My daughter just got her driver’s license. I have to admit…she is a good driver. She gets better every day. (The fact that my brake leg gets tired while I sit in the passenger seat says more about me than her.) Watching her learn to drive makes me realize how much really goes into driving–an awareness of what’s in front of us, beside us, and behind us, which cars might suddenly turn onto the road and which cars seem to come to a stop before turning off the road, how to successfully (and safely) switch lanes, changing speed limits, multiple signs, pedestrians, gas gauges…The list goes on. While all this was going through my mind, I met with a couple who described difficulty putting past experiences behind them. Negative past experiences kept creeping into their current relationship, creating fear and growing into self-fulfilling prophecies. They were driving their “relational car” with their eyes glued on the rearview mirror instead of keeping their eyes on the road ahead and their focus on their current surroundings. Just like driving, we can not have a successful family life if we keep our eyes glued on the past in our “rearview mirror.” We have to keep our eyes on the road ahead of us and any obstacles that might arise around us. Of course, we glance into the rear view mirror to make sure old habits don’t overtake us from behind; but, for the most part, we keep our eyes on the road ahead. Here are 3 suggestions to help you keep your eyes on the road and off the distant past.
· Maintain a long-term perspective on your marriage and family. Set some long-term goals. Plan ahead. What summer activities will you enjoy with your family this year? What family vacations do you want to take before your children leave for college? Consider what you want your family and marriage to be like 3 years, 5 years, or even 10 years from now. Think about activities and trips you hope to enjoy with your spouse once your children leave home. What special events will come up this year or in the next three years that you can enjoy with your family? What characteristics do you want others to think of when they think of your family and how can you develop these characteristics? Answering these questions, and others like them, will help you develop a long-term perspective of your family. The answers can help you implement activities and interactions today that can move you in the direction of that shared vision, which brings us to…
· Walk the talk. Commit to practicing daily actions that support your long-term family goals. Commit to maintaining long-term involvement with your family. Successful family relationships are a marathon, not a sprint. They grow and develop through consistent interactions that occur over time. Successful family life demands committed involvement and attention. It takes some discipline, but the rewards are amazing. So, commit to long-term involvement, long-term interaction, and daily activities that support those long-term goals.
· Although we keep our eyes on the long term goals and commit to living out daily actions that move us toward those goals, we do glance in the rearview mirror now and again. Why? To make sure old habits that might harm our relationships don’t creep up on us and sneak back into our lives. We look in the rear view mirror to keep our individual habits from overtaking us again. Notice, I do not look for my spouse’s old habits or my children’s old habits. I look out for my bad habits. My spouse and children remain responsible for their own past. Each individual has enough past of their own to keep them busy. So, go ahead and glance in the rearview mirror now and again to make sure you are leaving your old habits in the dust. If they start to overtake you, speed up toward greater future intimacy.
Three ways to keep our eyes on the road ahead: maintain a long-term perspective, commit to practicing daily actions that move us toward our goals, and glance in the rear view mirror to keep old habits in the dust. Keep these three goals in mind for a “safe driving experience” in your “relational car” (and maybe my brake leg won’t get so tired if I’m sitting in the passenger seat–lol).