How much can you pack into a room before the room begins to look cluttered—before it is difficult to move around, to find what you need or want, or to invite others into that space?
A room, or a house, or a piece of land are a certain size, and you can only reasonable put so much into a defined space before the quality of life around that space begins to diminish. That’s why most cities have zoning boards that tell you how much a given area can take before it becomes detrimental to a neighborhood or community. Yet, there are always people who try to squeeze as much into a space as possible. But the reality is you only have so much physical space.
In the same way, we only have so much of what I call, “mental real estate.” Our mental real estate is defined by what we allow to fill our thoughts on a regular basis. And the more we allow one thing or another to consume our available mental real estate, the less room there is for anything else.
Sadly, the two most common ways that people fill up their mental real estate is with “I should have’s” and “what if’s.” “I should have’s” are constantly living in the past, reliving and rethinking every decision, knowing that doing so won’t change anything. (“I should have done this instead of that, and then everything would have turned out better.”) “What if’s” are constantly living in the future, playing through scenarios that will likely never come to pass. (“What if she believes I meant xyz rather than qrs? Then she’ll probably say this about me.”)
The best marriages are lived in the present, not the past or the future. Now obviously that doesn’t mean that you don’t learn from past choices or that you don’t plan for the future, but if your available mental real estate is cluttered up with regrets from the past or anxieties for the future, then you will miss out on so many blessings now. If your mental real estate is muddled with “should have’s” and “what if’s,” not only do you miss out on the moment, but you also have less resources to deal with real crises when they come along. Why? Because you have already expended your time and energy reliving situations that have already passed and cannot be altered, or stressing over future circumstances that may never be. Here are a few signs that you’re allotting too much mental real estate to “what if’s” and “should have’s”:
- You constantly put off your spouse because you are always preparing for the next thing that might (note the keyword “might”) happen.
- You can’t talk about things that are going on in your marriage now without repetitively bringing up the past in a negative way.
- You are more content to live in guilt and regret and shame, than to accept your mate’s forgiveness and work together toward a better future.
- You obsessively focus on others in a way that keeps you from enjoying life and enjoying your spouse’s company.
- You can’t quiet your mind, even during good times with your husband/wife.
- Sharing intimate moments with your covenant lover is more of a chore than an expression of your joy in your union together.
- Your senses become dulled to what is happening now because your thoughts are always preoccupied elsewhere, so you miss out on enjoying the sights, sounds, smells, tastes, and sensations that you experience with your mate.
- You begin to feel distant spiritually from your spouse.
Different circumstances and different seasons of life can occupy our mental real estate in various ways.* During the stresses of the holiday season, it is easy for a person’s mental real estate to get as cluttered as our houses can become after unwrapping presents. But don’t miss out on the joys you and your mate can share right now because you’re too exhausted trying to live in the past or the future. Manage your mental real estate so that there is always room to invite your spouse in.
*If you are living with anxiety, depression, or destructive thought patterns that have interfered with your life over an extended period of time, please seek professional counseling help.