Short-Term vs. Long-Term Thinking
Pursuing happiness is short-term thinking. It concentrates on right now. Right now I’d be very happy if I had a big piece of German chocolate cake. And then after I eat that very large piece of German chocolate cake, I’d be happy if I had just a little more. So I’ll eat another half piece. Fifteen minutes later, I’ll be miserable because my stomach hurts. And then in the morning when my jeans are too tight, the guilt sets in. Long-term thinking is different. This mindset understands that passing on that dessert means better-fitting jeans, and that is the avenue to self-respect and good health. It is making a decision to pass on something that will make me happy temporarily to obtain something much more satisfying in the long run. Long-term thinking is realizing that when I am happy, I celebrate it because there will be seasons that I will not be happy. And yet I’m okay with it.
Long-term thinking in our marriages requires looking at the goal: to still have a thriving marriage at the end of our lives. Actively pursuing a satisfying, contented marriage means investing in your relationship over the years in happy and not-so-happy times.
Long-term thinking doesn’t blow things out of proportion when you have a spat this week after connecting on a deep level last week. Relationships ebb and flow, and short-term thinking will create drama. “You never…” is the accusation when, in actuality, he does at times just not enough for you or not enough at the moment. Drama gets tiresome when it pops up again and again. It takes out large withdrawals from your marital bank account. In contrast, long-term thinking relaxes a bit and doesn’t panic. Long-term thinking stops taking cues from whatever doesn’t feel right at the moment and tries to understand the big picture.
Put Fear in Its Place
The most common thing cops’ wives hear from non-cops are questions about how we deal with fear. It’s the first thing thought about once a loved one decides law enforcement is the career they want to do, and it’s the most obvious. Those on the outside looking in assume that we worry all the time and the circumstances dictate to what degree. When Brent promoted to lieutenant and was relegated to a desk, our non-cop friends figured that I wouldn’t worry as much because he was out of the danger zone. They were surprised to hear that I didn’t worry as a lifestyle, that I had dealt with my fear long ago.
The first time I felt fear about my husband’s job was about nine months in. He came home one morning and told me how he and his partner came upon a gang fight in a bad part of Los Angeles. Being the eager rookies they were, they stopped, called for back up, pulled their guns, and yelled freeze. And those who were fighting did freeze, unbelievably enough. All except for one, who took off running. At that point Brent’s partner gave chase, leaving Brent alone with twenty armed gang members, having only a six-bullet revolver and a shotgun. It was at that point he realized that the situation could go really bad. He was outnumbered in people and in weapons. They could’ve turned on him in a heartbeat, … but they didn’t.
It seemed like forever, but soon he heard the cavalry coming; others arrived, black and whites screeching in from all directions. Gang members were sorted out, handcuffed, and taken to jail. Brent’s partner came back too with the fleeing suspect in custody. Turns out one of the bad guys was wanted for rape. It all turned out well, but the fear factor was definitely there.
Brent laughed about it—and at first, so did I. But it scared me. I started counting down the “what ifs,” and fear crept in with them. Honey, we’re not in Chico anymore! He’s fighting real gangs with real guns. The danger was near, and it was very real.