Change Your Story (Fights You’ll Have After Having a Baby, Part Seven)

My Relationship Journal: December

Lesson: Change Your Story

Book Notes and Quotes:

Dan Savage:

  • “As a relationship advisor what I’m constantly noticing is people who are obsessed with the things in their relationship that annoy them and they can be very articulate and long-winded about their partner’s faults or the things that they’re dissatisfied with in their relationship. And nowhere near as long-winded or articulate about their partner’s strengths or what’s good about their relationship.” (—StarTalkRadio.net)

The Surprising Secrets of Highly Happy Marriages, Shaunte Feldhahn:

  • “Highly happy couples always assume good intentions.”
  • “By expecting the best, you bring out the best.”
  • “Much of the way your partner behaves is a direct result of how you treat them. If you go in to a potentially uncomfortable conversation expecting tension or resistance, that is probably what you’ll get. Likewise, if you go in to that same conversation with a relaxed demeanor, believing your partner will keep their cool, it is likely that they will.”

Telling Yourself the Truth: Find Your Way Out of Depression, Anxiety, Fear, Anger, and Other Common Problems by Applying the Principles of Misbelief Therapy, William Backus and Marie Chapian:

  • Always remember that there are at least two versions of the truth. Then consistently choose to believe the more agreeable one. People who struggle a great deal with anger or depression often choose the version with fewer truth elements than people who are more optimistic.
  • Often, but not always, relationships change dramatically when one person drops the misbeliefs that generate and perpetuate bitterness and anger. Always the person who works to change misbeliefs will benefit even if the other person does not change.

Love Is Never Enough: How Couples Can Overcome Misunderstanding, Aaron T. Beck M.D.

  • “Some of the misunderstandings that beset a marriage have their roots in the rigid thinking that underlies prejudice of all kinds. The biased expectations, observations, and conclusions that form a prejudice reflect the frame of mind known technically as a ‘negative cognitive set.’ When a husband has framed his wife within this set, for example, he will interpret virtually everything she says or does in a negative way.”
  • “On the other hand, during the infatuation of courtship and early married life, couples show a positive bias. Almost everything the partner says or does is interpreted in a positive light.”
  • You can use Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), the most popular and most proven therapy for overcoming negative thinking, to change your story about your spouse. Three ways to do this are: “. . . Recognizing and correcting your automatic thoughts, testing your predictions, and reframing your perspective of your mate.”
  • “Examine [your thoughts] and look for supporting evidence, contradictory evidence, alternative explanations, and more logical inferences.”

The Feeling Good Handbook:

  • There are many ways to practice CBT. The main one is this: Whenever you’re experiencing an especially negative emotion, journal about it. Write down the reasons your stressful thought is either exaggerated or entirely untrue, and reframe the situation in a more positive, objective light.
  • “If you want to feel better, you must realize that your thoughts and attitudes—not external events—create your feelings.”

The Holy Bible, Proverbs 10:12:

  • “Hatred stirreth up strifes: but love covereth all sins.”

My Relationship Resolutions:

  • I will remind myself that Matthew’s motives are good. I won’t automatically infer uncaring feelings, as is often my knee-jerk response when upset. Instead, I’ll either assume the intentions behind his words and actions are good, or I’ll simply ask him to explain them.
  • I will remind myself that Matthew’s character is good. I won’t start a monologue in my mind listing all of his past similar actions, and drawing conclusions about how he will act in the future. Instead, I’ll make giving him the benefit of the doubt a habit.
  • I won’t hear insults where insults aren’t spoken. Instead, I will hear need. I’ll hear tiredness, stress, sadness, hunger—or maybe just a desire to feel loved.
  • I won’t play judge or jury. No matter what my partner does, whether “good” or “bad,” desirable or not, there’s no reason for me to judge his character. If a behavior doesn’t work for me, it doesn’t work for me; I can recognize that, communicate it to him without anger. The thoughts that drive me crazy are the ones that aren’t needed, thoughts like: “Is he a good husband?” “Is he a good person?” “How’s his character?” In the end, all these questions are nonsensical. In some moments, my partner is awesome—kind and surprisingly self-aware. In other moments, he has his blinders on. Any belief I have in my mind about your partner’s character is ultimately just that: a belief. Nothing more substantial than that.
  • I will practice CBT regularly.
  • I will question any painful beliefs that come up about my partner and our relationship.

Note for the Fridge:

  • “I promise to believe your intentions are good.”
  • “I promise to double-check my story about you.”

Read the rest of the series at Fights You’ll Have After Having a Baby: A Self-Help Novel.

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More to Read:

Books I Want My Kids to Read Someday

Knowledge Checklists: Filling My Educational Gaps, One Subject at a Time

200 Spiritual Practice Success Stories

Fights You’ll Have After Having a Baby: A Self-Help Novel

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