Being the best partner — 25 July 2012
Turn your head around – to find deeper love

Mulling over a partner’s shortcomings is natural for unhappy spouses. Though this may be an attempt to seek a resolution, it only exacerbates misery. Learning to think differently can positively impact both of you and lead to greater marital happiness.

The value of positive thinking is not a new concept. The Greek philosopher Epictetus stated, “It is not things in themselves that trouble us but our opinion of things.”  Shakespeare affirmed, “There is nothing good or bad, but thinking makes it so.”

Psychologist Martin Seligman, the creator of “Positive Psychology” decided to explore what makes people happy. In “Authentic Happiness” Seligman’s findings showed three levels of happiness: Pleasure (sensual and sexual), Engagement (joy of doing something you do well) and Meaning (the fulfillment from doing something greater than yourself). The latter brings a lasting contentment.

By applying Seligman’s findings, your relationship can be improved in a way that leads to a lasting contentment. Since emotions are bi-products of thoughts, to feel better you need to first alter your thinking. Though mentally reciting your mate’s inadequacies and full culpability may reduce your immediate stress, it is temporary, may not be accurate and is not likely to reduce your unhappiness.

A healthier method for reducing relationship distress is to focus on your unmet needs as the source of your dismay. If your partner is not acting in a manner that pleases you, it is your responsibility to advocate for yourself in a positive way through a request – not a demand. Before doing so, you are wise to discontinue the thoughts that attribute unkindness, spitefulness, ineptness or any other negative motivation to your partner.

You are the navigator of your thoughts and thus can alter them at will. Negative thoughts about the nature and future of your relationship are fateful. Thinking about the less than charming attributions of your partner, unsavory portrayal of marriage or conjuring a hopeless attitude about yourself and your ability to remedy the situation are all self-defeating internal messages.

Some people feel that positive thinking is unrealistic and self-deceptive. They wonder whether it is possible to “force” optimism in an unhappy state. The message about finding a positive stance does not require a denial of one’s distress. To the contrary, stating the unhappiness as a problem can lead to the desired happiness. For example, the wife who felt unhappy about not having enough quality time with her husband could think that he was not interested in her, did not love her and was selfish and non-intimate. Instead, she chose to state her need positively by saying, “I miss you and would like to see how we can spend more time together.” Their intimacy resumed.

Change your thinking for love:

  • Resist negative thoughts about your spouse, yourself or the relationship.
  • Trust that both of you desire the happy connection you have had.
  • Reap the rewards of a happier union by thinking about and lovingly stating your needs.




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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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