We heard a talk by Gayle Haggard, wife of Ted Haggard, and she challenged us to ask ourselves the question, “Who am I going to be in this story?” She had to answer that question when her husband was accused of a secret life of infidelity and drug use. Her perfect world turned upside down and she chose to stay and fight for her marriage, not give up on it. The story would be told one way or another; she decided to be a part of a hopeful healing story, not one of division and defeat. Such a courageous decision! And the story she now tells is of the power of Jesus to heal deep wounds between spouses.
All spouses are actors in the story of their marriage and we all have a choice of who we will be in that story. The script is not written for us; we make it up as we go.
Personally, I spent a lot of years blocking progress and closeness in my marriage because of wrong thinking. Our marriage wasn’t a happy story and I was not doing my part to change that. Here are some of the destructive ways of thinking that I employed:
- Black and white thinking- it was either all right or all wrong, a total success or failure, all good or all bad. I didn’t acknowledge the little bit of progress or good along the way.
- Overgeneralization- when a negative thing happened I thought nothing would ever go right.
- Awfulizing- thinking the worst, everything is just awful.
- Negative mental filter- I could always see the negatives, seldom the positives. I filtered out the good things and ignored the positives.
- Magnifying and minimizing- blowing things out of proportion, magnifying my weaknesses and minimizing strengths.
- Blaming- I blamed myself for things whether it made sense or not just to reduce the stress level. Some people blame others for the same reason.
- Labeling- accusing ourselves or others of wrongdoing based on a few negative instances.
- Emotional reasonings- I let my feelings guide how I interpreted reality. For example: “I feel like I am a failure so I am a failure.”
I’m sure you see how destructive these patterns are. They are ingrained and we use them because they seem to reduce our stress level at the moment. But in the long run they only increase it. They block good constructive conversation. And if you do get some clarity and resolution at times, it will all be forgotten when caught in the negativity trap again!
Do you see yourself in any of these negative thinking patterns? If so, be encouraged that you can change your thinking and the story of your marriage in the process. We can decide to be intentional about the way we react to things. Start by thinking about the positive things about you, your spouse, and your lives together. Give yourself and your spouse some slack. We all make mistakes and we need forgiveness. Remember that the next time one of you hurts the other.
Decide to be a positive, constructive actor in the story of your marriage.