A few years ago a popular country tune emphasized the poor odds of marriage by comparing it to airplane travel. “Imagine the pilot’s voice on the intercom,” the lyrics go, “saying ‘Folks, thanks for flyin’ with us, but there’s a six in ten chance we’re goin’ down!’” If love was a plane, the song concludes, “nobody’d get on.”
Let me put a different—and more positive—spin on the analogy by highlighting some “plane” tips that can actually save your marriage. In fact, commercial air travel today is extremely safe—the odds of an accident are infinitesimally small. Technology has improved dramatically, but the biggest factor in safety is a simple one: the carefully-honed discipline of paying attention. It works in the air, and it works in your home …if you’re intentional about it!
Stay focused in the frenzy
Think of all the ways you can be distracted—everything from the demands of a boss to fire alarms to daydreaming. Pilots face distractions too, but they are trained to brush them aside. The FAA has established what’s called the “sterile cockpit rule.” During critical phases of a flight, pilots refrain from non-essential activities and focus solely on the task of flying. Do you recognize those “critical phases” in your own relationships? There are moments in every day when you must put down the smartphone, switch off the television, cease the idle chatter and focus fully on your loved one’s needs and desires.
Evaluate and eliminate mistakes
What happens after an aircraft incident? Investigators are assigned to find out what happened and why. Sometimes the cause is obvious … usually it’s a complicated combination of factors. Changes are then instituted so that the same thing doesn’t happen again. Do you learn from experience, or do you repeat careless errors? To improve your marriage, you may need your own “accident investigation team”—a trusted friend or counselor who can help you identify where mistakes were made. But just saying “I hope that doesn’t happen again” is not a strategy.
The FAA recently concluded that autopilot systems—designed to reduce pilot errors—actually create unexpected dangers. Relying on them too much erodes “situational awareness” in pilots. In other words, they are slow to recognize and react to problems—sometimes failing to intervene until it’s too late. This is sadly reminiscent of many of the calls we receive at the Intentional Living Center like, for example, the inattentive spouse who didn’t grasp that there was a problem until the marriage was in full-blown crisis, or the parents whose teenager was in jail before they even realized he was hanging with the wrong crowd. Remember you have a spiritual enemy, always lurking, who wants to destroy you and your family. Never put your relationships on autopilot!
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