United Airlines marriage

I’ve gotten virtually no work done for the last two days.

I’ve been riveted by the story of the Aviation Security Guards in Chicago violently dragging a 69-year-old male physician from a United Airlines plane because he didn’t want to give up his rightly paid for seat, where he had already been seated, so that United employees could fly to Louisville.

 At first I thought that I was riveted because I identified with the doctor.

My family and I fly a lot and we’ve been bumped. We’ve been seated in airplanes that had to be emptied out because the airline decided they needed the plane elsewhere. I’ve even taken that $400 or $800 voucher a few times.

And I’ve found that airline employees are some of the rudest people on earth. When your flight is cancelled and it’s the airline’s fault, do they apologize? Do they walk up and down the line of customers trying to keep you informed of what’s going on? Do they give you free food and a comfortable place to sit? Do they bring in more staff to help with the problem?

Nope. They make you stand in a tremendously long line with hundreds of other people from your flight for several hours as the two people at the ticket counter work at the pace of molasses to rebook everyone.

I don’t take things like this very well. I get upset about the “principle of the thing.” So as I was watching the video of this poor man on United, I was texting my girls saying, “You know that would have been me. You know I would have refused to go just because of the principle of it.” And they both agreed.

But the more I think about it, the more I think the real lesson here is that inside us all there’s a little bit of United Airlines.

When we get focused on our agenda, we ruin relationships

United Airlines had an agenda: Get as much profit as possible. They needed those four flight crew in a different airport so they could operate a plane; if they didn’t get there, a whole plane would have been disrupted. Better to disrupt four in Chicago than a whole planeload later.

We all have agendas. Maybe it’s things we want our kids to do, or our boss, or even our husband. We want things a certain way. And when we get focused on what we want, we often end up hurting those around us.

When we get focused on our agenda, we stop seeing the humanity in others

Do you know why those four people in Chicago (and especially that physician) mattered more than the planeload of people at the other end? Because those four people are people, too. And people are not just numbers to use or numbers to crunch. They deserve respect.

Here’s what I’ve seen in marriage, though: When we get disappointed in our spouse, we stop seeing him as a person with needs and feelings and we start seeing him as an obstacle to our happiness.

When we get disappointed in our spouse, we stop seeing him as a person with needs and feelings and we start seeing him as an obstacle to our happiness.

I’m thinking of one relationship I know where the wife is incensed that her husband works so much and often does double shifts and never helps with their kids (and they have a bunch under the age of six). She’s super-tired and really misses her old life when she could go out with friends and do fun things. So she’s constantly angry that everything is her responsibility. When her husband has to work on the weekend, she complains to no end. And a few months ago, when he wanted to play golf on a Saturday, she almost had a conniption.

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But what she’s not seeing is that he has needs, too. And the reason he’s working so many double shifts is that she insisted they buy a bigger house, which they did, but that put them in debt. He didn’t think it was wise financially, but she really wanted it. He’s trying to keep her happy, but she doesn’t see it, because all she wants is time to herself. So every time he does something that takes him away—even if it’s for work—she gets angry. And that’s made him not want to be home.

She’s forgotten that he may have emotional needs, too. She doesn’t see that if she said thank you sometimes and asked how rough his day was and simply expressed how much she appreciates the house, it could change the whole dynamic.

She just doesn’t see it. She simply sees him as always wrong and a really bad father.

And the sad thing is, I know that women who do the same thing who are reading this likely won’t even see themselves in this. When you are so focused on your agenda and you’re so sure you’re right, you get an incredibly huge blind spot where you don’t see what you’re doing to other people.

Do we really get this? Seriously, I have listened to a good friend of mine tell me everything that is wrong with her husband for years, but lately we had it out and I forced her to see that her husband was actually trying hard—she just wasn’t seeing it. And I think it finally hit her, that she’d been ungrateful for all his efforts over the years to make her happy.

When we spend years focused on our agenda, we sometimes do terrible things we never dreamed we’d do

After my son-in-law viewed that United video, he asked, “Why didn’t the outraged passengers just get in the aisle and block them from dragging off the guy?”

Here’s my theory: When you listen to the video, the passengers are shocked that this actually happened. Even though they had heard the crew try to get the man to leave the plane, and even though the security guards had boarded, no one actually believed that he would be dragged off like that.

Do you remember what happened with Flight 93 on September 11? (of course you do). The first three planeloads of people obeyed the hijackers, like they’d been told. But with Flight 93, the passengers and crew knew what had happened on the previous three planes, and it changed everything. So they decided to fight back.

I have a feeling that if ANY airline EVER called in security to remove a peaceful, law-abiding passenger again, the passengers would revolt. We’ve all seen what can happen now, so it’s become that possibility we never would have imagined before.

But when we become laser-like focused on our own agenda, we start to do things we could never have imagined ourselves doing. We become grumpy and surly. We become rude, and that’s just not who we are (I’ve heard spouses say such cutting things to each other that they would never dream of saying to anyone else. It’s not who they are—but their agenda has taken over, and they’ve become a different person with their spouse).

And I’ve seen people get into emotional and physical affairs, after never believing they’d be capable of that, because they’ve been so focused on how badly their spouse is treating them that they have no awareness of how badly they are treating their spouse.

The Bible calls it hardening your heart. Beware, because it can happen to anyone as soon as our agenda takes over. And if you fear that lately you’ve been hardening your heart towards your spouse, then that’s okay—because awareness is the first step to recovery. Pray that God will help you see clearly. Pray that you will be able to see your own shortcomings. Learn how to seek out the good in him and call it out. Become the kind of person you actually want to be again. And don’t let yourself become a caricature of the very thing you’re accusing your husband of being.
Used with permission. Sheila Wray Gregoire has been married for 25 years and happily married for 20! She loves traveling around North America with her hubby in their RV, giving her signature “Girl Talk” about sex and marriage. Sheila’s written 8 books about sex and marriage, including To Love, Honor and Vacuum and 9 Thoughts That Can Change Your Marriage. Read her blog at To Love Honor an Vacuum.

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