Tuesday, June 12, 2012

How to Live Happily Ever After

After a long family road trip, we were stopped at a red light just a mile from home.   Journey (our three year old) was getting anxious to get out of the car and started yelling at Craig, “GO, DADDY...JUST GO!”  As she did, Josie (our four month old) woke up from her slumber and let out a high pitched cry.  

“See, Daddy?  Even Josie is crying because you won’t go!” Journey scolded. 

“She’s crying because you yelled, Journey” Craig said.
“No, your story is just funny.  My story is right,” she told him.
Craig and I sat in the front seat with smiles on our faces for the wondrous mind inside Journey’s three year old head... believing that our story was right.
The truth of the situation was only within the stories we told ourselves.  Josie may have been crying because the car stopped and/or because Journey screamed.  Or she may have just cried because she is an infant and that’s what infants do.  We blamed Journey.  She blamed Craig.  It’s easy to blame others in moments of frustration.  It's easier to story them as  the bad guys.
The stories that we tell in moments like those are significant.  Those moments make up the stories of our lives.
What is your story? -- Who are the characters and what role do you play?  When did your story begin and who have you become?  Are you a victim?  A hero?  A champion?  Have you overcome?  Been oppressed?  Worked hard?  Given up?  Settled?  Achieved?  

How you story your past is the #1 predictor of your current level of happiness.
Don’t believe me?  Consider how happy you are right now in your current relationship.  Now, write down your story.  Reread it.  What do you think?
Now consider what would happen if you reinterpreted the events that you pick out or even insert other events from your relationship instead of those you included?  
Here’s an example from my life:
Our Love Story:
Craig and I met in college and were instantly attracted to each other.  Neither of us said a word because we were both in other relationships.  One night, Craig sang to me by my car and I knew I wanted to hear him sing forever.  Three years later, and four states away, we had our first kiss.  He was drafted to play in the NFL which set our lives on a path of fairy tale adventure.  He was my big strong hero who played the sport he loved in front of millions of fans while I cheered for him.  He sacrificed his body daily for the future of our family.  During his time in the NFL we grew much stronger in our faith in Jesus Christ, fell in love with Seattle, and  cemented life-long friendships with his teammates and their wives. Soon after he retired from football I graduated with my PhD.  We have two adorable daughters and we are excited about what the future might hold.
Another Perspective:

Craig and I met in college but didn’t start dating until I was in graduate school.  It was bad timing because I was just a year into a five year graduate school program. A couple of months after we started dating, he was drafted to play football all the way across the country.  I gave up my dream of being a traditional graduate school student and time with my professors and peers to follow him.  He was gone all the time, in our only vehicle, and I spent my days in our small dark apartment.  By the time he got home, it was dark out, and so for the most part I didn’t see the sun all day.  He gave his life to the sport while I struggled to continue working on school from far away.  Eventually, the team told him he was too old to play anymore.  The time I devoted to him and our kids took me away from school so I am not prepared to be in a highly sought-after academic job like I could’ve been.  Now, he’s unemployed and so am I.  Sometimes I don’t even get out of my pajamas.  It’s hard for me to imagine the future.

How you story your relationship matters because just like Journey and Craig in the car, you will believe that your story is right.   We have all had happy times and we've all had sad times when we've squealed a high pitched cry.  We have all been hurt and we have all hurt others.  But we've also overcome. Are you blaming others for your moments of frustration?

What story do you tell of your spouse?  If you don’t know, just ask your closest friends.
Here’s the scary thing: If you don’t change the negative stories you’re telling, you will continue to live them.  It takes a purposeful re-storying to escape those bonds.
It breaks my heart when I hear people, who I know were once madly in love, talking poorly of their spouse or telling negative stories of their relationship.  I have learned that there is never a reason to speak poorly of the one you love.  The hard truth: The more you say it, the more you will believe it.
The happiest couples tell stories of overcoming the inevitable hardships of life together.
My Challenges for You:  
1.  Make a list of five positive attributes of your spouse.  In the next few days, make a point of sharing those five things with at least three other people (one of them should be your spouse!)
2. Write your love story...  Start at the beginning and pick out the significant moments.  You don't avoid the hard or sad times -- but show how you grown since or even because of those times.  The most important part of your story is the ending...it should end with you both living in love together... Happily Ever After.