Editor’s Note: This is part 3 of Marriage Series
“Love changes over time, it becomes deeper, calmer.” ~ Helen Fisher
While people aren’t actually calmer, the fireworks of falling in love does calm down. When the passion calms down, what is left? The potential for a deeper, longer lasting connection.
I don’t think you’ll always feel connected or positive with your spouse, but you can become less allergic to the daily ebb and flow of your relationship. When you become more observant of the part you play in relationship patterns, you can nurture the present. Instead of daydreaming about the early years or hoping to change your spouse in the future, embrace what is.
You can deepen your marriage friendship by nurturing how you think and relate to your spouse now. John Gottman, marriage therapist, researcher, and author, is right on when he says that happy couples think more positive thoughts than negative thoughts about their spouse. The longer you are with your spouse, the more negative thoughts and patterns can develop.
8 Ways to Cultivate Positive Thinking About Your Spouse
We’ve been exploring how marriage changes and possibly erodes over time, but now it’s time to discuss how to reverse the erosion. That is, how to cultivate a more positive marriage friendship from the inside out. Remember, the goal isn’t to eliminate all negative thoughts, but to have more positive than negative ones!
1. Boost Your Self-Awareness: You won’t know what to work on if you can’t see what you are doing. Instead of relying on someone else to point out what you need to work on, become a great observer of yourself. Observe what it’s like to be married to you, to argue with you, and to try to get close to you.
2. Notice Negativity Generation: We often think that our spouse is causing our negative thoughts and feelings. But look for instances when you are creating negative thinking all on your own. Notice what inside you triggers the negative feelings about your spouse. It’s hard to get close to someone when you generate negative feelings about them.
3. Appreciate Differences: When you want to win or be right, it’s hard to be more open and neutral about differences. Instead you are trying to prove your way is better. Begin to see differences as just different, not better or worse.
4. Accept Responsibility for Your Part: Marriage conflict and emotional distance are co-created by both partners. Even when you find it hard to see your part, commit to accepting responsibility for part of the problem. The more awareness you develop about your part in co-created conflict and/or distance, the less negative you become about your mate.
5. Manage Your Emotions: Instead of trying to calm down or shape up how your spouse reacts, work on managing your own emotional reactions. Even if you can’t see your emotions, they are reacting quickly to what they perceive as a threat. Unless you tell them to chill out, they will rule your interactions.
6. Respectfully Speak Up: Many couples have learned to avoid difficult topics to lower tension because it works. Yet avoidance leads to distance. When you have a different idea than your spouse, represent your self by expressing your different thinking. Do this without pressuring your spouse to adopt what you think.
7. Resist Taking All the Blame: Another way people deal with tension is to accept all the blame for a problem. You are only part of the problem. Own your part without expecting your mate to take his or her part in the problem. Your mate can stay in denial if they want, but you don’t have to take all the blame.
8. Embrace Works in Progress: Embrace your marriage as an adventure, where two people are works in progress. It is normal to feel more or less connected from moment to moment or day to day. The important part is to keep observing, seeing, and trying to find a better way to relate the next time.
While I hope you find something useful in my blog, please don’t over-value my advice. I know what works for me but I am not the expert on you. Observe yourself and your own relationship. Work on what you see in yourself. Find out what works for you to feel more positive toward your spouse, so you can enjoy each other again!
What do you do or think that helps you have more positive thoughts and feelings about your spouse?
“Years subdue the ardor of passion, but in lieu thereof friendship and affection deep-rooted subsists, which defies the ravages of time, and whilst the vital flame exists.” ~ Abigail Adams, Wife of President John Adams
When your spouse wants to end the marriage, getting closer to your spouse is no longer an option. My next post will explore how to cope when one spouse wants the marriage season to end: Subscribe here to stay in the loop.
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Photo Credit: “Love is being stupid together” by Nattu