In 1983, Korean Airlines Flight 007 was tragically shot down after straying into Soviet airspace.The flight, in route from New York City to Seoul, Korea, had wondered off course.
But the deadly error was not wondering off course. Flights often deviate their course. Maybe it's an intentional deviation to avoid other aircraft or poor weather. Maybe it's unintentional as distracted pilots play on their laptops.
Either way, it's not the wondering off track that often kills people, but the lack of correction that does. Flight 007 had been off track for over five and a half hours before it was shot down.
Additionally, Flight 007 wondered farther and farther off course as time went on. At first they were less than 10 feet off track; an error that was easily correctible. But uncorrected, as time went on, they got father and farther off their planned and safe route.
Finally, Flight 007, now hundreds of miles off course, wondered unintentionally into enemy territory. An uncorrected error that tragically contributed to the death of 269 passengers and crew, including 22 children under age 12.
Amazingly, when the cockpit voice recorder was recovered, it suggested that the crew had no idea they were off course and had wandered into prohibited Soviet airspace.
While I am not suggesting I would have done any better piloting that flight , as a marital therapist I often use that tragic story when working with couples. And as we finish up the first month of 2011, it's a great time to review its lessons.
First, like Flight 007, and like many other flights, relationships get off track. That's not a problem. To expect your relationship to always be on track is not realistic.
Maybe you have a grumpy day now and again. Maybe you didn't go on a date all of January. Back when my father passed away in April, I was not at the top of my game as I went through the grieving process. Clearly this influenced my relationship, too.
But what successful pilots and couples do when off track is they make a course correction. How awesome it is for me as a couples therapist to work with couples interested in getting their relationship back on track. Unhappy relationships really can get better.
Unfortunately Flight 007, and unhappy couples alike, don't make a course correction. Then, after being off track far too long, they often find themselves in dangerous enemy territory.
Once a couple has wondered this far off track, for this long, the chance of getting back on track is much less likely. It's much safer, and easier, to make a course correction earlier, before it leads into the otherwise inevitable trouble ahead.
Further, information gathered after the crash suggested the crew of Flight 007 didn't know they were off course. Clearly it would have been difficult for them to correct an error they didn't even know they made.
As we start the second month of 2011, it would be wise for couples to double check if they're on course. By seeing where their couple relationship has traveled so far this year, couples can make a fairly accurate calculation of where they are headed in the months to come.
So look now and assure you are on course. Are you getting enough one-on-one time as a couple? Have you been on a date? Are you keeping up on each other's lives? Are you doing things to keep the friendship strong?
Don't like the results of your evaluation? Then make a course correction now while the year is still young.
Remember that Flight 007 didn't start off hundreds of miles off course and in dangerous territory; it started off just a few feet off course, and safe in US airspace. But over time, this small, uncorrected error grew to hundreds of miles and eventually led into enemy territory, and tragedy followed.
What happened to the people aboard Flight 007 was unfortunate. Many factors lead to the disastrous events of that September day. Yet we, even decades later, can take lessons from their misfortune as we keep our relationships on track in 2011. Perhaps the bigger tragedy would be not learning from their mistakes at all.
Remember, couple relationships are easier than you think, but harder than you act.
Mark Anderson, MS, LIMHP is a mental health therapist specializing in couples therapy at Oregon Trail Mental Health in Scottsbluff, along with Michael Leach, MS, LIMHP, Michelle Melroy, MA, LMHP, and Sarah Bartlett, MS,LMHP. To contact him call 635-2800 or visit online at http://www.panhandlecouples.com/