I spent three days working to put up the Christmas lights so our family could share in our annual "turning on the of the lights" on Thanksgiving evening. I had tested all the lights before placing them in their appropriate places and I thought everything was "good to go." But on Thanksgiving morning I decided to do a final test and one whole section of lights failed to shine. I was frustrated and ready to throw away several strings of lights and purchase new ones. But then my son and family arrived and my son had a different perspective on the problem...
My son said, "Dad, it's probably just a fuse; do you have any extras?" I did. Quickly my son climbed the ladder, found the "failed fuse," replaced it and behold, the lights shined beautifully. I was grateful for my son's efforts (at this point I'm not real steady on ladders) and also for his wisdom. I wonder, however, how common my "let's just throw it away" attitude is in our society today?
As a family therapist I can say that far too many couples are willing to "call it quits" way too early in their journey with relational struggles. They become so focused on the relational conflict and their personal hurt feelings that they assume nothing will ever be better. The truth is, sometimes rather little things (like a fuse) can cause big problems in a marriage. What the couple needs is not a divorce or separation but rather someone who will help them (often through therapy) climb the relationship ladder and fix their defective fuse. I've seen it over and over again: Sometimes even small changes can greatly improve the quality of one's relationships.
One of the basic principles of Solution-Focused Brief Therapy is that: Small Steps lead to Big Changes. When the marriage doesn't "light up" the way we think it should, we are sometimes tempted to say "let's be done with this one and try again with someone else." Though I believe there are times when marriages should end, this "hasty" approach is usually a mistake. Why not just fix the fuse! It is much less traumatic and a whole lot less expensive. It is incredibly easier on our children and extended family. But most important of all: when the fuse is fixed and our lights really shine, our relationship is one which both we and our entire family can enjoy.
Dr. Allen Schneider is a United Methodist pastor and a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist presently serving the Sapulpa and greater Tulsa communities.