Q: Over the past few months, I’ve noticed that I interpret my husband’s behaviour in a much more negative light. Every little thing he does bothers me. Does familiarity really breed contempt?
A: The assumptions we make about our spouse can determine the level of happiness we experience in marriage. When two people get frustrated with one another, but the issue is not dealt with, the tendency is for each person to develop his or her own conclusion about why the problem is happening. This is what is known as “negative beliefs.” In other words, a husband or wife interprets the behaviour of his or her spouse to be much more negative than the spouse intended. Whatever you believe about another person (positive or negative), you will find evidence of that belief in everything he or she says or does.
To fight negative thinking, it’s important for couples to give each other the benefit of the doubt and to be aware of what their mates do that is positive and respond accordingly. Your spouse is already doing some positive things, but you may not be totally aware of them. Try to notice things your husband already does that please you. This will force you to break through the barriers that obstruct your vision of his good deeds.
We’re not advocating unrealistic, “Pollyanna” thinking. We can’t sit around hoping that our mate will change truly negative behaviours. However, there can be great freedom in considering that your husband’s motives, even in those things that annoy you, are more positive than you might have previously acknowledged.
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