There is a time each year when many of us load the car and take a trip across the countryside in an effort to make positive memories with those we love.
That’s right, I’m talking about family vacations.
My wife and I were discussing one of our last trips to a popular amusement park, and we smiled as we thought of the positive memories we had there. We have visited this place at least four times, and with each visit, I have noticed a pattern regarding our selective memories at this celebrated landmark of fun.
A few months removed from these trips, we tend to focus on the positives from our experiences. On the other hand, painful experiences tend to disappear with time and are fresh on our minds only while living in those moments. I love remembering things such as the music as we sit on the rides, the laughter as we see the shows, and the taste of those special park foods. Turkey drumsticks … YUMMY!
However, I seldom smile when I think of the negatives, such as our sore legs, the sunburns, the price of those drumsticks, or the constant waiting in line for rides. In fact, I tend to forget about my sore feet right up until they’re sore again, which is typically on day two of our latest trip to that same park. It’s then that I say, “Now I remember why I put gel insoles on my shopping list and promised to lose 20 pounds before our next park visit!”
I believe that it’s perfectly fine to forget the pains from our past trips. If we didn’t forget those negatives, we may never take future trips again ... right?
However, I do feel that it is important to remember negatives when reflecting on one area of our lives: Past Romantic Relationships. This is especially important if we are comparing those past relationships with our current ones.
Let me say this another way: When you are getting that “friend invite” from an “ex” on your social networking site and you begin thinking back on your past relationship with him/her, DO NOT fool yourself into forgetting why you call this person an “ex” in the first place.
Quite often when we are “in the moment” of a relationship, we see, all too closely, the negative aspects of it. This can be a problem if we are focusing on the negatives in our current relationship while ignoring the very real, but quite often forgotten, negatives of our past relations.
I’m not suggesting that relationships don’t need repairs. They all do. Some need more help than others, and there are plenty of relationship education and counseling options to use. (We offer many classes on marriage and family relationships in the child and family studies at Weber State University.)
I am suggesting that we suspend the romanticized and false views we create regarding our past relationships. Trust me, there was a reason (or more accurately, many reasons) why you broke up with your previous partners — even if you can’t seem to remember.
On many roads in Utah, cows can be seen straining their necks under a fence to eat the grass that is just on the outside of their pasture. I bring this up to suggest that we, as husbands and wives, should not take the grass-is-greener-on-the-other-side perspective when it comes to our own relationships.
Like the cattle on the roadways, we somehow forget about the sandburs and barbed wire that poke our noses when we reach across the fence. The relationship sandburs are much more disastrous.
With unsafe relationships being the exception (you certainly deserve to be in safe and healthy relationships), most relationship pastures are fine if regularly tended. If you need to green it up, get some relationship fertilizer.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to plan another trip with my family to the park. If only I could remember why I scribbled the word “insoles” on last year’s park brochure ...
Daniel Hubler is on the faculty of the Weber State University department of child and family studies. This column was originally published on twoofus.org. The opinions expressed in this column do not necessarily reflect those of WSU.