Positivity in Relationships is Contagious
by Sally Ratterman Connolly, LMFT and John E. Turner, LMFT
Heather was past the point of being upset with Bruce. He never helped with children or housework, was constantly pressuring her for sex and ignored all of her requests for conversations about their relationship.
When people who are “past the point of being upset” enter counseling, then I know that someone is giving serious consideration about ending a marriage. That was indeed the case with Heather. She was there to talk over her options before leaving Bruce.
Heather agreed to try one more thing before leaving. She agreed to focus only on the positive. All of her nagging, negative comments, complaints and criticisms, she agreed to write down but never say. She would look for and comment on any efforts that Bruce made in the right direction.
Heather said that the first 2 weeks were really hard. Not only did she have a hard time not complaining, but she also found it hard to find anything positive to say. Finally, by the end of two weeks; however, she began to notice a change in Bruce. Some of the things that she had asked him to do before (but no longer) he had started doing. No earth-shattering changes, but Bruce was putting his dishes in the dishwasher and playing more with the children at night.
Heather was surprised but did not believe that the changes could last. She said that there were times when she “slipped” with a complaint or criticism but she caught herself fairly quickly and was able to go back to her “positivity” strategy.
Three months later, Heather was pleased to report that things were definitely better at home. The thing that seemed to surprise her most was that she was feeling more positive about and attracted to Bruce. She actually enjoyed him and their friendship again. While still wary of the continued move in the right direction, she was feeling much more hopeful and glad that she had stayed in the marriage.
Heather was able to become positive in her relationship with Bruce and it “caught”. The more she noticed what was going well and working, the mor he was likely to repeat it and return the sentiment.
In my experience with couples, I find that, when they are able to focus more on the positives and their friendship, they develop a healthier relationship. Even one person who changes from talking and noting the negative to the positive can change the flavor of the relationship. (Change the tune and you change the dance.)