This question is at the heart of true happiness in your love relationship or marriage. Whichever way you habitually lean can also mean the difference between a mostly frustrating and miserable or a mostly fulfilling and joyful life.
A defining moment can be some brief occurrence that only happens once, but leaves a noticeable mark. It’s something that you carry around with you always. You might carry it silently or even hide its effects or it may be impossible for you to conceal.
This could be a tragic or traumatic experience from your childhood such as a major car accident that left visible scars or sexual abuse that left emotional ones.
A defining moment can also be an ongoing condition or series of events. Discovering that your partner (who may now be an ex) has been lying to you or cheating certainly changes the path you’re on. Even if you stay together, nothing will ever be the same again.
And that’s really what makes a defining moment what it is…
It leaves you changed. You step away from that particular experience different than you were before.
Defining moments aren’t always painful or negative, of course. But many of us tend to give most of our attention to those that are.
Yes, we remember the sweet first kiss we shared with our spouse and that’s a defining moment too. Unfortunately, the memories we return to again and again are usually those of perceived betrayal, disappointment, failure, drama and pain. It’s those moments that we allow to mold our present and future and maybe even paralyze us too.
This is why it’s seems so difficult to trust (ourselves and others) and why we’re always on guard and waiting for “the other shoe to drop.” We’ve allowed a particular experience to grip, hold and control. We helplessly react.
You may already be living the effects of letting past painful moments define you and what’s possible in your relationship and life.
When you look over at your partner, your vision is clouded by what happened before. You expect him to disapprove and put you down. You’re waiting for her to leave you any day (even though you don’t want her to).
The power you give your defining moments comes through in how you speak and act and makes it impossible to be as trusting, close and happy as you’d like to be. Love cannot thrive when you let your past moments define you.
Treat your defining moments with respect.
This is not an invitation to deny your past. It happened and it’s equally unhealthy for you to pretend things were otherwise. Accept it and honor it.
Regard your past– with your partner and all the way back to your childhood– with respect. It’s cliche to say that everything you’ve experienced up to this point has made you who you are today, but it’s true. It has!
If it were not for the unkind words your parents spoke to you, the way your first boyfriend dumped you and the lies your partner told, you would be a very different person than who you are right now. Find the lessons in your defining moments and open yourself up to valuing what they’ve helped you learn along the way– even if the biggest lesson has been what you do NOT want more of in your life.
Like all of us, you probably have a lot more learning still to do, but these experiences have paved the way for what you’re on your way to becoming.
Widen your gaze to include ALL defining moments.
An expanded view is required if you are to create the kind of long-lasting and happy relationship you want. Do acknowledge what’s happened in the past AND open your awareness as wide as you can go.
Notice that it’s not only been the heartbreaks and rotten experiences that have shaped the course of your life, there’s been a whole lot of other stuff in there too.
Recognize the people who treated you with kindness and who valued your unique gifts. Think about the affirming and positive moments you’ve had that may not have seemed life-altering at the time, but provided you with a foundation and support that’s helped you along the way.
Be sure to apply this expanded view to your relationship too. While your partner may have slipped up, made mistakes or been insensitive, how has he or she also been right where you needed? In what ways does your partner show up in your relationship that you like and that makes your life better?
These are important moments too and they can be just as defining as the ones you don’t like. Practice shining a light on the “good” stuff your partner has done over the years and see what shifts within you and in your relationship when you do.