How Negative Thinking Can Help Your Marriage

Years ago my wife and then baby daughter took a ferry to visit some friends.

I don’t remember why, but I did not go with them.

I dropped them off at the ferry, and stayed at the dock to see them off.

As the ferry pulled out of the bay, I felt a flutter in my stomach as I waved goodbye.

My entire life—the two people I cared about most in the whole world—were on that boat, out in the middle of the vast ocean, small and vulnerable, so easily lost.

The entire drive home, I felt deep pangs of love, gratitude, and fear.

In my eyes, the world was suddenly terrifying, precious, new.

We are strange creatures.

We spend years working to have what we want. Then, once we have those things, we soon take them for granted, and the new work begins: the work of wanting what we have.

We are insatiable.

First dazzled by the gifts we receive, the shine soon wears off, and we go numb to the wonder, the blessedness of our life made invisible.

You’ve heard the stories: a man takes his family for granted and treats them harshly, or with distance, until a tragedy stuns him back to his senses.

But you don’t have to wait for tragedy to scrape the scales from your eyes.

If the gift of family feels like a burden…

If your children make you angry and weary…

If you love your wife but feel no joy at her approach…

Don’t try to “think positive.”

Don’t “count your blessings.”

Instead, imagine—as unflinchingly as you can—what your life would be like if they were taken from you.

Imagine yourself widowed or divorced… your children taken, or harmed, or never born at all.

It is a horrendous yet vital exercise you must do to break the spell.

For we are so easily lulled into the notion that what we have now is what we will always have… that our life will continue on more or less unchanged.

The reality of our own death, the death of our wife, the mortality of everyone we love… we “know” these truths but do not feel them.

And this practice of forcibly imagining the brevity and preciousness of all you hold dear is in fact among the greatest gifts you can give yourself and your family.

For in doing so, you give yourself proper perspective…

Not so you can go out morose into your day, but so you can live and love without reservation… to burn out the myopia that has numbed you to the wonder of your own life.

Every moment is a gift.

Every kiss, every laugh, every shriek, every diaper change–ALL of it is an irreplaceable moment in this one precious life you’ve been given.

Do not accept the lie that familiarity must breed contempt, that to be married is to grow dispassionate and distant.

Burn yourself awake.

Widen your eyes with dark visions.

Look unflinching into the abyss.

Sometimes you must step into the darkness to see the light.

Comments

  1. Disgruntled says:

    Imagining I’d never made the mistake that started off this “family” unit, or that she’ll be taken away from me suddenly or tragically is about all I have left any more. Thinking this way doesn’t highlight what I’d be missing, it’s the only way I can imagine the wounds having a chance to heal. Anything to stop the bleeding.

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