What Do You Think About Your Spouse?

couple holding hands
Lately in my work with couples I have seen a problem that creeps up in relationships. Every relationship has conflict. To say there is no conflict in a relationship usually means that one of the two people is holding back and not sharing for the sake of peace. If you really probed under the surface you would find that the quiet person is actually not happy and does have issues that he/she feels needs to be dealt with but for one reason or another doesn't feel bringing those things up will be helpful. So we all have conflict in relationships.

Over time, unaddressed conflict can lead people to begin to guess at their spouses' motives and they start to characterize their spouse by those negative views. So I might think my spouse is selfish because she always seems to want to get her way. Being selfish is not a good thing and the more and more I think about my spouse in a negative light, the more I begin to see that negative trait in her life. She asks for something that I think is unreasonable I say to myself, "See there she goes being selfish again." She balks at doing something that I feel she should drop everything to do and it further reinforces my view that she is selfish. She says she doesn't feel like Chinese food after I make the suggestion that I would like to go there and that adds another thing to back up my negative perception. If this goes on over time, pretty soon I really believe she is selfish and feel like I have a bunch of evidence to prove that is true.

Now if I choose to let my perceptions about my spouses motives guide how I view my spouse it will begin to effect my love for my spouse and my desire to connect with her. Who wants to connect with someone they think is selfish? Let this go long enough and I start to think it is a justice issue and begin to fight everything my spouse is doing and challenge her because selfish people need to be confronted and challenged on their selfishness. Why should you let a selfish person get away with their selfishness? You can see how this could lead to the unraveling of a marriage!

But what if I chose instead to give my spouse the benefit of the doubt? What if I chose to see her as the loving person I married? What if I chose to check things out before assuming the worst? How would that shape my interactions with her?

Going back to my examples above what if I ask about what I see as her unreasonable request and realize that it really isn't that unreasonable at all given the circumstances? What if I find out the reason she didn't drop everything for my request is because she already has a commitment to someone whose need is greater than mine? What if I find out she didn't want to go to Chinese not because she just wanted her way but because Chinese made her sick last time and she wants to enjoy her time with me? The list of possibilities could go on and on. The point is, when I choose to see my spouse in a positive light and give her the benefit of the doubt instead of presuming she is guilty until proven innocent, my attitude changes and the conflict in my relationship goes down because I am not picking as many fights based on my negative reaction to everything she says or does.

So how do think about your spouse? Have you allowed your attitude to change to the point where your spouse is your enemy? If so how is that guiding and tainting your responses to everything he or she does? Can your spouse do anything without you seeing the negative in it? If so you need to adjust how you view your spouse and choose to see the best instead of the worst. Watch how doing that changes your attitude and interactions with your spouse and what that does to your feelings of love and connectedness in your marriage.
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