How would you describe what it is like to be around a consistently negative person? The kind of person who longs for rain on a sunny day and for whom the glass is always half empty. Wouldn’t you agree that an individual like that can be a difficult person to be around?
In our work with couples we have seen marriages crash and burn because one or both persons have chosen to focus their negative attitude toward their spouse. Even after they are confronted with the issue, they continue their negative behavior. They refuse to change their attitude and accentuate the positive in their marriage.
Marriage researchers, John Gottman and Nan Silver, in their book, “What Makes Marriage Work?” write that “…positivity must outweigh the negativity by five to one.” While you can’t control your spouse’s attitude toward you, there are some things you can do to keep your attitude positive toward your spouse and your marriage.
Here are two questions to ask yourself:
1. Am I critical toward my spouse?
If you aren’t sure, ask your spouse if they think you are critical of them. Do they feel like they are never good enough for you? Does it seem like they can’t “get things right” and do things the way you want them done?
This can place a heavy burden on your mate. They may retreat to other places and relationships where they get positive reinforcement: gaming, friends, work, ministry, etc.
We’ve encouraged spouses who struggle with criticism and perhaps perfectionism to ask themselves, “Are they doing __________ (whatever it may be) at least 80% as good as I would like?” If they are, then learn to be ok with that. The remaining 20% becomes a buffer of grace.
Train yourself to look for what is right. Remember the statistic by Dr. Gottman above? Give yourself permission to give constructive criticism AFTER you have verbalized five positive observations of your spouse. This will help retrain your perspective. It will become a helpful filter to keep out overwhelming criticism from your marriage.
2. Do I dream of being married to someone else?
This kind of yearning reveals discontent in your marriage that can become a foothold for the Enemy to sow seeds of division. Fantasizing about a different marriage is like adding an accelerant to a fire. The flames of discontent begin to consume your mind. As a result, you project an attitude of disapproval to your spouse. They begin to feel like they simply can’t win.
You can counter these dreams by choosing to take every thought captive. As soon as you head down that path of dreaming, immediately stop yourself. Say out loud, “In the name of Jesus I reject those thoughts as not from God. I choose to think positively about my spouse.”
Then ask God to help you identify traits or character qualities about your spouse for which you are thankful. Over time, those positive thoughts about who your spouse REALLY is will remove the roots of discontent.
Starting with these two questions can place your marriage on a healthier, more positive track for growth. Stay positive toward your spouse and build your marriage!
Just for fun, here’s an OLD song with a great message!