There is a time and a place for everything, including ignoring things.
Don’t sweat the small stuff. I’ll agree with that. But I definitely do not think “it’s all small stuff.”
If you ignore some problems they get bigger and bigger and worse and worse. But it happens so slowly so you don’t even really notice. Pretty soon you can’t remember a time when you weren’t drowning in problems. If your marriage feels terrible, you are probably a victim of trying to “get along” by either ignoring problems, or ignoring your spouse’s attention on those problems. This leads to disaster. If not divorce, it can lead to a bummer marriage that you don’t want to be in at all.
Why do we do this?
I think it’s because people have no guidance, no mentors, no real idea of where to go for help. We might even think asking for help is bad. We may have never believed those who say marriage counseling can be amazing, transformative and healing. Or we turn friends or family for support, and they support us. But they don’t see the whole picture, and give one-sided advice.
Another barrier is hiding the problems from everyone, even yourself. There is plenty of peer pressure to look happy and to hide problems. That makes it way worse. If it looks like everyone else is so happy, you may feel like a failure. You’re not.
We live in cynical times.
We’d rather believe “I’m bad” or “that person is bad” than “hard work will help us both be better people and together we can be amazing.” So negative patterns persist and compound, growing year after year. It’s like the magic of compound interest, but in reverse.
There is no magic in learning to drop bad habits and pick up new ones. The trick, sometimes, is figuring out which is which. Do we talk it out when our problems lead only to fights? Do we stay silent and “keep the peace” when nothing gets resolved?
Just because you haven’t figured out how to solve certain problems yet doesn’t mean you are sentenced to a life of living with them. There are great books, workshops, therapists, and other people out there who have walked this walk. If you’re someone looking for a better answer, you are ahead of those who ignore problems, or keep doing what doesn’t work.
Margie Wheelhouse is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist. She provides couples and individual counseling in her office in Springfield, Illinois, and throughout the state by phone and web. She helps couples build great relationships and repair broken ones. She’s currently ignoring a growing pile of laundry, hoping it will go away.
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