What you think about your mate really impacts your marriage. What you say to yourself influences how you view yourself, your marriage, and the world. Learning how to recognize and monitor your self-talk can have a huge impact on your marital satisfaction and the quality of your relationship. Learning to talk to yourself in a more rational, truthful manner is an important skill.
Everyone has an internal dialogue, referred to as self-talk. This dialogue is like being the narrator in your own life. As you go about your day, your thoughts tend to try to make sense of the world that is going on around you. However, many of these thoughts tend to be negative and often inaccurate.
Much of what you think isn’t true. In fact, it’s often exaggeratedly negative. If all of your thoughts were recorded and you were able to listen to them, you might be surprised to hear how negative your thoughts are.
Self-talk often jumps to conclusions and makes assumptions that aren’t true. For example, a husband comes home from work and sees his wife has not started dinner. He thinks to himself, “She doesn’t appreciate how hard I work all day. She’s so selfish. She doesn’t even care about me. I thought I would have married someone who would be happy to make my dinner after a long day at work.” In reality, his wife was busy dealing with the children and she figured that they could order a pizza.
Many people assume their spouse’s actions are directly related to their feelings about the marriage. For example, “He does this because he doesn’t care,” or “If she cared about me, she would….” People tend to draw a lot of conclusions based on how they interpret their spouse’s actions.
Other thoughts can be exaggerated. For example, using words such as always or never are usually signs of exaggerated thoughts. “He never shows me affection,” or “She always wants to spend time with her sister instead of me,” are examples. In life, there are few things that are always true or never true.
Recognize Your Thoughts
Thinking about your thoughts is not a concept that most people are familiar with. However, paying more attention to what is going on inside your brain can give you a lot of insight. Start noticing how many of your thoughts are negative versus positive. Writing down thoughts at various points throughout the day can be helpful.
Examine Your Thoughts
Once you are able to recognize your thoughts, start examining how true your thoughts are. Notice if your thoughts are overly negative. Ask yourself if there are other possible explanations. For example, if you are thinking that your marriage is bad because your spouse doesn’t give you enough attention, ask if there are other possible reasons your spouse doesn’t give you as much attention as you would like? There are many possible explanations.
Also, look for exceptions. If you are thinking, “he never spends time with me,” try to focus on examples of times when your spouse does spend time with you. Then ask yourself, is it true that he NEVER spends time with me?
Replace Your Thoughts with More Positive, True Thoughts
Replacing your negative thoughts doesn’t mean you have to replace them with unrealistic overly positive ones. Instead, it means trying to find more realistic thoughts. For example, if your spouse doesn’t spend as much time with you as you would like and you think, “he never spends time with me,” don’t try replacing it with something like, “my spouse spends lots of time with me,” if that is not true. However, it may be helpful to think, “I am able to spend some quality time with my spouse on Sundays. Even though it is not as much as I would like, I will do my best to enjoy the time we have together.”
Sometimes it can be helpful to ask yourself, “What would I say to a friend who had this problem?” For example, if a friend said to you, “My husband is a slob. He never puts his clothes in the hamper.” You probably wouldn’t say, “You’re right, you married a real pig!” Instead, you might give your friend some kind words about how to approach the problem or you may give her some positive points about her husband, “Well at least he is handy around the house!” When you are noticing problems or negative thoughts, ask yourself, what would I say to a friend? Often, it is easier to have kind words for others rather than ourselves.
When you start thinking differently about your marriage and your spouse, you’ll likely feel and act different. For example, a person who thinks, “My marriage is doomed” isn’t likely to put much effort into saving the relationship. However, if this person changed their thoughts to something like, “I can work on repairing my relationship each day” they are much more likely to be motivated to make change.
Change your self-talk into more positive, true thoughts and it can make a big difference to your marriage. It requires practice and dedication to work on addressing your thoughts. Old patterns can be difficult to beat at first and changing your thoughts isn’t easy. However, it can be worth the effort as it is likely to change not only your marriage, but your life.