Relationship advice: stop the negativity and build a better relationship

Posted in Marriage.

New love seems to cradle and carry couples for a time—magnifying all that is good about your partner and your future together. We now know that relationships go through a series of phases over the years—some that can challenge the very bond that holds you together.

It’s interesting how people describe their new partner to friends and family, and how these perceptions can change over time. Unfortunately, some of the very traits that initially draw people to one another are the same traits that are later perceived as problematic. Here are some I’ve heard over the years:

Left column is an early perception of one’s partner; Right column is the same trait perceived much differently:

“Quirky”………………………………………………”Annoying”

“Expressive”…………………………………………”Overly talkative”

“Exuberant”…………………………………………”Highly emotional”

“Passionate”…………………………………………”Down-right opinionated”

“Pensive”.…………………………………………….”Self-absorbed; unyielding”

“Easy-going”…………………………………………”Naïve; immature”

“Carefree”…………………………………………….”Ditzy; uncaring”

“Serious”……………………………………………..”Stern; unfeeling”

“Driven”………………………………………………”Rigid; obsessed”

Why this is the case is up for debate. One thing is for certain:

Negative feelings are more salient and linger longer than positive feelings. These negative feelings have a profound influence on your perceptions of others—especially your spouse or partner.

If I asked you to quickly recall something positive that happened to you over the last several months or something upsetting that happened, it’s likely that you’d have quicker mental access to the painful or upsetting experience.

What does any of this have to do with your marriage or relationship?

If you do not actively work on acknowledging and cherishing the positive aspects of your marriage or relationship, sooner or later the negatives will grow like a cancer and take over.

Negative feelings act like a negativity magnet that seeks similar energy. So when you’re in a bad mood, or feeling down about something, you are more likely to ignore positive experiences, while highlighting all that’s wrong with life. When you’re in a bad mood, relatively neutral circumstances can even be perceived with a biased, negative slant.

While your thoughts influence your emotions, your emotions also influence your thoughts and perceptions.

This is why it’s important for couples to cool off after an argument before trying to come to some resolution. If not, negative feelings on both sides will continue to create biased perceptions and everything that you don’t like (or can’t stand) about your partner will scream for attention.

Rule of thumb: You cannot hold opposing thoughts about your spouse or partner at the same time. At any particular moment you might think he’s either a total jerk or Mr. wonderful—but he can’t be both at the same time.

So when you work on creating more mental space for positive thoughts about your partner, less room exists for negativity. And when you work on focusing on the positive aspects of your relationship (and your life), you elevate your mood and you will be more likely to overlook (or at least not harp on) certain flaws that exist in your partner.

A fight that could have escalated—meet Eric:

Like all of us, Eric gets into arguments with his wife, Brianna, from time to time. And like all of us, he feels righteous and justified in his position during conflict and sees his wife as unreasonable. But Eric fell upon a simple yet powerful way to overcome the toxic effects that can linger after an argument—he was able to shift his mood and create a positive state of mind and before he knew it, the argument didn’t drive his reactions.

After a spat one evening, the couple went to sleep angry at each other. Before work the next morning Eric kept reviewing the argument in his mind and worked himself up all over again—while brushing his teeth he drew up his mental blueprints for a grudge that would probably last the entire day: the silent treatment, followed up by eye rolling, a few sighs and some door-slamming thrown in for effect.

Before heading out the door, Eric chec

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