Beliefnet
Doing Life Together

ID-10070272David sat in my office confused. “I know we’ve had lots of family problems. My wife is mad at me for all kinds of reasons and some of them are legitimate. But I am trying to do nice things for my wife. Honestly, it doesn’t seem to matter. She doesn’t even notice. I don’t get it.”

David fails to see that the overall negativity of his relationship cancels out the good when it happens. I know that doesn’t sound fair, but an on-going negative relationship depletes the positives over time.

For example, in an overall positive relationship, if a husband comes home and forgets to bring the bread for dinner, the wife would probably think,”Oh, he must have had a lot on his mind and just forgot. No worries. We can do without bread.”

But if that same relationship is already very negative and the same thing happened, the wife would think, “See, he only thinks of himself. I can’t depend on him.”

In fact, research tells us that 50% of positive gestures go unrecognized in couples characterized by negativity. The reason–there is too much negativity in the bank. Even neutral actions are seen as negative.

So what can you do?

Go back to the basics. Work on the marital friendship, show admiration and respect for your partner, and most of all, be there when he or she tries to connect with you.

The challenge is to deposit positives into that emotional bank account. Over time, you can turn it around. But you have to be intentional. Pray for a change of heart and for your spouse to be responsive to your continued efforts.

Keep down the criticism, defensiveness and disrespect towards one another. Don’t turn away when frustrated. Stay present, calm yourself and talk.

Point out the positives about each other. Remember why you got together in the first place and try to recapture some of that good feeling! Be patient and eventually things will turn around, but you may need help restoring that friendship and expressing fondness. Afterall, it was probably the erosion of the positives that created the negativity you now experience.

For more help, We Need to Talk by Dr. Linda Mintle

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