Photo by Nathan Dumlao on Unsplash
Photo by Nathan Dumlao on Unsplash

Negative Lens


Over the past few months, I’ve noticed that I interpret my husband’s behavior in a much more negative light. It’s like all I notice are the things that he does that frustrate, disappoint, or hurt me. How can I change this?


Marital experts have long noticed a particular pattern within relationships that has an extremely devastating impact. They have observed that the assumptions we make about our spouse and our relationship can determine the level of happiness we experience within our marriage. Several experts have gone as far as to say that a main reason why couples divorce involves when they develop negative beliefs about their mate.

When two people get frustrated with the other, but the issue is not dealt with, the tendency is for each person to develop his or her own conclusion about why the problem is happening. This is called negative beliefs.

Negative thinking is when a spouse consistently believes that the motives of the other are more negative than is really the case. In other words, a husband or wife interprets the behavior of his or her spouse to be much more negative than the spouse intended. Negative thinking is powerful because how a mate perceives and interprets what the other does can be far more important in determining marital satisfaction than those actions themselves.

The major problem with negative thinking is that what humans believe about another, they tend to see and hear even if it isn't true.

In other words, what you believe about another person (positive or negative), you will find evidence of that belief in everything he or she says or does. Romans 14:14: “…but to him who thinks anything to be unclean, to him it is unclean.”

To fight negative thinking, it’s important for couples to be aware of what their mates do that is positive and to respond accordingly. Your spouse may already be doing some positive things, but you may not be totally aware of them. For a start, try to notice methodically what your mate already does that pleases you. In order to note pleasing actions, spouses begin to really look at each other. This will force you to break through the barriers that obstruct your vision of your mate’s good deeds. The apostle Paul recognized the importance of this when he wrote: “Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, let your mind dwell on these things.” (Philippians 4:8).

We are not advocating some kind of unrealistic “Pollyanna” thinking. We cannot sit around wishing or hoping that our mate will change truly negative behaviors. However, we need to consider that our mate’s motives are more positive than we are willing to acknowledge.

One of the best ways to care for your most important relationships is to guard them from becoming infected by negative thinking. As you keep track of positive behaviors, you will be erecting a solid foundation of protection around your marriage.

Greg Smalley, PsyD
Website | + posts

Dr. Smalley previously served as the director of Marriage Ministries for The Center for Healthy Relationships. He is the author or co-author of twelve books concerning marriages and families, and currently serves as the executive director of Marriage and Family Formation at Focus on the Family.

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