While working with a retreat guest recently, she said something that struck me as she described what went wrong in her marriage. She simply said, “We kept thinking ‘it would get better when_____ (fill in the blank.) We thought it would get better when we got married. It would get better when we finished school. It would get better when we had money. It would get better when we had children… We kept waiting for ‘it’ to get better but we didn’t do anything to make it get better. Our marriage failed due to neglect.”
As I pondered this insightful awareness, it occurred to me that thousands, maybe millions of our relationships are faltering, if not failing, from the same lapse of attention. After all, nothing gets better from neglect.
Most of us think that we can pinpoint the “something that we did” that made our relationships abruptly come to an end, but it may well be the more common reality that our relationships are dying a slow death. Rather than pinpointing the “something,” the real cause of the relationship’s demise is the “nothing”—repeatedly doing nothing when something needs to be done.
Procrastination, expectation and inaction have the power to destroy our relationships, with others, with our own bodies, our own happiness, our own wealth, our own sense of accomplishment. It is easy to see the truth of this in hindsight from the viewpoint of the devastating results. The key is to notice a little sooner.
While awareness of the problem is the first step to resolving it, the challenge then is that overwhelm can easily paralyze us even more. Where do we start? How hard will it be? How long will it take? Will it work? We then start looking far into the future, and get exhausted before we have even started.
Here is the simple path: don’t try to change the future. Don’t worry about whether it will “work” or how long it will take. Even though happily-ever-after is the target, no change will take place tomorrow unless preceded by a change of course now. And now. And Now. The good news is that “now” is all you have any power over. Simply tackle the moment with the intent to master the moment and the future will follow suit.
I have often asked couples contemplating divorce, “If I could wave a magic want and make you divorced right here and now in my office, would you want me to do so?
They often look surprised and ask, “Right now?”
To which I answer, “Yes, right now,” and ask again.
So far, none of them have ever said, “Yes.” Instead they say, “Well, no, not right now.”
My philosophy is that if you do not want the relationship to be over right now, this very minute, then right now in this very minute align your efforts with creating a more loving relationship. The choice is not simply misery or divorce. Thankfully, the options include loving kindness, awareness, passion, and joy.
Don’t just believe me. Give it a whirl. Give your relationship one week of mindful attention. (Whether the relationship you tend to is with a loved one or your body, or your household organization. You choose. This is just an experiment, after all.) See what happens.
When you have the choice between passion and chores, choose passion.
When you have a choice between saying something mean, nothing at all or something kind, choose kind.
When you have the option to criticize or inspire, encourage.
When you have the choice between now or later, do it now.
When you have the choice of doing something or doing nothing, do something loving and purposeful.
Just experiment with doing what you do a little differently than you have been doing it….or not doing it. See what results when you have the intent of creating healthy, loving moments driven by healthy, loving choices.
I’m betting that you will find that “it will get better when” you choose to make it better, one moment at a time, one moment after the next.