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  • Deana Reed, LPC

Marriage: The Preflight Checklist

Updated: Dec 15, 2021

Ever been on an airplane? What is the first thing the flight attendants tell the passengers once they are in the air....the safety spiel, right?! The airlines want the passengers to know what to do in case of an emergency. They explain the proper way to wear a seatbelt, how to apply the oxygen mask, where to find the flotation device if needed. What if that is all the airlines did in order to prep for an emergency? What if they put all their energy and resources into just educating passengers on what to do when the plane is in a dire situation?

Fortunately for those of us who travel, airlines not only have emergency procedures in place, but they also take preventative measures to help reduce the chances of an emergency in the first place. Before a pilot even heads for the airport there are certain policies that they are to adhere to when they are getting ready to fly. They are expected to be rested, with no alcohol in their systems, and no drugs or medications that may alter their cognition. Pilots get annual physicals to make sure that they are in tip top shape at all times in order to minimize risk of an emergency due to pilot error.

Once the pilot arrives to work and boards the plane, they have a checklist, which they must go through before taking off. They test the instruments and, if they see a problem, it is important that they have it looked at by a mechanic. How would you feel if the pilot thought to himself, "Hmmmm...I know this instrument isn't working properly right now, but I bet it will begin working after we take off. It will probably fix itself."?

I am not interested in flying in that plane! Are you?

How many times do we do that in our marriages? Sometimes we ignore our problems, hoping that they will just somehow magically fix themselves! Or when the fighting has escalated to astronomical proportions we put all of our energy in to ways to learn conflict resolution strategies. The very term "conflict resolution" means that the "emergency" has already happened and now you are thrust into a reactive state of having to fix it, much like when the plane is in a tailspin and the passengers are grasping for their oxygen masks. What if we put more energy into being proactive in our marriages? Just as the pilots have a responsibility to be the healthiest version of themselves when they show up to work, what keeps us from being the healthiest version of ourselves in our marriage? That would mean we would have to do a lot of self-inspection and self-management. It is the reverse of what most of us do in our marriages. It is easier to look at our spouse and see the areas that they need to work on! How often do we take the time and effort to look at areas in our own life that need some mechanical tune up? If we do take that time, then do we make the necessary adjustments to "repair" those areas, or do we just hope that they will fix themselves?

Maybe it is obvious that some of your instruments are not working properly, but you are not sure how to fix them. There are a variety of "mechanics"/ resources that you can utilize. Sometimes an older couple can help mentor you, or perhaps a pastor might be a good place to start. There are endless self-help books written about marriage, counselors who can help you and your spouse put into place a great preflight checklist, or even an emergency plan if needed. What is the state of your marriage? Are you bringing the healthiest version of yourself to your marriage? Or are you trying to figure out what to do with the marriage after it has entered a tailspin? If you are looking for professional assistance, feel free to contact me at 512-238-1700 ext 318.

Deana Reed, MA, LPC

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