Distressed couple on bench

How to overcome negative thoughts in your relationship

Do you ever find yourself entangled in a web of negative thoughts about your partner? Little things, like their messiness, their loudness, or their handling of finances, can get under your skin. It's only natural that as we build a life together, irritations arise, and negative thoughts come knocking at the door.

Negative thoughts breed disrespect

Most, if not all people, tend to have negative thoughts about their partner. But there’s a danger to those negative thoughts that often goes unnoticed. Negative thoughts can pave the way for disrespect towards our partners. And when respect dwindles, our actions may reflect our disrespect: We may criticize our partner excessively, nag them, put undue pressure on them, or begin to be disloyal to them.

It's evident that these behaviors aren't conducive to a healthy relationship.

Yet, we have the power to either harm or nurture our relationships through our words and actions. The choice lies in our hands.

Escaping the grasp of negativity

But it’s not an easy choice. Negativity seems to be everywhere around us - in politics, in the media, in our workplace, and unfortunately, also in our relationships and families.

Often, negative thoughts enter our minds so easily we're hardly aware of their presence. We blame our partners (“It’s no wonder the kids are so messy when you can’t even pick up after yourself!”) and we criticize them (“You don’t ever listen to me”), possibly leaving them depressed and feeling unloved. (Please note that I am talking about DESTRUCTIVE criticism - constructive criticism is helpful and needed at times).

By engaging in negative behavior, we signal to our loved ones that we don't accept their thoughts, actions, or their very essence. Rather than respecting them, we unintentionally reject them. Eventually, this negativity takes a toll on our relationships.

But how do we overcome this cycle of negative thoughts?

Breaking the cycle of negative thoughts

Fortunately, there are several effective strategies to decrease the frequency of negative thoughts about your partner:

1. Re-assess the pain points in your relationship

We humans are creatures of habit. Examine situation where negativity often arises. How you can you reevaluate those situations or react differently? Consider minor annoyances, such as the toothpaste on the sink. Could you keep wipes nearby to address it instead of starting another argument with no productive outcome? In the grand scheme of things, how important is what you obsess over repeatedly?

2. Talk about your own feelings

Instead of blaming your partner outright (as in, “You didn’t purchase the right shampoo again, and I’ve told you at least ten times which brand I want”), share your feelings openly and explain why certain actions or behaviors affect you (“I get breakouts when I use other shampoos, so it’s really important you buy the right brand. When you don’t pay attention to getting the right shampoo, it really upsets me because I feel you don’t care about my health”).

3. Avoid making assumptions

Negative thoughts can often stem from assumptions and interpretations. Instead of assuming the worst, seek clarification from your partner about their actions or intentions. Open dialogue can prevent misunderstandings.

4. Focus on the positives

Make a conscious effort to shift your focus from negative thoughts to positive aspects of your partner and your relationship. Remember why you fell in love and what you appreciate about them.

5. Practice empathy

Try to understand your partner's perspective and emotions. Put yourself in their shoes and consider the challenges they might be facing. Empathy can foster understanding and compassion.

6. Keep trying

It’s easy to slip back into old habits. Use reminders, such as bookmarks or phone notifications to keep yourself on track.

7. Learn and forgive yourself

As you work on your negative thoughts, reflect on your experiences. What is challenging, and what can you do differently next time? Use these insights to make positive changes. Most importantly, be forgiving of yourself – everyone makes mistakes, but it's through learning that we grow.

By embracing these strategies and choosing a path of compassion and understanding, you can overcome negative thoughts in your relationship, fostering a happier and more fulfilling connection with your partner. Remember, progress lies in the effort you invest, not in perfection.

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