Thomas Edison, who developed the long-lasting, practical electric light bulb, once wrote: “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” It took him thousands of mistakes to find the right way to the end he desired. I personally am no expert in marriage, and have made my own 10,000 mistakes. There is a reason I’m not writing books on how to make one succeed. However, I can speak with great authority on what will derail a marriage, and it is out of this extended knowledge base that I write this post.
Psychologists have developed an idea called bending the map. This occurs when someone has a perceived mental image of the way things are or should be, and are so convinced that they are right that they will ignore what a map tells them is correct, and will oftentimes completely throw out logic when making decisions. A recent article in Psychology Today elaborated on this phenomenon, telling about a group of skiers trying to get home from the back country amidst the Grand Tetons. They were certain that when they reached a certain river they were supposed to veer left, even though the map indicated that they should go right. Instead of following the map’s directions, they proceeded left, and convinced themselves that the river must be flowing up hill, a direct refute to logic. As a result of them “bending the map” they became lost and were stranded for several days out in the cold.
It seems to me that couples fall into this mind trap rather frequently in marriage. No doubt this is due to the unrealistic representation of love and romance in our society’s entertainment industry. Mental images of unending passion, romance, and heroism are ingrained in us, and when we face the reality of relationship dynamics we refuse to believe that our mental images are false or contorted. Instead of following Jesus’ teachings as our guide to navigate successfully through marriage, we are prone to throwing in the towel, believing that our minds’ picture of true reality will be fulfilled in our next relationship. Logic evades us, and we convince ourselves that great love comes easy without sacrifice, forgetting that the Cross, the greatest example of love, was brutal, bloody, and the ultimate dying to self.
What might bending the map look like in your marriage?
- Are you treating your spouse in an unloving or unappreciated way because he or she doesn’t resemble celebrated characters out of movies or books?
- Are your mental images full of “happiness ever after” illusions that prevent you from fully embracing sacrifice for your marriage?
- And finally, is culture negatively influencing your ability to accept Jesus’ teachings about love to be completely relevant for your life?
I confess that I am frequently guilty of bending the map because of my reluctance let go of control, accept my spouse as he is, and admit when I’m wrong. I also fail to diligently root out any damaging outside influences that distort my perception of reality and distract me from wholly trusting the way of Jesus.
While it is impossible to immediately cease our map bending, it is crucial to be aware of our tendency to do it, because it will save us from being stranded in places where we really don’t want to end up. There’s little consolation to be had when marriages break, we find ourselves on a cold metaphorical mountain after insisting on veering left, and we look back saying, “Well, it seemed like a good idea at the time.” People are flawed, our minds are limited, but we can journey through marriage confidently, certain that our map, Jesus, will lead us to life.
Seeking to fully live,
Julie Bastuk is a biochemist turned freelance writer who blogs at Discovering Jubilee. She spends her days chasing her three little boys, reading as many books as possible, and drinking copious amounts of coffee. Though she is an avid map bender, Julie and her husband Mike have been graced with increasing life through eight years of marriage.
* Wise, Jeff. (Jan. 2012). Deadly Mind Traps. Psychology Today. http://www.psychologytoday.com/articles/201112/deadly-mind-traps
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