Our boys, ages five and three, love riding with the windows down in the back seats. A couple weeks ago on the way home from church we saw a toy launch out of the back seat and onto a busy street. With our kids it’s certainly within the realm of possibilities that he threw the toy just because it would be cool to watch. In this case, it was purely accidental, his expression clearly showed he was horrified at the loss of his toy. His eyes filled with tears and his voice expressed pure panic.
My wife quickly decided to turn this into a lesson about unintended consequences of carelessness. She calmly prepared our son for the possibility it could be lost forever or destroyed. We turned around on a side road and miraculously recovered the toy from the road unbroken.
If the toy was unrecoverable or destroyed that day, he would have been fine. It was a rather insignificant toy, he hasn’t even played with it since. If we had ignored his loss and continued home it would have greatly influenced his behavior in the hours following. When children feel loss it comes out in a variety of behaviors like increased aggressiveness, moodiness, shouting, and refusal to follow directions.
Adults are not much different. We face minor losses too. However, we ignore many of our minor losses. We know it doesn’t matter and we pretend it doesn’t bother us.
Adults, like kids, can’t help but react to the aggravations of life. We get grumpy, moody, and overly aggressive when loss happens to us.
Ever need to write something and can’t find a working pen? After scribbling in circles with a couple of dead pens, I’m disproportionately upset.
Minor losses happen all the time in life.
When you lose out on fun activities because finances are tight, it’s a loss.
When you lose an evening to a fight, it’s a loss.
When you miss your son’s ballgame, it’s a loss.
When something turns out differently than expected, it’s a loss.
It doesn’t have to surpass the epic loss in the biblical story of Job for it to mess with your day.
Minor losses are not life altering but they can wreck your connection if you don’t pay attention.
For example, when the printer jams and you spend two frustrating hours getting it fixed, it’s a loss. If you react to the loss by saying “uugghh I hate our piece of junk printer!” your spouse could respond defensively “It’s not my fault, tightwad, what do you expect from a garage sale printer?” then conflict ensues.
Quickly acknowledging the loss and resulting emotion can reduce the escalation. The interaction with your spouse could sound more like “uugghh I hate our piece of junk printer, I’m disappointed I just lost two hours working on it.” then your spouse could respond “I’m sorry, that was a major project, thanks for fixing it.”
To prevent a minor loss from triggering a major conflict and disconnection, acknowledge your loss and resulting emotion. The important part for marriage is to respond to your spouse in a way that builds connection.
Can you identify a time when you experienced a minor loss that went unrecognized?
What do you need to say to your spouse to restore connection?
Hint: You may need to do one or all of these.
1. Clarify what the loss was. Take time for quick introspection, then share the situation with your spouse.
2. Clarify your reaction, or emotion, to the loss.
3. Apologize to your spouse if your reaction was hurtful.
4. Ask for a do-over and tell your spouse you love them. A hug or kiss would be nice too.