Are You Focusing on Your Spouse’s Attributes or Flaws? (how to flip the switch)

My marriage has undoubtedly improved since starting this blog.

In so, so many ways.

I can remember living and reacting from a place of fear before where now I have peace. Peace gives room for love. I’m coming closer and closer to loving Rich unconditionally – I can definitely feel that shift.

I’ve been trying to break down exactly WHAT has changed or what mindsets have helped me the most.

Certainly, I have had countless light-bulb moments while reading, researching, writing and thinking about marriage.

But what is it exactly that created the shift from conditional love to unconditional love?

I’m still not totally sure, and I know a number of factors have contributed, but I have nailed down one mindset shift that has helped FOR SURE.

And that has been changing my point of comparison. Or put another way, focusing on Rich’s good points instead of his bad.

Are you focusing on your spouse's attributes or flaws? Let's talk about how we can flip the switch on the focus in your relationship.

I never would have noticed this before, but I used to unintentionally put a lot of my attention on what I wished was different about Rich rather than what I was grateful for about him.

We all do this.

Our brains are unfortunately wired for this- wired to look out for potential dangers and safeguard against those dangers.

But when it comes to our spouses- when we’re constantly noticing and looking for our partner’s faults, this presents a bit of a problem.

Ok, a big problem.

Let’s talk for a minute about confirmation bias.

Confirmation bias is our brain’s tendency to take new information and interpret it to conform to our existing beliefs. For instance, let’s say you believe your spouse is on their phone all the time. You see them on their phone and you think, “See! I’m right- he’s ALWAYS on his phone.”

Every time you see him on his phone you will add another mental tally mark to the “I’m right about this” column. Another time when he is not on his phone, rather than think, “Oh, this debunks my ‘he’s always on his phone’ theory.” You think of this incident as the EXCEPTION.

Confirmation bias hard at work here. “I knew it!”

In other words, our brains are kiiiiiinda out to ruin our relationships unless we CONSCIOUSLY work to tell them not to.

How do we do that?

We question our beliefs and the stories we tell ourselves.

We focus on what our spouses ARE DOING WELL instead of what they aren’t.

Sounds awesome, sounds great, sounds simple.

Except for the fact that most of us do the exact opposite of this.

Myself included.

I could say, “I have a good husband.” But what does that mean? Good is relative, good in comparison to what? Comparing isn’t great for your marriage generally speaking, but we all do it to gain some sort of point of reference, so we might as well use this habit to better our marriages.

For example, many of us use as our ideal as our point of reference. We see our reality, but we’re comparing it to our ideal.

If this blogging thing doesn’t work out, I always have my art to fall back on . . . .

Instead, I’m recommending you ALWAYS use as your comparison something worse.

That’s one happy stick man.

Before we break this down, lets plug our spouses into this diagram. So that block that says “spouse” represents our spouses as they are and we’re looking past that focusing on our spouses as we wish they would be.

Note the frowny face.

Now, instead of using what we wish our spouses would be as our point of reference, we are noticing what our spouses are and comparing them to something worse. Here, we focus on what our spouses have instead of what they lack.

How do these scenarios make us feel?

Let’s take scenario A. When we are focusing on what we don’t have, we are looking at the world through the lens of scarcity. We feel depraved, dissatisfied, empty, wanting, ungrateful. This scenario does not create happiness.

Compare with scenario B. When we are focusing on what we do have, we are seeing the world through the lens of abundance. We feel satisfied, content, happy, GRATEFUL.

Now, notice that the reality box didn’t change ONE BIT in the scenario where we feel satisfied, content, and grateful to when we feel dissatisfied, depraved and discontent.

We SO OFTEN fall into the trap of “Oh my marriage would be great if my wife would stop doing ____ or my husband would do more of ____.”

We think our happiness is contingent on our circumstances, on our “reality.”

But instead of reality changing, did you notice what did change from the sad diagram to the happy diagram?

I’ll give you a minute . . . .

That’s right the PERSON changed.

Mic drop.

via pimimg

The person had to elevate themselves in scenario B. Elevate their thoughts, their mindset, their gratitude and suddenly, their reality is looking pretty good and they are content.

So instead of looking at your spouse thinking- he could be helping more with the kids, she could nag me less, he could clean more, she could initiate sex more – look at your spouse and think, “Wow! He’s playing with the kids- he could be on his phone.” “Huh! She just complimented me, she could have criticized me.” “Golly! He put his dishes in the sink, he could have let them fester on the table all night.” “Gee! She’s talking to me in a flirty way, she could be ignoring me right now.”

Remember when I said this is something I KNOW has helped my marriage since I’ve started this blog? Here’s how it happened: formerly, my point of comparison was what I found to be lacking in Rich- I confirmation biased how much time he spent online, when he slept in and when I could use some extra help.

Then mr. bloggy came along and I started getting emails every week of people whose marriages are in dire straights (I ask people to tell me their most pressing marriage problem when they join my email list). I also joined some marriage Facebook groups, and those who post are dealing with addiction, abuse and infidelity (gosh, so much infidelity out there guys).

Reading these things everyday did great things to disrupt my confirmation bias. Suddenly instead of being miffed if his phone was out, it seemed a miracle my husband paid attention to me at all! I began to be filled with gratitude every time he did the dishes or helped around the house knowing that millions of husbands are cheating on their wives. Like, right now.

Dishes??? Psssshhhh, no biggie.

Unfortunately, not everyone is so lucky as I to read about rough marriages everyday. (#blessed!)

On the contrary, many of us are saturated in the picture-perfect Instagram world where couples are traveling together, buying each other flowers, eating exotic delicacies and laughing over hilarious inside jokes.

Look at them!! They’re having so much fun! I bet they never fight about the dishes . . .

If this is your comparison day after day, you may become dissatisfied.

Flip the switch. Change up your point of comparison to . . . . nothing.

Expect nothing of your spouse and then when they do something pleasing, it’s so awesome! Every time!

Suddenly you are happier. Suddenly you are focusing on what they ARE doing instead of what they are NOT doing. You’re shining the spotlight on their attributes rather than their faults.

This is important.

Our perspective matters A LOT. Our thoughts matter A LOT. Our point of comparison matters and the extent of our gratitude matters A LOT. Like a lot a lot.

So try it out this week – try to consciously focus on your spouse’s good points rather than their bad – and see what happens.

If you’re like me, your marriage will become much happier when you consciously make the effort to do this.

Promise.

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