Positive Attention: Can it save your marriage?

Do you ever find yourself going through your day just to get to the next?

I do.

I get to work some days thinking about what I am going to eat for dinner.

I wake up some mornings dreaming about vacation, although it’s almost 2 months away.

I even catch myself some days wondering what it feels like to be someone else right at that moment.

The phrase that comes to mind is, “Wishing your life away.”

I believe sometimes people are so busy and looking so much for the next big thing in their life, they lack the ability to notice the small things. This concept is true in marriages too.

I want you to sit for a minute and ponder these next few questions. Really try to visualize your response.

When you come home from work, what do you do?

What do you see?

What do you say?

How do you feel? Do you just want to be alone?

What do you notice?

Now, when you ponder those questions, what type of feeling do you get? Do you have a negative feeling (ie, anxiety, frustration, anger, sadness, annoyance, disappointment) or a positive feeling (ie, happy, joy, comfort, warmth)?

Also, what is the first thing you say or do? What is the first reaction or action you have towards your spouse or kids?

If you notice that your reaction is more negative, then maybe the idea of “positive attention” will help. Positive attention is basically noticing the positive things and making it known to your spouse that you notice them. Another way to express this idea is that you pay attention to the positive things and let your spouse know that you notice them. Simple, right?

You might be asking why I am writing about this topic. Well, I decided to write this post due to a Facebook post my father wrote about noticing the positive things my mother did one weekend when my whole family came down with the flu…for the second time. I was intrigued by his idea of attempting to notice more often than usual the good things she does. I thought, “How simple an idea.”  What if this simple idea could be revolutionary to marriages?

I read a lot about marriage and study what makes marriages work. I already know most of the technical methods to help couples get their marriage back in order. Traditionally, this idea of noticing positive things in our marriage and lives is very important. It can help to improve our mood and our marriage. Think about it. How many times a day do you miss something that would have helped you to make life easier that day? Everyone has copious opportunities a day to see the good and bad in the world. I know that I have been told many times that I am being “negative.” It is also well know that negativity can be like a cancer and spread quickly.  Have you ever been around someone who said something negative about another person and then you joined in on the conversation? Negativity destroys. But we don’t think about its destructive nature when we are being negative.

It takes awareness to be positive. It takes boldness to be positive. It takes effort to be positive. What if you chose every day to try to notice as many positive things about your partner. Would that not be hard? Would that not be different? Would that not go against our culture? Let’s say that was the only change you made in your marriage. What would happen? I envision a healthier and happier marriage. That does not mean your marriage would be perfect, but genuinely noticing the positive things and expressing them to your spouse and not talking about the negative things would dramatically change the tone of everyday conversation, right? Here are some reasons why the tone would change if you noticed more positive things:

First, the more positive interaction a person sees, the more positive their attitude will be about life, the world, and people.

Second, if a person has a more positive attitude towards the above things, then they will have more positive communication (ie, verbal, nonverbal, etc).

Third, positive communication becomes more routine the more one practices positive attention.

Fourth, your spouse will notice a change in your communication and your language towards her or him.

Fight, feelings in a marriage may become more positive between both partners.

Sixth, focus shifts due to constant attempts to find new positive things to notice (after a while it might get harder to find new positive ideas).

Seventh, the one who began to notice and appreciate their spouse’s efforts starts to see the marriage and the relationship differently, in a positive way.

Eight, a positive cycle starts because the spouse begins to have different and more positive feelings about the relationship and notices more positive things too.

Logically, one simple action can cause a reaction. So, what happens if over time, many instances of positive attention are created? One would assume many instances of positive reaction. In this article about positivity and negativity in marriage, John Gottman expresses that their is a “marriage ratio.” Through his research he has found that their should be 5 positive interactions to 1 negative interaction for a marriage to remain stable. There is truth to the idea that positive attention is better than negative attention. However, Gottman also expresses that getting rid of negative interaction altogether is not necessarily beneficial. He believes in a balance.

For this blog post though, due to what seems to be greater levels of negative interaction than positive in relationships, I want to just focus on how to increase the positive attention towards your spouse. I don’t believe it is probable that most couples can eliminate negative attention, although, if there is no negative attention, then it’s likely your relationship is on the rocks also.  So, I want to encourage each couple out there, if there is one skill you practice this week, let it be positive attention. At least try it once.

Here are some other articles that may be helpful that relate to positive interaction in marriage:

Marriage and Paying Attention

7 Small and Simple Habits for a Happy Marriage

Positive Communication in Marriage

26 Ways to Become Irresistible to Your Husband

 

Happy Mind, Happy Relationship

How can a relationship be improved by just improving your mind? People talk about improving your mind to stay smart and move up in your career or create a new invention or get invited on Jeopardy. Who thinks about improving the mind to improve a relationship? Improving the mind is not usually connected to relationships, and yet, it has been said to be one of the easiest ways to improve a relationship.

You’ve heard of the power of positive thinking, but have you considered that this concept may help with a relationship.  You might be saying, “Well that is common sense.” I would tell you, “You’re right! So why don’t you practice it daily?” I don’t think about positive thinking daily. I have clients come in my office who I teach this concept and ask them to practice it over the next week. Guess what they say when they come back. They say, “I didn’t really think about it.”  My first thought is, “What?!!  I  work hard to provide the reasoning and the whole package of information and you don’t even think about it?” I am truly stunned when people say that to me. It is common sense right?

