage, follow these steps:
1) Clarify what you perceive to be the missing item in your life (or marriage), or what you think may be troubling you.
2) Decide if this missing item is central to your happiness or whether you can be happy without it. From here, you can either “get it, forget it, or replace it.”
3) If the item is within your power to obtain, and it is central to your happiness, focus on how you might “get it.” Examples might include wanting a high school or college diploma, finding a mate, having another child, spending more time with your spouse, or moving to another state.
4) If the item is not within your power, do your best to “forget it” or at least to try not to think about it as much. Examples might include lamenting a past failed relationship or (as in the author’s case) wishing he didn’t have to share custody of his child and see him only half time. There are items in our lives that will always bother us, but we may need to stop focusing so much attention on them and make the best of what we do have. If it bothers you that your husband doesn’t do dishes, but he’s a good husband who helps in other ways and doesn’t like to do dishes, think about forgetting that fault and moving on.
5) Replace your missing item with something else. It reminds me of the star athletes who are injured and who go on to have successful, inspiring careers in another field. Focusing on the inability to play football would only increase unhappiness, while creating a new dream helps bring fulfillment. Similarly, I’ve known individuals who were unable to have their own children, but who used increased time devoted to nieces and nephews as a way to fill their lives with the joy of children. There can be less important replacements as well. Maybe you always dreamed of having a wife who is a great cook, and yours doesn’t enjoy cooking, but she is a generous wife and mother. Think about the reasons why you chose your wife instead.
The solutions may not be perfect, but they can bring you closer to a happy life. You may even find the new path brings you in exciting new directions you never expected. Do you recognize the "Missing Tile Syndrome" in your life?