This thought first came to me at my childbirth class. We were practicing giving each other encouragement, and discussed that during labor it is important to be able to do this easily. What a wake up call! I think most of us can point out many things we'd like to fix in our spouse/family/friends/etc...but how often do we look for the good? If you're like me, you are used to constantly picking out the things that bug you about the person/people you love dearly. I've been thinking about how I can work on this and have a couple of ideas.
1. DON'T say it!
First, I have decided that every time I have a negative thought about someone I love (myself included), the most important thing is to NOT say it. Not to myself, and especially not to them. Whether it's "why can't he see how tired I am and do the dishes for me and then rub my feet?" or "you never do anything right!" or "my child is just a living terror!" it is essential to keep these thoughts to myself.
2. Replace the bad with the good!
After I have mastered holding my tongue, the next step is to replace those negative, debilitating thoughts with positive ones. Our children do so many amazing things, why do we pick out the bad ones to showcase? My spouse helps me in so many ways, so why is it when I'm tired I want to gripe about how he isn't helping me right that second? My mom did such an amazing job raising me, why should I complain about 1 habit that bugs me? When those negative thoughts come, REPLACE them by thinking of at least 3 positive things about that person. It can start simple with something such as "I love the way he makes me laugh," or "she is always willing to help anyone." or even "her hair is such a beautiful color!" Even if the only nice thing you can think is superficial, it's a start!
We might start out only being about to think of 1 nice thing, and if we are angry or hurt, we might not be able to think of anything at all. My sister suggested keeping a journal of your spouse's good qualities. That way, in the heat of your anger when all you see is red, you can remind yourself how much you love that person. Or you can just try and remember your wedding day, or a time you were very happy and felt a lot of love and appreciation for that person (maybe the first time you held them if it is a child who is particularly troublesome.) The goal would be to think of 5 great qualities whenever you have a negative thought about that person. I think this helps with empathizing also, since you realize the behavior that bothers you isn't being done just to make you mad or upset!
3. TELL them!
Once you are able to quickly overcome those negative feelings, and replace them with positive, appreciative thoughts, it is important to tell that person the positive thought. This can go a long way in healing relationships. If you have a history of being very negative with that person, they may think something is up at first, and your sincere efforts could be looked at as phony. But keep going, and pretty soon I'm betting you'll start receiving positive, loving encouragement as well!
So, a day at your house might look something like this:
Church was crazy, your kids were naughty, and it has been a hectic day. You haven't had a moment to rest, but you come home and prepare dinner for the family you love. You are happy to do it since you are hungry and know everyone will appreciate it. In the middle of your preparations you toddler starts screaming because they want to be held. Your first thought it "why can't my husband just come and help, doesn't he know I'm busy. He's so lazy! I'm tired and just need a little help!" You catch yourself and realize that your spouse is definitely not lazy, and remind yourself that he got the kids ready for church and there on time while you were at meetings. You recognize his contribution and think maybe he is tired too and just hasn't thought about dinner yet. You think of other times when he has been helpful, how hard he works to provide for the family, and then, now calm, you find him and tell him how much you appreciate his help during the day. Then you say "the baby loves playing with you, would you mind distracting her while I finish dinner?" He gladly agrees, and is excited since he didn't realize you had started dinner and he is hungry.
This scenario may be slightly similar to one I should use more often! Some people would look at it and say "your spouse should just anticipate your needs and help without being asked." To those people I would ask "do YOU anticipate everyone else's needs all the time?" Maybe you do, especially if you are a mom. The point is not to change your spouse into some he/she is not, but to let them know you love them no matter what. Telling yourself what someone should do to make you happy won't help the situation, won't change behavior, and is pretty pointless, since you are in charge of your happiness, not anyone else.
4. One other tip I have is to check out the site: Immunized against infidelity. I love the thought that we are in charge of our relationships and can make them beautiful, remembering that happiness does not depend on what happens outside of us, but inside!