What I have learned is that this concept may be common sense, but we truly don’t take the time to remember or think about how our thinking affects us.  If we remembered moment to moment to check our thinking for positivity, then many aspects of our life would be much easier (ie, relationships, jobs, standing in line, etc). I want to focus on relationships though.

Think about your work place. Who do you hang around? Who would you like to hang around? Are they mostly positive or negative throughout the day? Have you ever been around someone who was very positive? Are they not more enjoyable to be around? Were you more positive when you were around them? Positivity not only feels good, it rubs off on us! Unfortunately, negativity rubs off on us too.

So, positivity proves to draw people together in ways that make people feel good. Common sense says that this concept would help us in our marriages and relationships. If positivity draws people together in ways that make them feel good, then positivity would draw couples together and help them feel good. When I feel good around my wife, I feel closer to her. Simple right? If I am positive towards her, she seems to react more positively towards me. Yay!

How are we missing this simple change in thoughts that will change our lives? In my experience, we don’t think about it. This means, we have to remind ourselves to think positively every minute of the day. What are some ways that you can think of to remind yourself to think positive thoughts?  David Carnes writes in an article about positive thinking, “The first step in positive thinking is to make a habit of asking yourself “What am I thinking right now?” at various points during the day until your “meta-awareness” of your own thinking becomes second nature to you.” Find what works for you today and start NOW! Why wait!?

Intentional Love: Loving like never before during the season of love.

Do you ever feel like you say, “I love you” all the time? Does it ever feel like you use it like a security blanket? Almost like, if you didn’t say it, maybe the love would stop or your spouse or significant other would stop loving you, be angry with you, or leave you? Love is a common word in our world. It is said everyday by, well, probably almost everyone. I tell my children, my wife, my parents and my siblings I love them every chance I get.

Using the term so much may seem like the word gets overused and maybe abused. Yet, as we get closer to Valentine’s Day,  just like what happens around Christmas and Thanksgiving, I am feeling the urge to think more about this nostalgic topic. Why? Well, just like celebrating Jesus’ birth at Christmas and giving thanks at Thanksgiving, love should be practiced all year round, not just on Valentine’s Day. Unfortunately, we don’t always understand love and would like to know more about it. So, I hope to inspire intentional love as we approach this upcoming holiday by helping you understand love a little better.

Remember who created love.? That big guy in the sky whose name is, God! God even calls himself love in the Bible. So, understand this phenomenon of love then we need to consult God.  What does the Bible say about love?  Here are a few verses that tell us what God says love is:

Romans 13:10   “Love does no harm to a neighbor. Therefore, love is the fulfillment of the law.”

1 Corinthians 13:4-8    “4 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5 It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. 8 Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away.”

1 Corinthians 13:13  “And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.”

1 John 4:7 “Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God.”

1John 4:18-19   “There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not make perfect in love. We love because he first loved us.”

John 15:13   “Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.”

Ephesians 5:25  “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her.”

Ephesians 5:33  “However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.”

Colossians 3:14 “And over all these things put on love, which binds them together in perfect unity.”

Proverbs 10:12  “Hatred stirs up conflict, but love covers over all wrongs.”

And on, and on, and on… I could be typing a while if I list all the verses that talk about love, but these are a good start. As you read these verses, how do you feel? As I typed, something stirred in me. I felt encouraged. I thought, “I want to be more loving!” Just reading God’s word made me feel that way! But what does that mean and how do we become more loving?

So what is love? Here are 4 themes:

  1. Sacrifice: In the verses above God directly talks about Jesus’ sacrifice as loving. Not only the loving, but greater love and the greatest out of faith hope and love.
  2. Qualities: Love is patient, kind, does not envy, is not proud or haughty, does not talk about itself, its respectful, it does not seek after self, but looks after others, its trusting, its calm, it doesn’t get angry with you, it doesn’t get outdone, it rejoices in truth and hates evil, and protects, hopes, trusts and perseveres.
  3. Instructions on how to be loving: God’s words tell you what to do. He says to love like Christ and like you love yourself. It says to put on love.
  4. And details of what love does not look like: Its not boastful, it’s not hateful, it’s not evil, it’s not divided, it’s not arguing, it’s not conflict, it’s not hitting, it’s not lying, it’s not fearful…

The above 4 themes provide a clearer view of what love looks like from God’s view. How do these translate into action and loving others better? Here are some examples.

  • If you see someone downcast and not looking happy at work, stop and chat with them.
  • If your child is acting up, give her a little hug and grace.
  • If your wife is in a hormone enraged mood, smile and hold her or just listen if she won’t let you touch her.
  • When your wife is shopping and you want to go home and watch the game, let her shop and even help her pick out some outfits.
  • When your buddy makes more than you and you want his lifestyle, don’t envy. Embrace him and let him know he is blessed and take joy that your friend is doing so well.
  • Above all, listen to God and ask him to help you learn how to love better.

Love is very complex. To love better, we need to be aware of what it is and how to express it . As we get closer to Valentine’s Day, let’s consider sacrifice as our number one way to love because that’s how Christ showed us to love. Make it a habit to think about others needs and put them before you, even if it makes you tired or sore.  Think about what other people need and how you can help them. Let’s share God’s love today and everyday to help make this world a safer and more healthy place. As you move through your day, be intentional about loving and live to love. Your life will be better and more fulfilling if you pursue love as a goal.