Children are happiest when their parents get along. Seeing mom and dad talking, bantering, smiling at least most of the time brighten the day for them. It beats having ice-cream after school everyday! Getting along with your spouse requires interpreting his or her actions in a way that is less likely to cause friction and more likely to enhance your love, fondness and affection for each other.
Raise your hand if you ever caught yourself having negative thoughts about your spouse. You’re not alone. Failed errands, missed promises – these are some examples that can cause disagreements between spouses. If you find yourself overwhelmed in a negativity cycle, you can choose to be kind by taking the following 3-step strategy:
First Step: Catch yourself red-handed. Be aware of the negative thoughts that race through your mind.
Second Step: Challenge negative thoughts. Often, a negative thought may be sparked by a single action or event. Ask yourself: Is there any justification in thinking negatively of my spouse? Could there be another explanation of the failed errand or missed promise?
Third Step: Replace negative thoughts with good thoughts. The human mind likes to have explanations and tends to jump into conclusions. If necessary, talk it out with your spouse to clear the air if you have doubts about his or her words or actions.
You have everything to gain and nothing to lose from the habit of thinking well of your spouse. What you stand to gain include peace of mind, a more energetic you and tranquility. The opposite is also true. When negativity takes hold of your relationship, anxiety and stress can only hurt you.
Can your marriage improve if you’re the only who changes? Yes, it can, because your spouse cannot fight alone. It will be difficult for your spouse to start and sustain an argument without you playing an active role in it. However, being the only one who changes also requires more patience, perseverance and time on your part. But it’s worth it. It means you are presenting yourself with words and actions that your spouse isn’t used to. It’s not a magic pill to catapult your marriage into heaven overnight. But over time, your spouse will take notice of the change in you and respond in a way that is likely to bring your marriage to a happier level. Don’t worry if nothing seems to happen in the beginning. The Law of Cumulative Effects says that little things make a difference in the long run.
Focus on one issue at a time. As the saying goes, “A problem well-stated is a problem half-solved.” You may be going in circles when you don’t agree on what the real issue is. Is it something to do with housework, money, in-laws or all of these fused together? Arguments arise because both of you don’t see the same thing the same way. Guess what: It’s OK! Have you heard of the term “creative tension”? It means that when two or more people disagree, they are forced to look for solutions and ideas which they might not have thought of before.
If and when you need to raise a matter of concern, there may be moments when you’re truly angry and you feel like venting it all out. Don’t. Choose to be tactful. There’s a difference between being assertive (you’re more likely to be heard) and being rude (you’re more likely to be incomprehensible and ignored). Choose to be kind. It isn’t smart to lash out at your spouse, throwing things around or slamming the door in your spouse’s face, pushing him or her into a corner. Most likely you will provoke a defensive reaction. Putting your spouse down might seem to work for a while but in the long run, focus is shifted to how emotional you have been, not the problem itself. Negativity, harshness and sarcasm tend to plant the seed of resentment. You’re not being dishonest when you choose to restrain yourself. You’re just handling it smarter.
Adapted from The Kindness Miracle.
Featured image by Alex Green.