I Am Whatever You Say I Am – The way that our negative perceptions shape the way that we see our partners (and how they see themselves

Guess who’s back? Back again?

Ok Ok, I promise, no more Eminem lyrics. Things have been a little crazy in my neck of the woods as we have moved out of my parent’s house and into a new house! Woo! And don’t you worry, I will surely have a post about how to live harmoniously with multiple generations in one home. But needless to say that writing has been on the back burner.

But here I am, making the effort to spread all the therapy knowledge your way.

Let’s talk about negativity. Negativity is powerful. It’s like a weed. It starts small and then takes over everything if left unchecked. Negativity is so powerful and pervasive that it can poison our relationships and change the way that we think about our partners as well as they way that partners think about themselves.

I’ll explain. Let’s say, for example, that you ask your partner to do a chore around the house and for whatever reason it does not get done. If negative thinking is prevalent your thought process may go something like this:

He/She never appreciates me. He/She only cares about themselves – they can’t even do one simple task.


But honestly I think we have all been there at one point. So maybe you guys fight about it, maybe you don’t address it and silently file it away into the mental folder of all the reasons why your spouse is an asshole (remember when we talked about name calling in an earlier post? you got it, another form of negativity), but either way it adds another piece to your supporting evidence of why your partner doesn’t value you.

Said another way, you see your partner in a certain way and fit all of the negative behaviors into that frame to support the negative view.

Listen, I get it. It’s not intentional – no one wants to feel this way – it’s usually a result of failed bids for attention or failed attempts at communication, which contribute to a feeling of hopelessness.

Let’s look at the other side of this. If you are more often than not viewing your partner in a negative light, your partner is also going to start feeling defeated and hopeless. You may get responses in arguments like “I know, I’m always the asshole” or “You’re always right, I’m wrong” – usually said with a heaping dose of sarcasm.

And so ensues the negativity cycle and no one gets heard and nothing gets resolved.

Good news guys, I’ve got something that might help.

Instead of jumping to conclusions and making negative assumptions about your partner, start with curiosity.

Your partner doesn’t do a task that you have asked them to do – ask them why, try to understand what got in the way and then help them try to understand why it is important to you.

Try to give each other the benefit of the doubt and don’t assume that your partner is doing or not doing something to purposely send you a negative message or because they don’t care.

People are going to screw up, that’s what we do, but overall if you can reframe the way that you think about your partner, your thinking and responses are going to be much more flexible and realistic. People usually respond pretty well to being given the benefit of the doubt, so this stance may even elicit a different interaction between you and your partner.

A different way of reframing the negativity, in addition to curiosity, is trying to catch your partner doing something right.

I know, seems simple. But really most of us take those little moments of “rightness” for granted. He loaded the dishwasher and we don’t say thanks. She takes out the garbage and we don’t acknowledge it. She asks about our day and we don’t tell her we appreciate it nor do we return the questions. He works overtime for us to be able to go on vacation and we don’t praise him. And so on and so forth.

It goes a long way to recognize the little things as well as the big things that make up our sometimes monotonous days and routines as adults and couples.

The unexpected benefit of this – you start to feel differently about your partner. It feels good to give someone positive feedback and doing so with your partner is probably going to give you the warm fuzzies.

And don’t give me any “I don’t feel like I need to say thank you for him/her being an adult and doing what they are supposed to” – if that is your immediate response you might need to pay closer attention to the level of negative thinking that you’ve got going on in your relationship.

So get out there – try on some positive feedback, some curiousity, and some flexibilty in thinking – and see the change in yourself and your partner.

Need more help with this? You know where to find me!



Photo by Llanydd Lloyd on Unsplash

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