Passing on the Past
One of the most helpful pieces of marriage advice I have ever heard is this simple maxim: “Don’t live in the past.”
For instance, one day Dale unfairly dredged up the fact that I once borrowed her vehicle and returned it with .00675 ounces of gasoline vapor in the tank. “It was so frustrating to see the needle below the E after you took that trip out of town,” she said.
“Dale, Dale, Dale. Don’t live in the past,” I said empathetically.
The past? What are you talking about? I went out this morning and the van was empty,” she replied, frowning.
“Exactly,” I said. “This morning is part of the past. We need to just move beyond the past. A marriage expert said so in a book.”
Dale folded her arms and said, “How convenient. According to that argument, I should never discuss any inconsiderate thing you do because, technically, it happened in the ‘past.’”
“Exactly!” I replied, delighted that she grasped the logic of my point.
“Dave, if you want to have a future that lasts more than five minutes,” she retorted, “don’t tell me again to not live in the ‘past’ when you’re talking about something that happened several hours ago.”
I almost mentioned that she needed to work on her “anger issues,” but she was getting that twitching problem with her left eye so I decided not to risk it. There is nothing quite so volatile as a woman with anger issues who keeps living in the past.
Another useful phrase that will immeasurably help your nuptial relationship is this handy line: “Hon, I think you are in denial.” This line is particularly handy when you need to rapidly change the subject.
For example, let’s say that a husband is driving by an auto dealership and stops in just to look around. One thing kind of leads to another and, after all, the old rig was looking a little worse for the wear. So he makes an executive decision to buy a new car.
Wife: “You traded in your work truck for a brand-new Thunderbird convertible? Have you utterly lost your mind? The car is completely impractical and we can’t afford it.”
Husband: “Hon, I think you are in denial.”
Wife: “ME? You think I’m the one in denial? YOU are the one who just made a $48,000 impulse purchase, and you are accusing ME of being in denial? DENIAL ABOUT WHAT?”
Husband: “Your anger issues.”
The real danger in responding this way is that a jury of her peers would probably agree with her. And if the jury were comprised of mostly women, they would probably not only convict you but also whack you with their purses as they filed out of the jury box.
But there is one final phrase that covers many bases, and it seems to work remarkably well no matter how many times it is tried. That powerful phrase is “I’m sorry. Will you please forgive me?”
The trick to successfully employing this phrase is that it can’t be a trick. You need to really be sorry, and you need to prove it by changing your offensive behavior. Your spouse’s forgiveness will be tied directly to the sincerity of your apology, which has to be backed up by positive and sincere actions.
Saying “I’m sorry” without changing your behavior is really living in denial.
Good Spousekeeping by Dave Meurer
Copyright � 2004, Dave Meurer
Published by Cook Communications
Used by permission. Unauthorized duplication prohibited