Do you believe the best about your spouse, or believe the worst?
If I were to ask you if you generally believe that your future spouse (or current spouse/significant other if you are already in a relationship) has your best interest in mind or your worst, what would you say?
My guess is that 99% of you would answer “best” to both of those questions. When we take a second to answer these questions, we realize that the person we choose to be in a lifelong relationship with is someone who looks out for our best, and comes from a place of love for us. Based on that knowledge, we would also likely state that we too have their best interest in mind, and would believe the best about them.
And yet, when we find ourselves in conflict with our partner, we often react or respond in such a way that shows we think they are purposefully out to get us, trying to hurt us, or we assume the worst about them and their view of us.
One of the keys to maintaining a healthy relationship is being aware of when we are tempted to trade “best” for “worst”. We must consciously choose to keep “best” as our viewpoint for our response to our spouse, and how we interpret their response to us.
Gottman talks about this as having more positives than negatives in our relationship “emotional bank account”. The idea is that, if we have a positive view of our partner and their actions towards us, then one instance that does not line up with that view will be more easily dismissed. For example, lets take a minor issue like our spouse not taking out the trash. If you have been building a long list of negatives about your spouse and have begun to expect that they are purposely not taking out the trash just to spite you, this one small situation can blow up into the war of a century! However, if you have been focusing on the positive aspects of your spouse, and are choosing to believe the best in them and their intentions towards you, it becomes much easier to dismiss this small mishap as being out of character or just normal forgetfulness – not a strategic move to stick it to you.
As you continue to make positive strides towards Choosing Love that Lasts, be aware of the sometimes subtle messages you tell yourself regarding your spouse and their intentions. Create your own intentionality around believing the best in your spouse, and assuming the best rather than the worst when perceiving their actions and reactions. Creating this habit at the beginning of a relationship will save you many hours of working to undo this damaging viewpoint down the road.
What are some of the “bests” about your spouse that you want to intentionally remind yourself of today?