It just seems so natural to recognize and dwell on the negative. It can be like the Princess and the Pea. All we recognize is the irritation and nothing else.
The biggest enemy to creating and maintaining connection is a focus on the negative. Real beauty and strength are found in people who bring positive words and actions to their relationships.
As a young couple I would come home and only notice the negative. It seemed that all I saw was what she did not do. All I would notice was the things undone, I had trouble seeing the positive. Needless to say that did not seem to endear me to my wife. It would start or speed up a cycle of conflict and disconnect that got harder and harder to fix. It ripped the friendship and trust we were trying to develop as a young couple. The emotional bond is the label that research is giving for friendship, trust and connection that a couple needs to navigate life together. The biggest enemy to creating and maintaining that connection is a focus on the negative in the relationship.
A negative In relationships is anything that devalues your partner. We devalue each other with everything from silence to criticism to lack of touch or a frown on your face. What I would do was not the negative words but silence and emotional and physical withdrawal. These negative things drain energy, creativity and connection from the relationship. They break trust and make couples avoid connections like time together or working together to resolve conflicts.
A Positive in relationships is anything that brings value someone. These are things like a smile, non-sexual touch (touching anywhere that a one piece bathing suit doesn’t cover) encouraging words or spending time together. This should be the fun stuff that draws you together. Take the time and intentional effort to acknowledge the positive. You will be amazed at how it will energize the relationship.
Why is this important. Research by John Gottman says that you need at least five times more positive than negative for relationships to grow. This ratio of five positive to one negative is one of the highest predictors of divorce. If couples regularly fall below this there is a significant chance the marriage won’t last. I have always thought of this as no brainer research – who would want to be with someone that focused on the negative. We all are drawn to people that bring positive in our lives. Scripture recognizes the need to focus on the positive. It brings health to our lives.
How do you change this?
Make a daily focus of prayer asking God to help you to see, create and speak positive things into your spouse.
Do a Daily examination – ask yourself at the beginning or end of your day if you have been more positive or negative – I am certain if you don’t remember moments that you intentionally tried to be positive you were unintentionally negative.
I am convinced that you give what you have. If in your own heart or mind is constant criticism or negative thoughts, this is what you give. Start where you are today: it is a process. Work with a counselor, friend or coach to help you learn to give and own positive things in your own heart first.
I know this is hard. You will always be working on awareness of the positive in your life. The key is to acknowledge and talk about the positive. Make this a daily focus and you will be amazed how easy it becomes over time – It’s worth it. This is one of the few areas that if you will work on it today, I am convinced you will see a positive response.
How have you done in this area? What things have you done to improve your focus?