Learning how to look at things from your spouse’s point of view can greatly improve your marriage. Trying to see things through your spouse’s eyes can help reduce conflict, increase your compassion toward one another, and improve your communication. It takes practice however, to try and step back and recognize what your spouse may be feeling.
Notice Your Own Feelings and Point of View
When you have a strong reaction to an event or your partner’s behaviors, take some time to recognize what is causing your emotional reaction. Do you feel disrespected? Are you frustrated? Are your feelings hurt? Really examining your own feelings is an important first step.
Then it can be helpful to start examining the reason why you feel this way. Do you think your spouse should have done something different? Do you think your spouse is not behaving the way you would expect? Are you feelings hurt because you are offended by your spouse’s actions? Identifying the reasons why you feel the way you do can help you to see things from your spouse’s point of view.
Identify Blaming Thoughts
Take a few minutes to notice the thoughts you are having about your spouse’s behaviors. Remember that just because you think something doesn’t mean it is true. It’s possible that your feelings about an incident are clouding your judgment. It can be helpful to examine your thoughts to see if some of them may be placing excessive blame on your spouse.
For example, you may be thinking, “He comes home late just to make me mad.” This is one possible reason he comes home late, but there are thousands of other reasons. If you are upset, it’s possible you are putting more blame on your spouse than your spouse deserves. Ask yourself if there are any other possible reasons for your spouse’s behaviors and see if you can recognize other possibilities.
Identify Exaggerated Thoughts
Sometimes thoughts can become exaggerated when people are upset. For example, a husband comes home late from work two nights in one week and his wife thinks, “He always comes home late.” This isn’t true. He came home late from work two nights but was home on time three nights so he isn’t always late. If you are having exaggerated thoughts about your spouse’s behaviors or intentions, it will make it difficult to see things from your spouse’s point of view.
Ask Yourself What Your Spouse May Be Feeling
Spend some time trying to identify what your spouse might be feeling. Recognize there are many reasons that may be behind your spouse’s behaviors. Take some time to imagine what sorts of feelings may be driving your spouse’s behaviors.
Often we make assumptions about our spouse’s behaviors and create a story that supports this. Try to develop some alternative stories to the one you have created. This can help you to recognize that your assumptions are only one of many thousand possibilities.
Communicate Your Observations and Feelings
If your feelings are hurt it can be helpful to communicate this to your spouse. Learning to see things from your spouse’s point of view requires you to enter this conversation open-minded. If you have already declared your spouse is “thoughtless, rude, and inconsiderate,” you won’t really be able to hear what your spouse has to say. This is why it can be important to spend some time reflecting on alternatives before talking to your partner.
Listening is one of the most important parts of learning to see things from your spouse’s point of view. Repeat what you hear your spouse saying in your own words just to make sure you really understand. Ask for clarification when necessary. This can assure you can really be assured you have a good understanding of what your spouse is trying to communicate. You may be able to recognize that your spouse’s behaviors are far less sinister than you imagined.
Carlos and Maria had been married for five years. And every Sunday afternoon, Carlos went to his parents’ home. He spent the afternoon helping to mow their lawn, maintain their home, and manage their responsibilities. Initially, Maria didn’t mind. However, over the course of the years, she started to become resentful.
Maria began having thoughts such as “Why can’t he just pay for someone to help them?” or “If they can’t manage to live independently they should go to a retirement home.” She thought he was not doing enough around their own house and tended to think he cared more about his parents than her.
When Maria began to think about things for Carlos’ point of view, she realized how he was trying to behave like a loving son. She also recognized that when she nagged him or gave him a hard time for doing this, she was making things more difficult for him instead of being a supportive partner. She talked to Carlos about her feelings and her choice to try and see things from his point of view. Although she still sometimes felt frustrated that he wasn’t home on Sunday afternoons, she was able to replace her negative thoughts with thoughts such as “my husband is a very loving man who cares about his family.” This was very helpful in allowing her to let go of resentment and it helped improve their marriage.