From my book, Marriage Minutes, available from Amazon.com
Marriage Minute # 193 Check the Instruments
Let me tell you about a friend of mine. He is a pilot who flies some of the largest passenger planes in the world. He’s good at it. But during a conversation one day he told me something that gave to me a wonderful analogy for marriage. He said that when he is flying through a cloud bank, he is still quite likely to feel upside-down. He may even have the physical sensation of going in the wrong direction, or being upside-down. What does he do? He trusts the instruments. At this point, he trusts the instruments more than he trusts himself. Then when he comes out of the clouds, he sees that the instruments were right.
In counseling, a lot of people are told to get in touch with their feelings. This may be fine, but I think we should get in touch with our thoughts and feelings and wants, since they really all work together. For all the good of getting in touch with feelings, it is an important lesson to learn, that sometimes our feelings are not properly informed. Feelings come out of thoughts, thoughts which may not be totally correct. Sometimes, it is best to trust the instruments until we can see clearly again.
What are these instruments? They are things like a good understanding of scripture. This good understanding comes from personal search and not from just quoting someone else. These instruments are also the bits of wisdom that are passed on to us by people who have good marriages and good lives. They are the instruments that come out of our own experience and courage. In summary, they come out of our genuine search for the truth, and the courage to apply our findings.
We have a culture around us that has often said to us that what each person believes to be true is true. This culture also says things like whatever makes us feel good must be right. It even says that if we feel it, we can act on it. The first thought that comes to my mind is that I want my friend, and not a representative of the popular culture, to be piloting my next plane flight.
There may be problems within the marriage, or the marriage may be facing problems outside the marriage. One or both partners may feel upside-down. It is time to trust the instruments when this happens.
Here is a suggestion. Pass a journal back and forth between yourself and your spouse. In this journal, carry on a written conversation about what you want from the marriage. Express what you have found, from good instruments, about what a marriage should be. Two rules should be included. First, all statements should be positive ones. Second, these statements should express and explain, not criticize. In this project, you can stop competing against each other for power and mutually work to fill the marriage, and each other, with power, love, and respect.