Do you find yourself having negative thoughts about your spouse? If so, you are not alone! Learn 3 common negative thought patterns that can have a negative impact on your marriage.
Above all else guard your heart, for everything you do, flows from it. ~Proverbs 4:23
The thoughts we think are pretty powerful. According to the Proverb, everything we feel, say and do flows from our heart and mind.
When is the last time you paid attention to the thoughts you think? What kind of thoughts do you think about your spouse? Those very thoughts will affect your feelings, words and actions toward your spouse.
The thoughts we think are silent and hidden from the world – so they go completely unchallenged. As a result, unchallenged and unexposed thoughts are automatically viewed as facts in our head. But, guess what? Our thoughts can mislead us because they are influenced heavily by our past. It is important to take your thoughts captive and determine if your negative thoughts about your spouse are valid or not. We do this by testing the truth, evaluating evidence and having a clear understanding of our role and responsibilities in marriage.
This isn’t to say that all negative thoughts about your spouse are bad. There will be times when negative thoughts can be based on truth and need to be addressed with your spouse. In those cases, it’s important to take action!
The thoughts we think can be positive, negative, false or true. Pay attention to your thoughts and take them captive to determine which category they fall in, rather than automatically treating those negative thoughts as truth.
Imagine Your Thoughts About Your Spouse are like a Movie Angle
Think about the last movie you watched. Notice how the director takes the same scene and shoots it from many angles? You get to see the same event in many different lights and from different perspectives of the characters. Now, imagine an interaction with your spouse. Bet you have a few thoughts about it, right? I want to challenge you to look at that one interaction in different lights and from your spouse’s perspective…in addition to your own light and perspective.
Sometimes in marriage, especially in a difficult season, it’s easy to fall into a pattern of negative thinking about our spouse and marriage. That’s when it’s important to identify a pattern of negative thinking about our spouse and marriage.
There are 3 common negative thoughts that can wreak havoc in your marriage. Are you ready to take a closer look?
Negative Thoughts in Marriage: Making Assumptions
Do you make assumptions about your spouse’s motives, thoughts and actions? We all fall into this trap! There is actually a science behind your propensity to make assumptions.
Sometimes, we make assumptions based on a pattern of behavior our spouse might have. While our assumptions might be valid and based on history, it is important to determine if our assumption is actually true, before acting on the assumptions.
God wired your brain to “fill in the gaps” of missing information. Science shows we do this because we like knowing everything. It also helps us quickly assess potential dangers. There is a lot of blessing in making assumptions or “filling in the gaps” of missing information.
Unfortunately, this blessing becomes a curse when we apply negative assumptions to our spouse’s actions. Admittedly, this is my biggest marital downfall. In my profession, I am trained to gather information, assess the situation and then “fill in the gaps” with my knowledge.
Recently, I made some assumptions about my husband… He and I were on a long drive together. Numerous times I tried to spark up a conversation with minimal success. No matter how hard I tried,his responses were short and closed. As I looked over I noticed his eyebrows were furrowed and his lips pursed. I thought, he must be mad about something, but what?
Then I recalled a parenting disagreement we had the day before. I rolled my eyes to myself… “I thought that was resolved“. My anger grew as I made a ton of negative assumptions about his attitude and barely speaking to me on this long drive.
Can you think of a time you made a negative assumption about your spouse, just to realize you were wrong?
Towards the end of the long drive, my frustration boiled over and I said, “I can’t believe you’re still mad about yesterday!” Clearly stunned and confused, he had no idea what I was talking about.
The fix is this… ask the hard questions. Stop making assumptions and ask your spouse to fill in the blanks for you.
As it turns out, my husband explained he had received a work call earlier that was preoccupying his thoughts. My assumptions were wrong.
Negative Thoughts in Marriage: Magnifying
Have you ever got up close to a magnifying mirror to tweeze your eyebrows? Those little tiny hairs look like tree stumps on your brow bone, right? I always feel a little bit of relief as I return to a regular mirror and can no longer see my facial flaws multiplied times 10!
Now take that mirror and imagine viewing your husband with it. His flaws are magnified 10 fold! Those flaws will grow as you put your mind to it. As a result, his strengths fade in the background.
Consequently, your feelings and actions make a subtle shift. Suddenly those dirty socks left on the floor take on a whole new magnitude.
My personal list of flaws could get really big if placed under a magnifying mirror. Shift the focus! Don’t forget that your spouse has some strengths. Make a point to identify strengths, too! As you practice shifting to your husband’s strengths, you will begin to see him in a new light. Remember, we’re aiming to see our spouse from many different angles rather than one.
Negative Thoughts in Marriage: Should-haves
This one is for all the people pleasers and perfectionists out there. Do you find yourself saying, “I should have (fill in the blank)”. People pleasers and perfectionists tend to beat themselves up with “should-haves”. I dare you to count how many times you say “ I should-have” in a single day.
But, how is this a bad thing for your marriage, you may wonder? After all, you’re only beating yourself up with should haves, right? Wrong! “Should haves” are a list of unwritten rules based on what others think. If we are living by “should haves” then we are most definitely placing “should haves” on our spouse.
It sounds like this, “you should have (fill in the blank)”. Have you thought that about your spouse?
With that said, there is a distinct difference between “should have” and “it would have been nice if”. There are clear “should haves” outlined in God’s Word about our roles in marriage. If your husband “should have” done something according to his God given role, then that is a thought based in truth and might need to be addressed.
Your job is to further evaluate your list of unwritten rules in different light and from different angles to determine whether it’s a thought that needs changing.
If you find your “should haves” are the problem, there is an easy fix…
I have a simple strategy for you. Replace “should” with “It would have been nice if…” . Do you see how the demand of “should have” is deflated of it’s harsh judgment? As a result, a kinder and softer response is offered.
Wrap Up On Negative Thoughts in Marriage
We must make it a habit to pay attention to our thoughts about our marriage and spouse. A pattern of negative thoughts will grow and cause harm in your marriage. With that said, not all thoughts are bad. Put those thoughts thoughts under different lights and from different angles to determine if the thoughts are true or false. Then you will know if the thoughts require you to take action or simply change the pattern.
The three biggest problem-making thoughts are negative assumptions, magnifying the flaws of our spouse and imposing “should haves” on our spouse. When making negative assumptions, we are literally judging the heart of our spouse. The only way to fix the assumptions is by asking the hard questions. Make it a point to ask your spouse to fill in the blanks for you!
Second, stop magnifying your spouses weaknesses. We all have weaknesses…when we shift the spotlight to the flaws is casts a shadow on the strengths. Choose to put the spotlight on your spouse’s strengths.
Third and final, the notorious “should haves”. Make the choice to remove the unwritten demands from your spouse and change your words from “should have” to “it would be nice if”. Watch the condemnation shift to kindness and grace.