“You have a tiny cavity forming in between your upper left molars.”
When I lay back in the dental chair, I thought I was going through a routine checkup. It has been several years since I had a cavity, and I had little expectation of having one now. My dental checkups are usually quick, painless, and even somewhat relaxing.
I thought: But my teeth are perfect! The dentist and hygienist always comment on how nice my teeth look – how straight they are. Sure, they are not as white as they used to be, but they still look pretty awesome, I think! Cavity?! How can this shining example of dental excellence have a flaw?
Cavities are just plain annoying. First of all, you have to get used to the idea that something in your mouth is decaying – as in rotting. Yuck! Then you have to inconvenience yourself and make an appointment for a filling, have your mouth numbed, and then try to eat afterwards. Yep, they are annoying.
Annoying when they are small and easy to fix, but painful and significant when they are given the chance to grow.
As I was lying back and getting used to the aggravating idea that my teeth were imperfect and that I was going to have to come all the way back to the dentist for a filling, my relationship coach mind immediately thought of an analogy. (I really cannot help it. My mind just goes there. ~wink~)
Flossing. Who actually enjoys it? Not me! If I get something stuck in my teeth, I am happy to have floss handy; but, when it is late and I am ready for bed, I just want to brush and slip under the covers. Flossing takes too long.
Many of us, myself included, take the same approach to relationships. Yes, taking time to clear the air is healthy, but it takes too long. We just want to patch our communication up a bit, put smiles on our faces, and move on with the pleasant or demanding parts of life.
This is just one example. There are several preventative care habits we should all start, but instead we comfort ourselves by saying, “We are going to be okay. We are solid. A few unresolved conflicts will not bring us down. We love each other.”
Well, that is the same approach I have taken to my teeth all these years. “I should floss, but I do not want to. Maybe I will start flossing soon. I should. Well, everyone says my teeth look good. My last several checkups were stellar. Flossing must not be that important.” But, as today’s appointment reaffirmed, if we are lazy in our upkeep, it will eventually catch up with us.
If we are lazy in the upkeep of our relationship, it will catch up with us too!
Preventing Relationship Decay
Flossing may have seemed annoying to me all those sleepy night, but not as annoying as getting a filling! We would all be better off if we focused on preventing “disaster” rather than putting off good habits in hopes that misfortune will not notice us. Here are four ways to prevent relationship decay from forming between you and your sweetie!
- Brush – Brushing is the given. This is what gets the bad taste out of our mouths and gives us the sense that our mouths are clean. We can feel so clean after brushing, in fact, that we can psych ourselves into believing we are done with our routine – that nothing else is necessary. Brushing is like the talking, enjoying each other’s company, and basic showing of affection between couples. All relationships need daily “brushing” and few people would argue that it is necessary for relational health.
- Floss – This is where we work the gunk out from between our teeth. We may not know it is there if we ignore this step, but it will eventually cause damage if not removed. In your relationship, there are weeds, small foxes, or tiny resentments that form. Sometimes they are so small, they are not easily recognizable. We have to look for them. Talk. Flesh out our issues and pull them out from between us. It takes a little time and it is not the most fun in the world, but it keeps out dangerous particles, helps with “bad breath,” and safeguards against decay.
- Gargle – Gargling with mouthwash is kind of fun, as long as you do not use the crazy hot kind. Swishing a fluoride rinse around in your mouth gets to those places brushing and flossing cannot reach. It cleanses the mouth of debris. I would liken this step to having fun together. Laughing together. Singing together. The lighter side. It is a step many ignore, but it completes the routine. Without it, your relationship will not operate at its best. We can take great care to clean the “food particles” out of our relationships, and we can keep up with our daily routine, but we need fun and relaxation to shake up our relationships and keep them fresh.
- Get Regular Checkups – Last but not least, relationships need checkups just like our teeth need checkups. When the hygienist and dentist shine that light in my face, they see the inside of my mouth in a way I have never seen it. There is stuff going on in there right now which I have no knowledge of – but my dentist and hygienist are well acquainted with the nooks and crannies of my teeth and gum line. Likewise, couples who annually see a Christian counselor or relationship coach once a year are not weak; they are wise. They are saying, “We want to be healthy. There may be areas in our relationship that need work of which we are not even aware. Ask us the tough questions. Peer into our world and help us discover ways we can improve.”
I have already flossed a few times today and brushed twice. That is what happens when I get a negative report from the dentist. However, I am glad they caught the problem early before it turns into a much deeper issue!
As you brush and floss your teeth tonight, think about your relationship and determine within yourself to create good habits together that will keep your relationship healthy for many years to come. We only get one set of teeth and we need to take care of them. I am sure you can finish the analogy. ~smile~
How will you prevent relationship decay in your courtship and future marriage?