I know the headline sounds like an infomercial, or maybe one of those sensational blurbs on the cover of a women’s magazine. I am trying to catch your attention as I want to share something with you I’ve seen truly transform marriages, including my own.
This guidance is based on a solid, validated life-truth. If you take it seriously and work it for at least 90 days, you will see a difference in yourself and probably in your spouse as well. In fact, I believe if every couple adopted this approach, the rate of divorce could drop by half. It can be that transforming.
Here is the truth: Whatever we focus on, expands.
We’re hardwired for focus
I doubt this is news to you. You could hear something similar from just about any positive-thinking evangelist or motivational speaker, from Norman Vincent Peale to Wayne Dyer to Oprah. Performance professionals – think athletes, musicians and public speakers – make an art of doing this – by visualizing exactly how they want to perform in a given situation. This is the epitome of what it means to focus on what we want to expand. These professionals laser focus on their desired outcome. They see it in their mind, they believe it, and then strive to achieve it.
There is apparently something in the human brain that hardwires us for focus. Our energy flows where our attention goes! Take for instance gratitude – the act of being thankful and showing appreciation. Recent research has shown that when we focus on practicing gratitude every day, it changes the biology of our brains. Our levels of dopamine – the chemical that makes us feel better – actually increase! How incredible is that?! Now keep in mind, it’s not being grateful that does this; it’s the act of practicing gratitude. There is a difference. When we focus on gratefulness, we in turn become truly grateful. Our focus expands into our behavior. (For more, check research published by UCLA neuroscience researcher Alex Korb in The Upward Spiral and by Brene Brown in The Gifts of Imperfection.)
What do you focus on in your marriage?
So how can you use this phenomenon to positively impact your marriage, you ask? Here’s how:
If you focus on the negative in your marriage, it will gradually balloon into the only thing you can think about, overshadowing any of the remotely positive aspects of your marriage.
If you focus on the positive, the reverse happens. You’ll start seeing more and more aspects of your marriage about which to be thankful….and hopeful.
How it worked for me
There were many ingredients that contributed to my dissatisfaction with my marriage 15 years ago. I was the poster child for focusing on the negative. I could see everything about my husband that was subpar, that wasn’t the way I wanted him to be, that didn’t live up to what I wanted in a relationship. It got so bad at one point I even told him I never really loved him. You can read more about that here.
However, long story short, I decided I wanted to be married. I decided even though many of his behaviors drove me crazy, many more of them were invaluable to me and truly worth treasuring.
I chose to focus on my husband’s adorable qualities, and you know what? He became infinitely adorable to me. Did he still possess those less-desirable qualities too? Sure he did. And does! We all do. But, they aren’t my focus anymore.
Now this didn’t happen overnight. But it worked. This is truth, folks – focusing on what I wanted to expand in my marriage, and in me, popped the negative balloons and replaced them with vibrant helium-filled balloons that to this day continue to lift my marriage.
5 ways to apply this approach
If you want to make a serious attempt at applying this approach to your marriage, here are some specific ways to do it. Choose one or two that fit you and be diligent for the next 90 days.
- On your own:
- Make a daily habit of thinking about one positive aspect of your spouse. This can be during your morning getting-dressed time, or during your shower, or while you’re walking the dog. You don’t have to come up with a new something every day; just concentrate on what’s most meaningful for that day.
- Keep a written record of what’s good in your marriage. I suggest keeping it private, somewhere your spouse wouldn’t normally see, so you’re not doing it just for show. This is just for you, as a way to refocus on your mental commitment.
- When something negative comes to mind, match it with a positive. Over the next 90 days you will inevitably have conflict. Something negative about your spouse will emerge. When it happens, acknowledge it, then immediately pair it with, “… but I love how she ___________” or “… but he’s really good about _________________.” For every negative, come up with a positive.
- Make a game of focusing on the what’s good about your marriage. This can be just a fun conversation over supper, or a more serious discussion during your weekly couple time. It can start with silly stuff like, “We both crave chocolate ice cream” or “We both love to binge on Netflix,” but if you keep it going, you’ll be amazed at the depth you’ll find.
- Take a walk once a week and tell your spouse something good that happened. It doesn’t even have to be about your marriage. Just practice on sharing goodness with one another.
There it is – free advice that can transform your marriage, based on a truth about how our brains work.
Don’t give up, please
I know all kinds of barriers can get in the way of applying good advice, no matter how truthful it is. If you’re in a space where you can’t come up with anything positive about your relationship, I beg you, don’t give up. Reach out. Our team has ways to help, over the phone, over the computer, in person, however works best for you. It could be you just need a little jump-start. We can help with that, and deeper work if needed.