Our first fight. There was probably yelling and hurt feelings and maybe even some tears, but to be perfectly honest with you – I don’t really remember. The details have completely evaded me. And for that I am incredibly grateful. In fact, Devin and I got in an argument just last week and I could tell you the basic gist of it, but the details have already begun disintegrating in my memory. The truth is, I have very few ‘bad’ memories of the two of us.
A wise person (ahem… my mom…) once told me that happiness is having a bad memory. At first I didn’t get it – why would I want to forget everything? But then the more I mulled it over in my head, the more it started to make sense. Sure, happiness is a deeply rooted and incredibly complicated beast that I’m nowhere near educated enough to preach on. But I will tell you that since applying this nugget of wisdom to our marriage, now it’s one of my truths to live by.
So just what does having a ‘bad memory’ mean? Well in this context, it’s really more about having a selective memory. The goal here is to choose what you don’t want to remember. To make a conscious choice to overlook ‘bad memories’. For example, your spouse was really stressed this week and took it out on you – yelled, said some things that weren’t really meant, acted selfish, you get the idea. Sure, you’ve been wronged, we’re acknowledging that. But, mutually, you’ve come to terms – apologies have been made, we’re ready to move on. And here’s where choosing to have a bad memory comes in. Just forget about it. Inevitably, the next fight will happen sometime down the road and that last thing you want rearing it’s head at that time is the resentment and score of the previous argument. Or here’s another, perhaps smaller scale, example. Your spouse left the sink full of dishes – again! You could do the usual and make a big deal out of it, get in a few jabs, put your spouse on the defensive and next thing you know you have a full blown fight. Or, you could just choose to have a ‘bad memory’, do the dishes yourself and forget about it. After all, you know your spouse is really stressed this week and could use the extra support.
By forgiving, we are freed of the negativity and rage building inside and corroding us. Letting go of the grudges makes room for compassion, kindness and peace. This calm space that we’ve chosen to be in by having a ‘bad memory’ is certainly happier than one in which we’re fighting all the time, right? Can I get an amen?
And here’s where you’re probably thinking, ‘yeah, forget about it, easier said than done!’ So, we’ve included some of our tips for how to have a bad memory when it comes your marriage:
– Kiss and make-up. Once you’ve decided it’s not worth being mad anymore, head straight to the make-up / make-out part. Intimacy releases positive hormones, hence ending the argument with a positive emotion. The idea here is to look back on the argument and remember the happy ending, not the ‘bad’ part.
– Don’t re-live the details over and over in your mind. At first, even after you’ve made up, you might have to fight the temptation to re-hash all of the details over and over in your head. The next day or so it’s easy to keep justifying why you were right and your partner was wrong. Resist this urge.
– Replace negative thoughts with positive ones. I keep a stockpiles of things I love about Devin in my mind so that as soon as negative thought pops up, I have a positive trait to replace it with.
– Don’t keep score. Even as tempting as it is, there is really no point. In the end, who wins? You’re on the same team. You either both succeed, or you both lose.
– Keep in mind that trials make us stronger. We’re human, we’re going to mess up, and each mistake chisels us into a better person. And together, into a better couple. The ‘bad’ times are inevitable, but if we keep our perspectives in check and allow ourselves to learn from each argument and rough patch, we’re going to come out the other side as stronger individuals, and ultimately, as a happy couple going on 50+ years :)
– And last, but certainly not least, the grass is definitely not greener on the other side of the fence :)
So, here’s to ‘bad memories’ and happier, stronger marriages everywhere!