We’ve established that gratitude is mentally, biologically and spiritually beneficial to you in many ways. Nevertheless, we are merely human. We get upset about things. Embracing gratitude and a positive perspective is all well and good, but sometimes we have an absolutely crappy day. It’s hard to have a positive mental attitude when your hair’s on fire.
Well, it’s not unlike performing first aid. If you have a splinter, you’ve got to get it out! If you’ve got a viral or bacterial infection, you’ve got to kill it. If you’re weighed down with negative thoughts, you’ve got to unload them.
Get it off your chest
You can’t deal with a problem until you’ve identified it. Bad feelings are like an unseen monster in an old black and white film. The better films recognized that they didn’t have the skill or the budget to create a genuinely terrifying creature. We know that we’re most terrified of what we cannot see primarily because we cannot see it. We don’t know just what we’re dealing with. We don’t know how dangerous it actually is. When something is picking off members of your expedition one by one without warning, your imagination fills in the lines of what you cannot directly observe. Ancient maps indicated the presence of sea serpents and “here be dragons”. People assigned monsters where natural phenomena caused shipwrecks and disappearing caravans. If you don’t know what it is, you cannot possibly deal with it.
Shining a light on what’s bothering you will help you demote its monster-like status. Give it a name. Speak to the problem in order to resolve it.
Identifying a problem is important, but potentially hazardous. Pulling a splinter out with tweezers is one thing. Pulling an arrowhead out is quite another. Knowing what you’re dealing with also helps you identify what skills are needed to resolve the problems it is causing for you. If you’re having a simple conflict, talking it out with the person or people with whom you are in conflict is an important step in resolving the problem. If you’re having a massive conflict, having an arbitrator, counselor or ambassador with specific skills may be necessary; couples counseling, human resources, the United Nations!
Whatever the level of engagement that is required, you need to get it addressed. You need to give it a name and put it at center stage for cold analysis. When you take that dark monster stalking around the periphery of your horror movie and throw a spotlight on it, you might find it’s just some guy in a cheap gorilla suit.
Problems are rarely as bad as they seem. Even when they are big, you can still pick bits off a piece at a time with your attitude of gratitude. Identifying bits of the problem that you can flip from negatives to positives helps to chip away at the overall sense of dread. Identifying who is capable of resolving various aspects of the problem will also chip away at the big problem and make it manageable.
Birds of a feather
I said to my darling wife at some point many years ago, “Birds of a feather flock together, but sometimes they bump their wings“. It’s as true today as whenever I initially said it. I love my wife more than life itself, but sometimes she gets on my last freaking nerve! The converse is also true. The closer you are, the easier it is to knock heads by accident.
The thing to keep in mind is what drew you together in the first place. Why do you want to be with this person? What is the end goal? So many people don’t know this. So many people don’t have an end goal. The current divorce rate in the US is about 50%. That means that half of all couples have absolutely no idea why they even got together in the first place.
- Was it to knock boots?
- Was it for a false sense of security?
- Is she a gold-digger and he ran out of gold?
- Is he a philanderer and she ran out of patience?
- Did their love fizzle out in a cloud of mutual disinterest?
- Are they both going opposite directions?
- Did he expect her not to change and she did?
- Did she expect him to change and he didn’t?
- Are they hopelessly self-absorbed?
Clearly, none of these are the basis of a lasting relationship but thanks to reality TV we know that they are all too frequently the reason for people to date and marry.
The thing you need to clearly understand is which of the following statements your relationship is based on:
- I love you because I need you
- I need you because I love you
Think about those. Which is the more binding?
I love you because I need you
This is a place of weakness. If you love someone because you are dependent on them, you are their prisoner.
Whether they know it or not. Whether they will it or not. There is danger in this kind of relationship because the dependency may be coercive, dominating, unwitting or parasitic.
Giving the other person the power to make you happy also gives them the power to make you miserable. This is a key reason for our high divorce rate. People get together for all the wrong reasons. This isn’t a lasting problem if you can grow past the initial accident that drew you together. It’s only when you realize that only one person in the scenario cares for the other person that you’re sailing into rough seas. Loving someone for a parasitic need to be taken care of is a great way to foster resentment. Loving someone despite their disinterest in you can lead to desperate behavior. Desperate behavior leads to annoyance and drives a wedge further into a relationship.
I need you because I love you
Let me not to the marriage of true minds
Admit impediments. Love is not love
Which alters when it alteration finds,
Or bends with the remover to remove:
O, no! it is an ever-fixed mark,
That looks on tempests and is never shaken;
It is the star to every wandering bark,
Whose worth’s unknown, although his height be taken.
Love ’s not Time’s fool, though rosy lips and cheeks
Within his bending sickle’s compass come;
Love alters not with his brief hours and weeks,
But bears it out even to the edge of doom.
If this be error, and upon me prov’d,
I never writ, nor no man ever lov’d.
~William Shakespeare, Sonnet 116
This is lasting love. Genuine, mutual concern for the other person’s happiness and well-being creates interdependence rather than dependence. Knowing why you are with someone and knowing that it is of lasting importance to you that you be with them is the basis of an enduring relationship.
Caring is sharing, they say. Sharing goals. Sharing Dreams. Sharing Desires. Sharing the future. These are the keys to a proper relationship.
Love is not dependence, it is shared.
Love is not blackmail, is a mutual gravitational pull.
Love is not emotional slavery, it is a friendship that has caught fire.
Love is not infatuation, it is a single soul inhabiting two bodies.
I love you, Kelly.
Adversity can lead to bad feelings. Sharing a strong desire to take care of your someone special can help to blunt the points of life’s thorns and brambles. There’s nothing like a hug to reconnect when you’re starting to drift apart. If you really care, share. Share your thoughts. Share your feelings. Share space. Share time. Share the love. Reconnect in order to heal the harm that’s been done.