Pick the Flowers, not the Weeds

We Have No Scar to Show For Happiness

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.

Negativity in Marriage

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).

Sometimes it feels like your spouse is deliberately overlooking the overwhelming number of things that do work. The scary part is that even the most loving couples can get hung up on negative beliefs about each other pretty easily, without even noticing.

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!

Focus on what is working in marriage

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.

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.

Your Turn

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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4 thoughts on “Pick the Flowers, not the Weeds

  1. Doing this would give my husband the signal that he doesn’t have to change his behavior at all…..I’ve tried. Blowing smoke up someones’s ass is not the solution for people who are unaware and self absorbed in the first place….they’ll just agree with you about the good things about them and never change that which needs changing.

    • nants, I understand what you’re saying. I’ve been there myself. It’s very hard to be forthcoming and forgiving when you don’t see something in return. The thing is, very likely you’re both thinking the same, just in different areas of your life. So you might be both waiting on each other. And life goes on. That’s the only thing that you can’t recover. Time. Is it worth waiting? What I have found to be a good (but not the only) approach is baby steps. Doing a nice little thing for our spouse, just because. Like a simple smile. A “thank you”. The little things. Without expecting anything back. Persisting a little while. See how it goes. In any case, it can’t be good if you (or both) focus on the negative things. Doing so you are effectively conveying a message to your spouse constantly “YOU ARE NOT ENOUGH”. This is a miserable life. Don’t do it. Thanks for your comment! Truly yours, Marko

  2. My perspective on this is rather unusual. In 2002 (we think) a benign tumor began growing in my right frontal lobe, which wasn’t diagnosed and removed until 2012, at which point it had grown to two inches across. I call 2002-2012 my “lost decade,” because I remember very little of what happened during those years. But what I DO remember is instructive. I remember the deaths of 2 friends. I remember staying up late one night to watch the SS Columbia land and seeing it split into pieces instead. Being tired all the time. Having a chance to go to a science fiction convention that I REALLY wanted to attend, and needing a wheel chair to make it happen, and being unable to find one.

    What I don’t remember? Sitting with my husband and watching “Quantum Leap” marathons. Walks in the park. Laughing, and loving, and having fun. The little every day joys that make life worth living. All of these things HAPPENED, but I can’t remember them.

    I think that traumatic memories are created differently from other memories. I think they go straight to long-term memory without making a stop in short term memory first, and when they do they have a big red flag attached that says “Important! Never delete! IMPORTANT!!!” This really does make sense; those are the memories that would have kept your ancestors from camping next to a dry river bed when there’s a thunderstorm upstream, or getting between a mother bear and her cub, or deciding that they could take on a mastodon single-handedly. The problem arises when traumatic memories attach themselves to the relationships that we value, and we need to learn new ways of dealing with this biological tendency to emphasize the importance of painful experiences.

    • Hey Margret. I hope this finds you well. It’s has been a long time since we’ve heard each other, right? I’m still grateful for your comments to my second book The Five Little Love Rituals when I was preparing to publish it. Thank you for your contribution and your comment. It’s true. Traumatic experiences can have a great impact on our lives. Cheers, Marko