Jill: Believe it or not, when a marriage starts to experience distance it usually starts with our thoughts.
Mark: When I look back on my part of our marriage crisis nine years ago, my thinking was hurting our marriage BIG TIME. I ruminated in my mind all kinds of negative things about Jill and our marriage.
Jill: We all do this to some extent. We focus on who our spouse isn’t and what our marriage isn’t, rather than being able to see the positives. I can do that especially when there’s conflict between us. My negative thoughts are off to the races before I ever realize it.
Mark: My negative thinking, however, wasn’t just around conflict. Is was all the time. I actually began to demonize Jill. According to Webster’s Online Dictionary, “to demonize is to portray someone or something as evil or as worthy of contempt or blame.” I blamed her and I felt nothing but contempt for her. This was MY problem. This wasn’t a marriage problem. Were there unhealthy dynamics in our marriage? Yes there were. However, I wasn’t handling them in a healthy God-honoring way at all and my thoughts were out of control.
When I began my affair, I continued to demonize in order to rationalize. In other words, I told myself that Jill was all these bad things–and I told the other person that too–so I would feel better about what I was doing. Some of the things I said had an ounce of truth and a ton of exaggeration. Some were simply my unwillingness to accept how God made Jill.
Jill: We all demonize to rationalize at some time. We make ALWAYS statements. We assign motives. We hash and rehash the negative and turn a blind eye to any positive.
Mark: It’s not healthy though. Not. At. All. So we need to stop. And the first step in stopping is identifying the thoughts that are negative about our spouse. These thoughts are spiritual warfare. They “steal, kill, and destroy.”
Jill: If you want to change your marriage…change your thoughts. Positive results start with positive thoughts. Here’s how to do that:
1- Purge those negative thoughts from your mind by using your God Tool of forgiveness. Choose to forgive whatever hurt comes between you and your spouse. You may need to do this several times a day because you’re two imperfect people living under the same roof. If you don’t learn how to forgive, you’ll experience the slow fade of unforgiveness.
2- Think and meditate on positive thoughts about your spouse. In our book No More Perfect Marriages, (on pages 73 and 75 if you have the book), Mark shared a 3 column chart that outlines: “what trait I don’t like about Jill,” “why I don’t like it” and “what is good about it or what can I do about it.” This was helpful for him in reframing his negative thoughts into positive ones.
3- Extend and think grace thoughts for those negative traits. So many of our negative thoughts are focused on personality frustrations. We are frustrated with those differences and then we begin to chew on these frustrations. These “chewed on” frustrations then become negative feelings and actions. Honestly, we can’t hide our negative thoughts and feelings. They become visible when expressed in anger, hostile actions and behaviors.
4- Start acting on those new positive thoughts, encouraging your spouse for those positive things. Bring a magnifying glass to your spouse’s strengths and what they bring to your life, marriage, family, and the world.
Mark: What we think affects how we feel, which influences our actions, which produces our results. When we think negative thoughts about our spouse, they produce negative feelings, which produces negative actions, which produces a negative outcome. However the same is true for positive thoughts. Our positive thoughts produce positive feelings, which produce positive actions and a more likely positive outcome.
CHALLENGE: Write down a list of your spouse’s positive traits (think of character, skill, and actions). Review those every day, saying them aloud. When negative thoughts enter your mind, push them aside and replace them with your spouse’s positive traits. (Even if something needs to be addressed in your marriage, you’ll go into it believing the best in your spouse. Your tone and choice of words will be influenced by your thinking and will raise the possibility of a positive outcome.)
P.S. Want to up your marriage game? Take our next No More Perfect Marriages: Home Edition seminar!
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