Are You a Bridge Burner?

I used to be the best bridge burner east of the Mississippi. It was part of the all-or-nothing pattern of thinking I absorbed from living with my mother. She could burn a bridge while it was still just a tiny speck on the horizon, but that’s another story.

Burning bridges made me feel good. If the bridge was destroyed, I could check off whatever part of my life it represented and say, “Well, that’s done!” I had accomplished something! Then, I met my husband.

My husband is not a bridge burner. He is a bridge maintainer. He still has bridges from thirty years ago, intact, ready to be crossed at any time. When I learned this about him, I thought it proved that he was a disorganized thinker or someone who could not make up his mind. I thought it meant that he was weak, while I — who could turn a bridge to ashes with a wave of my hand — was strong and the master of my own destiny.

After we got married and began the “mind merge” that lies at the heart of true marriage, I began to see some of the advantages of keeping bridges intact. I realized that I don’t always know my own mind and that my mind might change. I also realized that keeping a bridge around doesn’t mean keeping it in the forefront of your mind. In other words, a bridge doesn’t have to be an elephant in the middle of the living room; it can be a knickknack on the bookcase in the corner.

Over the years, I have been burning fewer bridges, and I’m glad. Now, knowing that I haven’t destroyed something makes me feel good. Thanks to my wise spouse, I have learned that there’s an awful lot of space between all and nothing.


2 Responses so far »

  1. 1

    tom said,

    Well, I am a bridge-burner, I like to feel it has saved my inegrity yet, but would like to ease up on this really. It makes you feel sad to count the number of bridges you burned in just a short while.

  2. 2

    sgaissert said,

    Thanks for commenting, Tom. I used to think bridge-burning was a mark of integrity, but now I feel that my integrity belongs to me, and I don’t need to destroy something to hold onto it.

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