Believe In The Good In Your Partner

Give Them the Benefit of the Doubt

by John E. Turner, LMFT and Sally R. Connolly, LMFT

Share this page.
Bookmark and Share

Most of us have done dumb, stupid or hurtful things that affected our partner, intentionally or unintentionally. In fact, research shows that most people will do something that is hurtful to their partner in any long-term relationship.

Many of us have also done nice or neutral things that our partner has misinterpreted as mean, evil or hurtful. We never meant them to be hurtful but by clumsiness or negative interpretations, others have seen them as unkind or ugly.

Jan and Terry have gotten into a very tough spot. Neither of them seems to be able to do anything right … even if they are trying to turn things around.

Jan knows that Terry loves the cinnamon buns from their neighborhood bakery. The last time she brought him one, really as a peace offeri
ng, he thought it was a bribe just to get her way.

Nancy and Jim are stuck in the same cycle, especially around sex. Nancy wants simple physical affection from Jim and yet, when he tries to hug or kiss her, she sees it as his attempts to move directly to sex.

Jim sees her backing away as a power move to hurt him.

When couples move into this negative pattern, it is so hard to see the other’s attempts to repair the damage as anything but manipulative maneuvering. I often hear partners say to each other, “I cannot afford to let my guard down with you or you will roll all over me“.

And yet, for even half of a couple to let their guard down and see a step forward as a positive thing, giving their partner the benefit of the doubt, must happen.

Give Your Partner the Benefit of the Doubt

In healthy relationships, couples are able to act effectively rather than react in positive or neutral ways when their partner does something that can be interpreted as hurtful or mean-spirited.

When 4 year old Steven was whining and crying, Jan and Terry thought he might have a fever or have a cold coming on.

When 11 year old Kaitlin began to have problems with friends at school, Jan and Terry thought she might be having a tough time adjusting to middle school and looked for ways to help her adjust to the new setting.

If parents can give their children the benefit of the doubt, they need to learn how to do the same for each other.

Changing the way that you think about your spouse can change the way that you feel about your spouse and certainly affects the ways that you act with and react to him or her.

Err on the side of caution. Give your partner the benefit of the doubt.

Find ways to slow down your thinking and acting until you are calm and can think it through.

Believe in your partner and his or her willingness to do things in the best interests of the relationship.

Return to Online Counseling and Coaching Home Page