The more seriously you perceive a problem, the bigger it becomes; and the bigger you perceive a problem, the more seriously you take it. It’s my theory, anyway!
Several years ago I nearly hit my head on the ceiling when the toilet lid next to me slammed noisily shut. However, I had a much bigger problem and it was staring at me with eyes that would turn Medusa to stone.
I’d like to tell you that her high reactivity and outward display of emotion and frustration only made her look silly and ineffective, but I have to admit I rarely leave the seat up anymore because of that experience. It worked!
Leaving the toilet lid up is not a major problem. Monica, though, saw it as a serious problem and let it shoot her out of control. Because she took it so seriously, she made it grow in her mind. She told me she saw me leaving the lid up as a complete lack of respect to her. Seeing it as a lack of respect (a quite serious proposition) gave it the fuel to be much bigger than it was.
We still talk about that incident and it makes us laugh. She was so mad at me and I was so fearful for my life, all because a toilet lid. I’m glad it happened because it serves as a reminder of how big something small can become.
It’s not always easy to stop your mind from making small problems big, but it is entirely possible to change with awareness and practice. Try to remember the graph above next time you have a problem with your spouse. Why are you making it so big or so serious? How can you make it smaller and less serious? Better yet, how can you keep it from getting in the way of a great marriage?
We’ve found this works splendidly for us. Because we perceive most of our problems as small and not serious we’ve found a way to focus on the joy and fun of marriage rather than being so problem-focused.