Monday, June 27, 2011

How "It Could Be Worse" Keeps You Stuck

I'm the queen of "it could be worse."
No matter  how much my life sucks, I can always (and easily) come up with myriad ways in which it could be worse.
It's a long-held personal tradition.
My mom's in the psych hospital after attempting to kill her self? Well, it could be worse. She could have succeeded.
My dad's passed out most nights? Could be worse. He could be a drug addict. Or simply gone.
Best friend steals boyfriend? Could be worse. I could be dying of cancer.
And so on.
It was a great survival skill. I was like a Weeble who got knocked down but always ALWAYS popped back up, ready for another round.
And it's a skill I use still.
Kids driving me crazy? At least they're healthy enough to drive me crazy. They could be hooked up to machines in a hospital.
Dog poops on new Persian rug? At least I can afford a Persian rug.
Roof leaking? At least I have a roof over my head.
Husband cheats? At least my kids aren't dead (I trotted that one out a LOT. By all means, I told the universe, give me betrayal. But please don't take my if I was bartering with Satan.)
Not that "it could be worse" is necessarily a bad thing. I'm the eternal optimist – always looking on the bright side of life.
The thing is, I'm learning – thanks to all the it-could-be-worse scenarios I've invented in the past few years, that it can also keep me stuck.
It's easy to stay in muck up to your knees when you tell yourself you're lucky it's not up to your neck.
And it's a great way to avoid getting out of the muck altogether.
And, I've decided, I want a muck-free life.
I'm learning (slowly...thanks to those survival skills which served me well as a kid...but now stand in the way) that it's absolutely my prerogative to say, "sure things could be worse...but they could be BETTER, too." Better might mean a husband who not only doesn't cheat on me, but also helps around the house and shares my values. Better might be a fixed roof. It might be a kids who behave more respectfully (let's remind will treat us respectfully until we treat ourselves respectfully). It might be a whole heap of things that could be worse...but that I don't want to tolerate any more.
I don't want the pendulum to swing totally the other way (those people are called pessimists/in-laws...and I avoid them the same way I avoid Tea Partiers and the Kardashians). I like seeing the glass as half-full. I'm just going to remind myself with a bit more regularity that, with some self-respect and determination and firm boundaries, the glass can be completely full...ideally with a nice Shiraz.


  1. Your analogy about the mud struck a chord.

    Over the last couple of years I've come to the conclusion that I'm no longer willing to put up with things that don't work or make me unhappy - and that includes aspects of my relationship with my husband.

    I suppose part of it is me sticking two fingers up at fate and daring it to throw something else at me.

  2. I remember someone on Oprah once saying "you don't need to have a horrible marriage to want a better one." So frequently, we think that if we ask for – or even want – more, we're somehow ungrateful for what we have. Truth is, we can have gratitude for what we have...while still working for better. I'm grateful my kids are healthy and whole...but that doesn't stop me from wanting them to pick their dirty clothes off the floor...and working toward that end.
    I think, after betrayal, it often feels like an "all or nothing" proposition. After such a trust violation, we expect either the perfect remorseful husband...or a total bum who will never change.
    Yet any marriage is a matter of negotiation – or sorting through needs and wants and reaching a relationship that works for both.
    And that's particularly challenging when there's such pain following betrayal.
    Kudos to you for saying "enough"...and working to create a relationship that allows you to ask for what you need.

  3. I was talking with my therapist shortly after the earthquake/tsunami/nuke disaster in Japan and I said "Well, things could be worse, I could be in Japan." She gave me a look and said, "We aren't in Japan." It was permission to admit my situation sucked and I had a right to feel my pain if I wanted to.

  4. It's amazing how frequently we minimize our pain...or do anything we can to avoid feeling it. It seems, to many of us, like it will be tsunami-sized, completely engulfing us. Yet often, the opposite happens. When we don't talk ourselves out of it and simply feel it, it can be like a small wave washing over us that then recedes, leaving us sad, perhaps, but not destroyed. We can start with little things – like acknowledging the hurt we feel when a friend cancels a lunch date or some such, then work our way up to the big stuff. It seems counterintuitive – yet feeling the pain is often far easier on us than pushing it away.

  5. Hey!

    I just found your blog. LOVE this post. You are so right about looking at the positives when you are basically in hell. Right now, I usually tell myself that at least my husband didn't leave me for his slut. Some days I tell myself it may have been easier if he did...but I know deep down that it probably wouldn't have been, especially with two kids. Thanks for giving me this insight today - I will definitely keep it in mind. Oh and if you want, I have a blog too. ;-)

  6. Infidelity Rage,
    Glad you found us! Love your site, too.


  7. Sometimes, hearing someone say, "I'm sorry that happened to you. It really sucks!" can actually help me to move on. I feel validated.




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