Here are three simple ways to find greater happiness in your relationship: Don’t look forward. Don’t look back. And don’t think too much about yourself.
Can three such simple statements really have an affect on our happiness? Let’s take a look at each one.
- Consider “Don’t” number one: Don’t Look Forward. Most of the things we worry about concern the future, right? How secure is our job? Will we get that promotion? Is the economy going to hold? Could that simple cough our son or daughter has be a sign of something more serious? It’s been said that 90% of the things we worry about never come to pass. If this is true, then putting the reigns on some of our unproductive thoughts could free us of a lot of wasted mental energy.
- Now let’s look at “don’t” number 2: Don’t Look Back. Like things we anticipate in the future, we also carry memories of the past. But more often than not these too are overshadowed by the negatives—a comment we mistakenly made to a coworker; selling our house before the market took off; the argument with our spouse that we’re still fuming over—another big energy drain.
- Lastly, we come to the third “don’t,” which deals with that fundamental, but as yet undiscovered center of the known universe—us: Don’t Think Too Much About Yourself. So much of our thinking is turned inward and amounts to little more than random thoughts that produce very little. How do we look? Is that a new wrinkle? Where did those extra pounds come from? What should we wear? Why didn’t our friend call back?
Add to these mental energy hogs the myriad other distractions we face daily, the ringing phone; the blaring TV, the stack of emails we must responded to; the neighbor’s barking dog. Most of us become so preoccupied with distractions that we find scant time to even recognize, much less appreciate, the really good things we have in our lives.
Of course, we’ll never escape completely form this mental equivalent of white noise, but by simply becoming aware of it and not letting it rule our thinking, we can begin to create a little “quiet space” for ourselves, a small garden of mental serenity that allows us to relax and expand our vision. Maybe we’ll notice a sunset on the way home from work, or the flowers blooming in the back yard—or the things we like about our spouse that seem to get buried in the melee.
But negatives are “disempowering,” aren’t they? Some can be. But here they serve a very useful function. They help keep our mind from wandering into unproductive places. Like Do Not Enter signs, they close off our mental escape routes, those wonderful journeys into non-reality that keep us from living in the present. Freedom is wonderful, but unrestrained freedom can be like a runaway horse whose activities involve little more than fighting for survival and reacting to the events of the day. Constraints, good ones, add depth and meaning to our lives.
But what does turning down this chatter have to do with a happy love life? Think of it as a mental vacation. Vacations don’t eliminate our problems, but they do offer us a respite from the headaches of life’s daily pressures and refresh our outlook. Vacations give us time to get back in touch with our feelings and rediscover what’s really important in our lives. Ever wonder why romances blossom on vacations?
One study conducted at the University of Chicago found that many couples improved their marital happiness by taking a breather from their problems and letting things work themselves out; biting issues lost their relevance, financial situations improved, the kids grew up, and so on. Another group of unhappy couples found new contentment by focusing on other aspects of their lives, which took pressure off their marriages. So much of the stress in our lives comes from where we put our attention. So instead of immersing ourselves deeper in our hectic daily routine, why not simply reorient our thinking? You can’t beat the price—it costs nothing!
Another nice thing about the three Don’ts is their simplicity—they slip easily into our frenetic lifestyles. You don’t need to buy a workbook or attend classes to implement them. In fact, you could write them easily on a gum wrapper.
So, in answer to the question, can something this simple really work, the even simpler answer is, why not give it a try? You have nothing to lose—not even the gum wrapper.
About the Author
James Bardot, author of Angry Divorcés Anonymous, has founded several companies, holds two patents, and has worked as a private investor and business coach. Recently, he served on the Executive Committee of Tech Coast Angels, the nation’s leading group of private investors in technology startup ventures. After two unsuccessful marriages, James turned his attention to bringing greater public awareness to the preventable damage caused by divorce and helping couples find the happiness they seek. He conducts workshops and is available for speaking engagements. James is the devoted father of three boys and lives in Southern California. For more information, visit www.angrydivorces.com.