Scenario: You wake up with a sore throat. You skip breakfast, rush to work, eat a quick but not very nutritious lunch, go to the gym, go out for dinner and a couple cocktails and then crawl into bed exhausted after midnight. The next day you wake up in agony. Or… you have a good breakfast, you drink tea and honey all day, skip the gym, cancel your dinner plans and get into bed early. Chances are you are going to feel better when you wake up the next morning.
An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.
Every relationship has conflicts at some point or another. And these usually start out very small, and almost go unnoticed. Or at least, are easily ignored. But how quickly you treat the scratchy throat in your relationship is key. When people start dating they tend to de-emphasize the negative qualities they see, while overemphasizing the positive. This perspective usually changes shortly after the wedding, as it’s human nature to see the negative and therefore, we must choose to focus on the good. This enables us to appreciate our spouse and appreciation is what keeps love alive.
One early warning sign is if you think of your partner in terms of their faults rather than their merits. John Gottman has found successful couples say or do at least 5 positive things for each negative interaction with their partner. A marriage’s failure to do this – to support, nurture and grow – will sadly cause a husband and wife to find themselves in useless arguments, which will eventually lead to them becoming isolated in their marriage. Ultimately, if you don’t feel appreciated, if you don’t feel heard, and if you don’t have that open line of communication, then these “petty” fights that occur usually aren’t what you’re fighting about at all. It isn’t about the remote, it’s not about going to the in-laws’ for dinner, and it certainly isn’t about the toilet seat being up.
This brings me to the idea of trim tabs, which was invented by philosopher and engineer, Buckminster Fuller – Bucky, as his friends knew him. For those of us who are nautically and aeronautically challenged, trim tabs are the tiny rudders that are attached to the back of the larger rudders on either ships or airplanes.
Bucky understood that in order for such a large vessel to change direction, the sheer force alone would put too much pressure on the rudder, causing it to snap. So he devised a solution to eliminate that kind of pressure. Fuller explained, “Just moving the little trim tab builds a low pressure that pulls that rudder around. It takes almost no effort at all. So you can just put your foot out and the whole big ship is going to go.”
This idea is powerful, because everyday life really is a series of decisions, small changes that add up to great change. An example of applying trim tabs to your relationship is making a conscious decision to focus on your partner’s favorable attributes.
“He never does the dishes,” turns into “He always mows the lawn.”
“She is always late,” turns into, “She is so busy taking care of me and the children.”
“He only bought me flowers because he knows I’m mad,” turns into, “He’s a good person and knew that flowers would make me smile.”
It reminds me of a quote I read in one of Nancy Gibbs’ articles, “It’s funny how things change slowly until the day we realize that they’ve changed completely.”
By making these small shifts in our consciousness, day after day, we strengthen our relationship. We don’t have to make huge changes, just small change after small change, which eventually amounts to great change.
THOUGHT INTO ACTION
Write down a list of positive traits that your partner possesses. Keep adding to it!