Thursday, August 5, 2010

Negative Interpretation in Marriage

Q. I saw last week's article on escalation. My wife and I really struggle with escalation in our marriage and want to work on making our marriage stronger. You mentioned there were more patterns to avoid in your marriage. Can you explain those?

A. According to Scott Stanley, there are four key patterns that you want to avoid in your marriage. Let's talk about negative interpretation and leave the other two key patterns for the next two columns. Negative interpretations occur when one consistently sees the motives of their spouse as being more negative than they actually are. Here is an example: A wife comes home to find the kitchen a wreck. She immediately thinks that her husband did it on purpose just because he knows that she likes the kitchen to be clean. She goes to her husband and demands to know why he has destroyed the kitchen. He responds that he was attempting to surprise her with dinner. In this example, the wife immediately thought the worst thing about her husband.

When negative interpretation is present in a marriage, there is also mind reading that is happening. We think we know what our spouse is thinking, but the reality is that we don't know what is going on inside their head. It can really hurt a marriage when you wrongly accuse a spouse of something they did not do nor they ever thought. Remember, you are not a mind reader!!!!

So how do you work through this negative pattern? First, you must ask yourself, "Am I overly negative or demanding?". Most of the time your answer to this question will be yes. Secondly, you must ask yourself, "Is there any evidence to support a positive view of my spouse and their motives?" Most of the time, you will be able to find evidence indicating that your spouse really does want good things for you and is really trying their best. And lastly, when all else fails, give them the benefit of the doubt. Don't allow your interpretation, which by the way are probably wrong, destroy the positive in your relationship.

All information take from: "A Lasting Promise" by Scott Stanley, Daniel Trathen, Savanna McCain, and Milt Bryan

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