Marriage, Music, and Mental Models

Today, March 26, marks the 47th anniversary of my marriage to Deborah Anne Hurtt. It has been a good marriage and it keeps getting better. Rough patches in a marriage that couples, pastors, and marriage counselors speak of are not something we can identify with. Fights are not something we have. What few disagreements we have had were minor (color of paint to use in the bathroom, what restaurant to eat at, etc.) and have been calmly and sanely discussed and an agreement reached. We go to bed each night content. However, we realize not all marriages are thus.

This week, our oldest son, Justin, unrelated to our anniversary, texted a thought to us, his siblings and their spouses. The crux of which revolved around the role one’s world view or mental model played in a successful marriage. The basis for the thought was the message behind two songs. The first, “Hearts and Bones” by Paul Simon, written from a secular perspective about his marriage to Carrie Fisher and the second, “Dancing in the Minefields” by Andrew Peterson, written from a Christian perspective about his marriage to Jamie.

As Justin pointed out to us, both marriages had their problems but the songs tell of entirely different approaches and outcomes. For example, compare the perspective from these lines in “Hearts and Bones”

On the last leg of a journey
They started a long time ago
The arc of a love affair
Rainbows in the high desert air
Mountain passes
Slipping into stone

to these lines in “Dancing in the Minefields”

We went dancing in the minefields
We went sailing in the storm
And it was harder than we dreamed
But I believe that’s what the promise is for.

The former resonates with inevitable destruction or dissolution while the latter evokes expectancy and hope. In the end, the Paul/Carrie marriage lasted less than two years while the Andrew/Jamie marriage is still going strong after more than 20 years.

It is fairly clear that one’s mental models dictate how one behaves. If a child thinks green foods taste bad (as some of our grandchildren do) it is unlikely they will willingly eat spinach. If a person feels the world is against them and everyone is gunning for them, they most likely will enter every human transaction with suspicion and negativity. If any aspect of that interaction goes awry, it will always be the fault of the other.

 James Allen in his book As a Man Thinketh says,  “Man is made or unmade by himself; in the armory of thought he forges the weapons by which he destroys himself; he also fashions the tools with which he builds for himself heavenly mansions of joy and strength and peace.” Long before this, the man gifted with wisdom said, “As a man thinketh in his heart, so he is…” (The Bible, Proverbs 23:7).

I’m not suggesting that the Paul Simon/Carrie Fisher marriage could have been saved. What I am saying is that the mind model that writes, “Easy time will determine if these consolations/Will be their reward” stands less of a chance of survival than the one who writes, “‘Cause we bear the light of the Son of Man/So there’s nothing left to fear/So I’ll walk with you in the shadowlands/Till the shadows disappear.”

For lyrics to Paul Simon’s “Heart and Bones,” click here.
For lyrics to Andrew Peterson’s “Dancing in the Minefields,” click here.
To listen to “Heart and Bones,” click here.
To listen to “Dancing in the Minefields,” click here.

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