When my wife and I were in our deepest trouble, one of the “themes” was our relentless focus on the things that didn’t work.
I know all too well how horrible it feels when your life mate starts to see only things they don’t like. Things you screwed up (again). Sometimes it seems they are on a mission to prove that they are right (and you are wrong).
If you’re not careful, it’s easy to get caught in a vicious dance where both of you are focused on the wrong things about each other.
Indeed, couples who are in trouble frequently can’t remember many positive things about their life mate. Instead, they usually do things like this:
- They only see things that are “wrong,” of course, not with them, but with their partner.
- They give little to no credit or signs of appreciation for each other.
- One or both have the “it’s all on me” syndrome.
We Have No Scar to Show For Happiness
If I came into your living room, and painted a giant picture of your evil spouse on your biggest wall, would you want to live there? Hell no!
So why do you allow yourself to have one in your head?
Admittedly, some of us are quick to remember the bad and even quicker to forget the good. I surely was like that until just a few years ago.
It almost didn’t end well.
Therefore, if you want a healthy marriage, it’s extremely important to remind yourself frequently of things that do work.
Things you are grateful for.
How to Start Picking the Flowers
If you can feel a growing sense of negativity in your marriage right now (and even if you don’t), here’s some good news for you. No matter what you think of your spouse now, you can start turning things around today. You just have to start with your thoughts.
Your thoughts about your spouse directly affect your feelings towards them. It is your feelings that determine how you’re going to behave.
- Will you “attack” them, or give them the benefit of a doubt?
- Will you approach them mindfully or start criticizing them (again)?
If you have read my post The Silent Killer of Most Relationships, then you already know this.
Bad thoughts will make you feel bad, and you cannot be pleasant to your partner when you feel bad. Seeking a solution to a problem, while vilifying your partner in your head, is therefore impossible.
You can choose to focus your thoughts on things that don’t work and end up miserable. On the other hand, you can choose to focus on and celebrate things that do work (while working on the things that don’t).
The difference is huge.
Focus on What’s Working and Let the Rest Go
Here’s what you can do:
- Each day, find something about your spouse that you like or you’re grateful for. Make a habit of that.
- Be specific. For example, use the time at dinner to extend a loving thought. “I really liked how you…”, “I love when you…”, “I admire how you handled…”, “I liked your dress today…” It may seem too simple, but it will make their day.
- Set time aside to talk about your relationship. Reflect on the things in your relationship that you are grateful for. Do so while taking a walk or even when you’re cooking together.
- Reminisce about the good times together, like when you met, went on vacation, had good times with the kids. Talk about challenges you managed to overcome.
- Create a hall of fame. Find the photos of your most magical moments together, frame them nicely and hang them where you frequently pass by. After a week or so, your conscious mind won’t notice them anymore. But your subconscious will. It will be reminded of exciting and happy times you had and have together. Each and every day your subconscious will get a message from the wall that says, “Life is good. We are having a great time together!” Change the pictures every year to keep them fresh.
- Write down successes. Start a weekly journal. Doing so, you’ll become aware of the little things in life that brought you joy and happiness. Things you would otherwise forget. By keeping track of things you are grateful for, you’ll become happier and more optimistic. Think of it like mental candy. As time passes, your journal will be a nice memory of your path toward the intimate marriage and relationship you desire and deserve.
The Benefit of a Doubt
Lastly, things will not always go your way. As your first response, give your spouse the benefit of a doubt. If you are following at least some of the practices of happy couples, this shouldn’t be too hard. If you’ve been investing in regularly creating positive experiences together, it will not be difficult to put negative things behind you and focus on the good stuff.
Now, I want you to think for a second and be honest.
Are you focusing on what doesn’t work, rather than on what works? If so, you are leaving the most precious aspects of your relationship completely out of your mental picture.If you’re doing so right now, use the tips above and start turning things around. It’s never too late.
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