You may have heard this inspirational quote: “Two things to remember in life: Take care of your thoughts when you are alone, and take care of your words when you are with people.” Both things have application within our relationships, where our expectations can either positively or negatively affect a spouse or partner.
With terrorism a constant global threat and Zika on the rise, the recently concluded 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro had many on high alert. There may have been people who were distracted and unable to be truly present in the moment due to the thought of something terrible happening. For athletes, worry related to the possibility of an attack or infection may have affected their focus on their competition. For attendees, increased caution may have brought on unnecessary anxiety, which may have taken away from their enjoyment of the games.
The same can be said about our relationships. We can become so consumed by the possible pain of being let down, so consumed with expecting the worst from a partner or spouse, that we experience unnecessary anxiety and stress. Whether it’s a defense mechanism or personal strategy of not putting oneself in a position of being disappointed, when we carry negative thoughts and expectations into a relationship, we may be setting it up for failure.
Here are four questions to think about in your relationships:
- Do you expect the worst? We’ve all done it when boarding an airplane: we think about all the plane crashes over the years and wonder if the plane we’re boarding will be next. As a result, anxiety and stress build. Likewise, when you expect the worst in your relationship, you may focus on unrealistic or illogical scenarios which may never arise. Although you may be convinced you’re protecting yourself from possible harm, you’re in fact doing the opposite. Not only are you creating unnecessary anxiety and stress, you’re not allowing room for the possibility of something great to arise. To say it differently, you may be so consumed with what could go wrong that you miss out on what may be great. Have a realistic perspective in your relationship, but expect it to grow through positivity. Be willing to see the good in your partner or spouse as well as yourself; know just how fortunate you are to have a special person who cares for you.
- Do you have a negative outlook? You may have heard quotes such as “Negativity breeds negativity,” or, “When you focus only on the negative, that’s all you’ll see.” Our outlook on our relationships becomes the lens through which we view a partner or spouse. Seek positivity so when it comes, you can acknowledge and appreciate it. Let positivity be the lens through which you view your partner or spouse.
- Do you trust your partner or spouse? Many people have a hard time trusting. Trust is the basic bond that ties two people together. Without trust, love and intimacy cannot grow. When we are so caught up with asking questions such as, “I don’t know if I can trust this person,” we aren’t giving our partner or spouse an arena in which a relationship can thrive.
- Are you present? When you are consumed with expecting the worst, you aren’t fully engaged. Like an Olympics attendee who is so concerned with a possible attack or mosquito bite that enjoying the games is difficult, when you’re preoccupied with the possibility of something bad happening, you’re not present in the moment for the good things that are happening. Be present and engaged. Believe that your partner or spouse doesn’t want the relationship to fail. They don’t want to experience negative moments, either. Like you, they want a physical, emotional, and/or spiritual connection. In the age of technology, a connection means you are engaged with your loved one, not with your smartphone. Actively show your partner or spouse that they matter. Be present.
If you want a successful relationship, stop expecting the worst and start seeking positivity. Don’t spend countless hours breeding unnecessary anxiety and frustration when you could be growing intimacy. Ask yourself the questions above and let your answers guide you toward a flourishing relationship.
© Copyright 2016 GoodTherapy.org. All rights reserved. Permission to publish granted by Stuart Fensterheim, LCSW, therapist in Scottsdale, Arizona
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