Intimate love — 16 March 2004
How to think positively for love

Maintaining a good relationship with your partner is more within your control than you may believe. One important area that you are in charge of is your thought process. Keeping you thoughts positive maximizes the chance for a healthier connection.

Feelings are automatic result of thoughts. We can not create the feelings we desire, but we can produce the thoughts that will lead to the welcomed emotions. The relationship between thoughts, feelings and actions is linear. Good thoughts produce positive feelings, that in turn contribute to effective interactions between people.

When our partners act in ways that displease us we may develop a variety of thoughts. We may think kindly about the possible circumstances that determined our partners’ unfortunate choice of conduct. We may ask ourselves whether we may have contributed to this outcome or we may resort to automatic negative thoughts about our mates.

Thoughts expressed in the following phrases create problems: “He is so selfish. She will never be pleased with anything I do. He is uncooperative. She is selfish. He is controlling. She always has to have it her way. He is irresponsible. She is immature. He is inadequate. She is hopeless.”

Though the thinker may not verbalize these judgmental thoughts his or her reaction will reflect this negative view and will most commonly have a bad outcome.

Every one of these thoughts produces a complimentary negative emotion. For example, a mate who tells herself that her partner is inadequate may feel fear about the responsibility placed upon her. A partner who views his mate as controlling – may feel powerless.
The reactions to fear or powerlessness may be withdrawal or aggression, neither of which will enhance the couple’s connection.

When one partner withdraws, the mate may feel disconnected and abandoned. If a partner becomes hostile, the mate may feel victimized. The sequence of negative thoughts, emotions and reactions often continues to feed on itself, only to create a painful distance between the partners and unhappy self-view for both.

Conversely, we may create a cascade of positive energy through kind and supportive thoughts that lead to love.

We must be vigilant about listening to our internal dialogue in our heads about our partners. We must ascertain whether our self-talk represents our deep belief about our partners’ faults or an erroneous judgment that absolves us from the momentary discomfort and or responsibility for our unhappiness.

Do you really think that your partner is consistently controlling, selfish, uncooperative, etc.? Or could these be reactions to fear, hurt, low self-esteem or other emotions your mate may feel? The latter is more likely.

You can choose to concentrate on what may have caused your partner’s atypical behavior rather than label him or her deficient. This perspective will deepen your understanding of your mate and enhance your intimacy with each other. For example, if you asked for clarity about your mate’s insistence on doing it her way, you may discover that it stems from her need to prove her competence rather than the need to control you.

There may be childhood issues that led your mate to feel strongly about this particular issue, which if handled sensitively, may help her feel safe enough to share them with you. You will then be able to gain greater respect and compassion for her that will intensify your intimacy rather than damage it.

“But he (or she) is always that way”, you may say. If this is so, it is worthwhile dealing with this consistent behavior in a loving way or with the help of a counselor. More commonly a repetitive unattractive conduct stems from some old pain or recurring ineffective couple’s interactions.

You can take charge of your mind by doing some “spring cleaning” and discard negative automatic thoughts. You may ask yourself: “What could be a positive or painful motivation for my partner’s behavior?” A woman who became outraged about her husband’s insensitivity of coming home late on her birthday, was embarrassed to learn later that his delay was due to his extensive efforts to secure the best birthday gift for her.

Attributing positive intentions to your partner’s actions is never going to fail you. It is likely to prevent arguments, fights and misunderstanding and increase empathy and compassion for both of you. Partners are entitled to at least the same rights as criminals who are considered innocent until proven guilty.

You chose your mate, love him or her, and are blessed to be together. Why would you plug in negative perceptions that may jeopardize your love?

To think more lovingly you may consider the following:

  • You are in charge of what you think. You can change it to gain the
    best results.
  • Healthy thoughts create healthy feelings and conduct.
  • Your partner is a gem, treat him or her with a positive view to allow
    your mate to sparkle.
  • Your automatic negative thoughts must be replaced with positive
    assumptions about your mate.
  • You do not gain self-esteem by highlighting your mate’s deficits.
  • Question your partner’s behavior before rushing to critical
    judgments.
  • Ascribe to your mate a positive intention or a yet unexplained
    reason for perplexing or annoying behavior.
  • You have the power to create a positive view of your partner which
    will enhances both of you and your relationship.

March 7, 2004

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About Author

Offra Gerstein, Ph.D. is a licensed psychologist in clinical practice in Santa Cruz, California for over 25 years, and specializes in relationship issues for couples and individuals for improved quality of life. Her work includes: mate selection, marriage, long term relationships, gay and lesbian couples, work relationships, parenting issues, family interactions, friendships, and conflict resolutions. Offra has lectured extensively to various groups, conducted support groups for several organizations, and has been writing a weekly column "Relationship Matters" for the Santa Cruz Sentinel since 2001.

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