How Negative Thinking Patterns Can Damage a Relationship and What to Do About It
Updated: Oct 12, 2022
Not that long ago, my old familiar story that my husband never listens to me started to creep back into my mind. I kept finding new little pieces of evidence that supported this idea and my eyes were on the lookout for new evidence that I could pile onto my growing list.
My husband mumbled back a response to me without looking up from his video game- that was added to the list. He didn’t come back with the gallon of milk I’d requested he get while he was at the grocery store- that was added to the list. He asked me to repeat the schedule for tomorrow for the fifth time in a row- that was added too.
So the days went on and my quickly growing list was making me feel irritated and resentful. It was a proven fact that my husband never listened to me and I had all the evidence to prove it!
What’s Your Story?
Does this sound familiar to you at all? To me it does. This describes only one of the many negative thinking patterns that I have had in my life and in my relationship.
From my experience speaking to many women, I believe most of us have at least one negative story about our partners. This negative story can sneak up on us during times when our self care is low, or it can be on constant replay. In many cases, the negative story becomes the ONLY lens we can see our partners through. We become completely unable to see that we might be missing major parts of the story.
Start Off Strong
I know that whatever evidence you have on your list is very painful. Your pain deserves its day in the sun. It is valid and I invite you to journal about it or talk to someone that will lend a loving and empathetic ear. Do what it takes for you to feel nurtured and well taken care of. This step is going to fuel you for the work ahead.
Negative Thinking Patterns
Negative thinking patterns can present themselves in a variety of ways. Most often when relating to struggling relationships, I’ve heard them in the form of: “He doesn’t love me”, “He doesn’t care and is never going to change”, “He is lazy and mean”, and the list goes on.
These old thinking patterns can be very frustrating and painful and they can drag down our whole mood for days, and even years. I know it was very exhausting for me to be living as a detective 24/7, trying to catch my husband not listening once again so that I could continue feeding my list of evidence. Why did I want to prove that point so badly?
These stories are a very heavy burden to carry and they can keep a woman from feeling a happy and fulfilled in her relationship. Laura Doyle calls these negative thinking patterns Needless Emotional Turmoil.
The Power of the Stories We Tell Ourselves
Having negative stories replaying in our heads is first and foremost a complete drain of energy. It destroys inner peace and distracts us from our own progress and joy. It is also a very painful experience.
It is also very damaging to our relationships. The negative stories we have about our partners are no secret. Even if we never voice our disappointment or disdain for certain things he does or doesn't do, men are very good at reading these things. If someone was constantly judging you, I'm sure you'd catch onto their negative vibe. In the same way, it is painful for our partners to feel that they are failing in the relationship. Many men deal with this by detaching or distancing themselves, only adding to the negative evidence we stockpile. It becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.
I Get to Choose How I Experience My Husband
Calling it Needless Emotional Turmoil is genius because it reminds me that yes, this negative thinking pattern is exactly that- needless! I am in control of my own experience. I get to choose what I build a case for and what evidence I use my energy to find. I found this realization to be incredibly freeing. I was no longer a victim to my old stories and all too familiar negative patterns that fed my resentment and frustration.
Of course, old patterns have very well worn paths. It is simple, though not easy to dig a new path. It takes conscious effort, patience, and determination, but for those willing, the rewards are rich with the fruits of emotional peace, joy, and gratitude.
Identify Your Goal
I know that at the end of the day, what I really want is connection and intimacy with my husband. I want to be his partner, not his ruling judge. Being on the constant lookout for evidence that he is disappointing me will in no way get me closer to my goal. Luckily, there is something I can do that will create the inner peace and connection with my husband that I want.
Writing a New Story
There is a very simple trick to regaining inner peace when you feel yourself heading toward that old familiar path. The first step is to identify Needless Emotional Turmoil when you feel it taking over. Symptoms usually include frustration, resentment, anxiety, sadness, or anger directed towards your partner. If it is Needless Emotional Turmoil, it will feel very familiar as it’s a place you have probably visited often.
There will be a pile stacked high of evidence that reinforces that negative story that replays in your mind. The evidence may be, but not limited to: “he doesn’t help with the kids or the housework”, “he never wants to spend time together”, “he says hurtful things to me”, “he spends all day glued to the screen”, and the list could go on and on.
Flip Your Story Upside Down
The second step to rewriting your old stories is to flip what you identified as your story completely upside down. For example if your old story was that your husband is lazy and doesn’t care about the family, the upside down story would look something like this: “my husband works hard for me and the family”. If it feels like a far-fetched lie then you’re on the right track!
Find Evidence to Support Your New Story
Now roll up your sleeves because this is where the real work comes in. Look for evidence to support the new story. Start with three pieces of evidence, then keep adding to the list one by one as you discover more.
To this day, whenever I feel the tug of one of my old stories wanting to hijack my thoughts, I go back to my list and reread all of my evidence and then look for new pieces to add to it. Without exception, I have a change of heart, mood, and perspective every single time. Gratitude is incredibly healing and can help us to see reality without the haze of our biases disrupting our vision.
Bring Your New Story to Life
Now that you have a list of new evidence to support your new story, you can start saying these things out loud. I invite you to experiment with telling your new story to your husband or to others when he’s within earshot. Express gratitude to him for the evidence he has given you to support your new story. For example, if he does go to work to support your family, consider thanking him for it. This will reinforce the new story, encourage him to want to step up, and feed the intimacy between you the way the magic of gratitude does!
This exercise is extremely powerful.
In fact, I credit it with helping not only my marriage, but also my relationships with colleagues, family members, friends, and with myself. I invite you to try it out and let me know how it went!
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