Rather than focusing on the problems, developers and designers saw the possibilities. They looked beyond the rust and rubble to the distinctive lines and patina.

My wife has that kind of eye. Christie can see beyond the obvious and into the possibility. She can integrate the potential into the problem. Recently, she excitedly asked if I'd go with her to see an old barge located in a marina not far from our home.

"Why do we want to see an old barge?" I said.

"Because it has possibilities. I saw a picture of it and noticed that it had wonderful lines and lots of interior room. It could be something."

"What do you mean?"

"I just mean it could be something. I don't know what it could be. You have to keep an open mind."

Keeping an Open Mind

An open mind? For a couple in crisis, this is like swimming across the Amazon River without fear of crocodiles and piranhas. When danger signs are everywhere, keeping an open mind goes against every instinct. Fleeing seems like a more reasonable option.

Sarah didn't want to keep an open mind. She wanted to form a kangaroo court right then and there, haul in her husband and the other woman, and find them guilty. She had no desire for patience, tolerance, or understanding.

To keep an open mind is nearly impossible when your relationship is held together by a thread, when you feel angry, hurt, and misunderstood. With emotions running rampant, insight and wisdom are in short supply.           

To her credit, Sarah came back for counseling. She struggled, however, with many challenging questions:

Did his affair really mean there was nothing to salvage?

What positive qualities in their marriage could she still count on?

Was her husband likely to repeat his infidelity?

How could she show her love for him when she was so angry and hurt by his behavior?

Your crisis might be different from Steven and Sarah's. Perhaps you're not struggling with sexual unfaithfulness. Perhaps you're besieged by a lack of safety in your marriage, a lack of emotional warmth and affection, or an atmosphere of bitterness and hostility that never seems to abate.

You may be struggling as much as Sarah to keep an open mind. Being hurt again and again creates an environment of antagonism and animosity, and you've begun to see your mate in a negative light. You're in a crisis, and you've lost the ability to remember the good things about your marriage.

Remember

When a marriage is flooded with negative emotions, as is the case during most crises, we forget the good qualities that attracted us to our mate in the first place. Our positive feelings are obliterated by so many hurts and hurdles that we can hardly find our way back to where we once were. We distance ourselves from the positive feelings in order to survive. This is a natural aspect of denial.

The good news is that the positive feelings are often still there, but they're buried beneath the ruin of harsh words, degrading actions, and distant demeanor. We become separated from what has been good and vibrant in our marriage, and now, striving to maintain an open mind, we must remember. We must reattach ourselves to those wonderful qualities that currently lay dormant. These positive feelings, often razor thin, can help form the foundation of the bridge that allows us to find our way back to our mate.

Just like those designers and visionaries who looked at the aged buildings in downtown Seattle and Tacoma and saw vibrant shops, lofts, cafes, and walking malls, you must work hard to remember the beauty that lies beneath the ashes in your marriage. Rather than rehearsing the pain that screams, "There's nothing left to save," you must force yourself to remember and reconnect yourself to the good that lies buried in the hidden places of your marriage.