“We’re often kept from getting what we want in life more by the demands we place on ourselves than by the demands of others,” notes Christy Matta, author of The Stress Response in this Huffington Post blog.
Matta cites limiting beliefs like “I shouldn’t feel the way I do.” Or “I should solve problems on my own.” Or “Other peoples needs and wants are more important than mine.”
This struck a chord with me. I see that we carry around these same limiting beliefs in our military lives and military marriages. We have the same kind of internal rules that hold us back from actually dealing with the life we have instead of a life that exists only in our imaginations. We have internal rules like:
1. My servicemember should be here (for Christmas, for my sister’s wedding, for the birth of this baby.)
2. I am the only one who can take care of this (asking for help is weak.)
3. No one in the unit should ever say anything that hurts my feelings (or I won’t participate).
4. The military is never good for families.
5.I can’t handle this (deployment, move, fruitless job search).
6. People always have problems with reintegration.
7. No one but us ever has problems with reintegration.
8. Military life is so much easier for (officers, enlisted, senior folks, junior folks, singles, parents, people stationed at Pendleton, people stationed in Tampa, people on an aircraft carrier).
9. If my servicemember cared about us, he or she would quit.
10. I am nothing like other military spouses.
I know I am guilty of thinking some of these things. OK, OK. I’m guilty of thinking or even saying all of these things at least once. Maybe you are too.
The thing is, just because we have one of these thoughts doesn’t make them true. These are the thoughts that hold you back from having a better military marriage. Matta offers some advice that really works with these kinds of internal rules:
Think the thought, but change the word “should” to “could.” If it’s a thought with the word “can’t,” change it to “I feel sad, disappointed, anxious, when I…” Notice if the word change has an impact on how you feel. For example, you might change “I should just deal with it” to “I could just deal with it.” This subtle shift can increase the flexibility of your thoughts and expand your sense of having options.
Catching all the times I use words like always and never and should and must and nothing and only, and rethinking those thoughts really does make me feel better.
So I’m rethinking things like: My servicemember could be here, but his work means that he is far away. He misses us as much as we miss him.The military could be good for families. We have a steady income, solid benefits and regular communication. And my guy loves his work. I am a little like military spouses—we all love someone in uniform. I can handle this (but it drives me crazy sometimes!)
Changing a should to a could doesn’t seem like much. But so often it eases that tied up knot that holds us back. It works. And if it works, I’m using it.