One of the most valuable uses of my time is to slow down and evaluate all my thoughts about my spouse. I usually do this on paper so that I can look at my thoughts outside of my brain.
I write down all my thoughts about my spouse. Sometimes I try to focus on a specific event that made me upset so that it is narrowed down a bit.
Then I start looking at those thoughts and questioning them. I know because of the self coaching model by Brooke Castillo that my negative thoughts about my spouse encourage me to look for evidence of all the negative things he does AND often encourage me to show up negatively as well. For more information on the self-coaching model, see this article below:
What are your thoughts creating for you?
Let’s say your thought is: “My husband doesn’t care about me. He would rather spend time on his phone.”
Let’s see what this thought is creating for you.
- Circumstance: Husband is sitting on the couch looking at his phone
- Thought: “He doesn’t care about me.”
- Feeling: Angry
- Actions: (How do you act when you feel angry in this situation?) I usually clean up the kitchen while thinking angry thoughts. Then I say: “Are you going to help me clean up or what?” in an angry tone. I withdraw from him and don’t want to talk to him. I resent him for not wanting to spend time with me or help me clean up after the kids have gone to bed.
- Result: Damaged relationship with husband …and he probably doesn’t want to help clean up when I am angry.
So I try to put my thoughts into the model so that I understand what I am creating for myself. Once I’ve convinced my brain that a certain thought isn’t useful, then I try to change that thought.
Trying on a new thought
I try on new thoughts much like I try on new clothes. I try on several thoughts until I find one that fits. I try to find a thought that I can actually believe. Because if you don’t believe the thought, then it won’t really change your results.
So the first step is to brainstorm a lot of new thoughts. Here are a few:
- “He is tired. This is just his way of relaxing from a hard day. It doesn’t say anything about how he feels about me.”
- “Men don’t have the same need to talk as women do.”
- “He must feel very secure in our relationship because he feels he can relax and look on his phone instead of trying to impress me.”
- “He loves me a lot. I am amazing.”
If I think one of these thoughts, then I am not mad at him for being on his phone. Instead, I give him some time alone- and then I will ask him if he wants a back massage. He always does. I have found that a back massage is a great time for me to be able to talk about my day to my husband and for him to listen. During a good back massage, it seems like he is more relaxed and willing to start talking himself as well.
So, just to be clear, let’s put one of these new thoughts into the self-coaching model.
- Circumstance: Husband is sitting on the couch looking at his phone (Notice how the circumstance is the same as the above model).
- Thought: “He is tired. This doesn’t mean anything about how he feels about me.”
- Feeling: Calm, Compassionate
- Actions: (How do you act when you feel calm and compassionate in this situation?) I give him some time to unwind. Then I approach him in a loving attitude and ask if he wants a back massage or wants to watch a movie or clean up the house with me.
- Result: Increased connection in our relationship. And I feel great as well because I am feeling love and compassion instead of anger and resentment.
Now, with this example of reframing your thoughts, I don’t want you to think that you should deceive yourself into thinking something positive about your spouse when they are being really mean to you. Sometimes, you want to feel mad. Like if my spouse lied to me or was stealing money or hit me, I wouldn’t want to think a positive thought about that. I would want to feel angry and I would want to protect myself. So I’m not saying that you should reframe ALL of your negative thoughts about your spouse. But I am saying that you should carefully look at your thoughts and see what they are creating for you and intentionally DECIDE how you want to think about your partner. Sometimes one little shift can change everything. In the above example, my husband’s phone use used to bother me. I would make it mean something negative about him and myself. But now, it doesn’t bother me at all!
Remember your brain will pay attention to things that you tell it to pay attention to. So if you tell it to look for evidence to “My spouse is a jerk” then it will try to find all the reasons why that could be true. But if you tell it to look for “Why I am awesome and my spouse is awesome” then it might start looking for that in the future.
But MY thoughts are impossible to change…
Sometimes our negative thoughts about our spouses seem impossible to change. It’s not just a matter of trying to give them the benefit of the doubt. You are EXTREMELY convinced that they are mean and don’t like you and lazy, etc. In this case, I have a few things for you to consider.
- Try to focus on what you can control: yourself. Try to do things that make you feel happy and fulfilled. Drop the illusion that says your spouse should make you happy. It’s not their job. It’s yours! It is your job to make yourself happy.
- Their lack of love towards you means NOTHING about you! It doesn’t mean that you aren’t worthy of love. It doesn’t mean that no one would like you. You are an amazing person that deserves love…your own love! If your spouse was suddenly super loving and kind…what would it make you think? Would it make you think: “Hey! maybe I am awesome!” Just skip the step of getting your validation from your partner and give that validation to yourself!
- You might be wondering: “But if I learn how to make myself happy, then why do you even need this partner?” Because it can feel pretty awesome to have someone to love. Your job is to love them. But only if you want to. You can get a divorce if you want. It’s your decision. But having someone to love and pamper and do nice things for can feel pretty great. You don’t do those things in order to get love in return, you just do them because you want to make them happy!
- So yeah, you decide. Learn what makes you happy. Take care of yourself. And then decide if you want to shower all your love on your spouse. And guess what happens when you shower a TON of love on someone without wanting anything in return…they usually blossom. They step up and become something amazing.
This pattern of reframing negative thoughts can be used with any negative thoughts about your partner.
- Write down all your thoughts
- Put a few thoughts into the Self Coaching Model to see what they are creating for you
- Brainstorm new thoughts
- Try out those new thoughts and see what results they might create for you.
Good luck! I can’t wait for you to see how changing your thoughts can change your whole outlook on your spouse!