A copy machine is designed with a default setting: push the button and it automatically makes one black and white copy. If you want something different, you must intentionally select the settings that you want: more copies, double-sided, enlarged, color. etc. This may work well with copy machines, but not so well with marriages and families. The default setting for many marriages and families is that of minimal connection, meals on the run, unplanned and heated exchanges about schedules, chores, yard work, job or school stress, school events, and social engagements. Default mode means the marriage/family is left to drift to whatever state of equilibrium it can find. It’s the relationship equivalent of the Titanic: slowly going down and everyone trying to find a way off or go down with it. This is what can lead couples to begin contemplating divorce and children to engage in behaviors that are troublesome and harmful.
The opposite approach to default is acting intentionally—acting on those core values that really matter. You may believe that being intentional is too hard, takes too much effort, or is impractical in your situation. These are excuses without basis. It takes no more effort or time to read a bedtime story or sing a bedtime song to a child; or spend 20 minutes in thoughtful conversation with your teenager or partner than it does to run through all the channels on the TV once or twice, or to check out the last dozen posts on your favorite social media site. “But I’d rather….” Yes, but you signed up to be a partner and a parent. Intentional means doing the things that count for reasons that count, not massaging your own self-interest. So, put down the remote, turn off the phone, the computer, the video game; sign-off of social media, and re-engage in the life of your partner and family. It is neither hard nor time consuming and the best part is that the reward for doing so means a secure marriage, a better relationship with your kids, and a happier you!