Your attitude about your marriage makes a big difference in your overall happiness and satisfaction with life. The way you feel about the state of your relationship will determine how you treat your spouse, how you interpret your spouse’s actions, and how much effort you put into the relationship. The conclusions you develop about your marriage may not be completely accurate. Your attitude may cause you to have a slightly skewed view of your relationship as you try to support your conclusion and rule out contrary evidence.
We take in a lot of information everyday. We try to make sense out of the information we take in by categorizing and drawing some sort of conclusion. We do this we many things that we encounter, including relationships. For example, you could probably create a list of nice co-workers and co-workers that you wished you didn’t work with based on the information you have about them. Although you might not have ever made such lists, you could probably do so without too much effort based on your knowledge and past experiences.
People form conclusions about their marriage and spouse as well. Sometimes these conclusions are based on “all or nothing” type thinking. For example, people may describe their marriage as either good or bad. In reality, most marriages include some strengths and some weaknesses but aren’t all good or all bad. When someone identifies their marriage as “bad” they overlook any areas of the relationship that may be a strength.
Looking for Evidence
When we form conclusions, we tend to look for more evidence that supports the conclusion. Someone who concludes, “I’m stupid,” may pay a lot of attention to mistakes or difficulties. When completing a crossword puzzle, this person may quit as soon as they get to an unknown answer, and use this as evidence to support the conclusion that they are stupid. People aren’t usually aware that they are looking for evidence to support their conclusions. It just happens naturally.
Screening Out Contrary Evidence
When available evidence is contrary to a person’s conclusion, they tend to not pay much attention to it. A person who concludes their spouse spends too much money will not likely focus on the times when their spouse has behaved more frugally. Instead, they will focus on the times when they think their spouse has spent too much money.
Conclusions About the Marriage
Sometimes people draw generalized conclusions about their marriage. An example is when someone concludes their marriage is over. They then look for further evidence that this is true while simultaneously screening out any evidence that suggests there are some positive aspects left in the relationship.
For example, Janet had decided her marriage to Tony was over. She concluded that there was no chance of anything changing and was seriously considering divorce. She paid attention to how annoyed she felt by Tony’s behaviors. Whenever they argued, she found this to be more evidence that they just weren’t compatible. However, when they got along, she dismissed it. She didn’t put any effort into the marriage because she already felt it was over.
Janet could have purposely looked for contrary evidence in order to improve her feelings about the marriage. If she focused on things she liked about Tony, times that they were able to get along, and factors that could give her hope about the relationship, her feelings would likely change. If she felt better about the marriage, her behaviors may become more pro-active and she may be more willing to put effort into the relationship.
Conclusions About Your Spouse’s Behaviors
People also draw conclusions about their spouse’s specific behaviors. Larry concluded that his wife Samantha didn’t treat him very well. When she didn’t offer to help him carry in groceries he chalked it up to, “she expects me to do it all and doesn’t care about me.” Yet, when she cooked his dinner each day, he didn’t really notice.
He spent a lot of time focusing on what she wasn’t doing rather than what she was. If Larry spent more time focusing on what is going well in the relationship, he could have improved his attitude toward his wife and their marriage in general. If he felt more positive about the marriage, he may behave in ways that improve the relationship as well.
Challenge Your Conclusions
Examine what negative conclusions you may have drawn about your marriage and about your spouse in general. Then start to look for contrary evidence. Find times when this information may not be true. There are usually exceptions where your conclusions may not be true. Pay attention to facts that you may be screening out that refutes your conclusion.
Create Positive Change
Don’t wait until your attitude changes before changing your behaviors. You can start creating positive change in your marriage now. Take a look at some of your behaviors that may be contributing to marital issues. Change your behaviors and you might see some improvements in your marriage.