What Are You Thinking About Your Spouse?

analysis blackboard board bubble

-By Brooke

Your relationship is your thoughts about it … What are you thinking? 

The quality of any relationship you have is really just a reflection of the quality of your thoughts about that person. 

Really think about this. For example, that person you cannot stand has a best friend. This means the best friend interacts with the same person as you  but simply thinks different thoughts about that person and then has a drastically different relationship. You may argue, “yeah, that’s because that person treats their best friend differently than they do me, they experience a very different situation than me!” Correct, you experience a very different “reality” because of what psychology calls confirmation bias. 

Confirmation Bias

Your brain is virtually inundated with millions of data points each day and it sifts through those data points and presents to you only a very select handful, otherwise you would have literal sensory overload. If you believe a certain person is a jerk your brain will sort through the data points on that person and present to you all the reasons that person is a jerk and ignore all the reasons they are a beautiful person. Their best friend believes that person is great and so their brain sorts its data points accordingly and brings to the forefront those examples that this person is a great person. The human brain is wired to look for confirmation of its beliefs. 

Beliefs are just well practiced thoughts

A belief is just a thought you have thought over and over. While it can be a bit unsettling to some to realize that their beliefs can be changed by changing their habitual thoughts, this can also be incredibly empowering. Ask yourself, do you really want to feel frustration and annoyance whenever you have to interact with someone when you could instead feel love and compassion? What feels better? What kind of life do you really want to live? 

There are some relationships that are relatively easy to avoid, so if that person bugs you, you usually simply avoid them. However, there are other relationships that you cannot so easily avoid, whether its a neighbor, boss, child, or spouse.  Often we just suffer and suffer for years. Or, you can change your beliefs (aka thoughts) about that person, train your brain to focus on the great things about them and feel a whole lot better. 

Example

Here is an example from my life. I have a daughter who was driving me crazy. She would scream and fuss and basically make everyone miserable. We tried counseling, we read books, we discussed the issue a lot. Finally, I realized my primary thought about her was “she is a jerk”. You can imaging that this thought that had coalesced into a belief was causing me to feel terrible and act terribly when I interacted with her. After I realized this thought and now belief was not helping at all, I practiced the thought,   “ I love her” over and over and over and over. It helped that I really did love her, but I made that my baseline thought, a thought I consciously choose. Often we love someone (like I loved my daughter) but we think unloving thoughts (she is a jerk) so we don’t actually feel and then act loving. I had to practice the thought “I love her” in order to actually feel and act loving. 

How this works in a faith transition

In the context of a faith transition, there are often many thoughts swirling in our heads about our spouse and their “problem” or their lack of support or lack of understanding. These thoughts can lead to feelings of betrayal, abandonment, and distrust. Those feeling cause us to act in often unhelpful ways, maybe we withdraw emotionally, and that behavior can lead to the ultimate result of disconnection and an undermined marriage. The best way to prevent disconnection is to prevent the thoughts that lead to it. (Remember our thoughts create our emotions, our emotions cause our actions and our actions create our results). Here are two models from both spouses’ perspectives, using the STEAR model, that demonstrates how this process works and how we can practice a new thought to create a new result. 

STEAR MODEL

Old Model New Model
Situation: My spouse stopped going to church Situation: My spouse stopped going to church
Thought: This is going to ruin my life Thought: It is natural for people to experience doubt
Emotion: Fear Emotion: Understanding
Actions: refuse to really listen to their reasons, withdraw emotionally and physically, spin out with thoughts like this will impact my eternal happiness Actions: Hold space for their questioning without judgment
Results: lack of emotional intimacy and disconnection Results: Deeper connection as together we navigate life and marriage
Old Model New Model
Situation: I stopped going to church Situation: I stopped going to church
Thought: My husband will never understand Thought: It is important for me to be honest in my relationship
Emotion: Fear Emotion: Courage
Actions: Withdraw emotionally, refuse to discuss honestly thoughts and feelings Actions: Communicate openly and honestly about changing thoughts and beliefs – act vulnerably
Results: Lack of emotionally intimacy and disconnection Results: Deeper connection as together we navigate life and marriage

If you want to create a new result, you have to really practice your new thought. Your previous thought is very well practiced, it is your default thought, you have probably thought it hundred maybe even thousands of times. You will likewise need to practice this new thought for it to become a belief. This is the power of really taking control of your life and being responsible for your emotions.

How has your relationship been lately? Take some time to write out your current set of thoughts about your relationship. Are these thoughts going to create the type of marriage you really want? If not, write out your own models and come up with your own thoughts that will work for you to generate the emotions, actions and results you really want. 

You can have a thriving marriage no matter what the situation, because you always have complete control over your thoughts.

Do you want to go deeper and learn even more?

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