Stop Dwelling on the Negative 

When something bad happens, sometimes people tend to ruminate about it. They re-play the event over and over in their head. They dwell on how bad it was. They continue to feel bad about it. It creates a cycle where people feel bad and they can get stuck feeling that way.

There’s a difference between ruminating and problem-solving. Problem-solving is a productive type of thinking that can lead to action. For example, thinking about how to manage your budget may be productive as you determine a course of action. Ruminating about not having enough money just keeps re-playing worrisome thoughts about not having enough money such as “I can’t believe I can’t pay my bills. I’ll never dig myself out of this hole. I’m so poor.” This sort of thinking doesn’t help develop a plan to get her needs met in the future.

People sometimes ruminate about negative interactions with their partner. They may think about something their partner said that hurt their feelings. Or they may think about how their relationship is not as good as it used to be. Or maybe they are thinking about how everyone else’s relationship seems to be better.

Sometimes ruminating involves an event. For example, a wife feels hurt that her husband went golfing when she didn’t feel well. She keeps thinking about how he must not care about her, yet doesn’t think about talking to him about it. Instead, she ruminates silently and the more she thinks about it, the worse she feels.

Ruminating can negatively impact your marriage. Focusing on how bad something was will make you feel worse and not help your situation improve. It is helpful to learn how to determine what sort of thinking you are doing when you find yourself spending a lot of time dwelling on something. If you discover that you are engaging in problem solving, it is likely helpful to continue until you determine a course of action. If, however, you are ruminating, it is helpful to find ways to stop.

It is not easy to stop thinking about something just by telling yourself, “don’t think about that.” Instead, trying not to think about something can actually make it worse. Instead, find an activity to do to take your mind off intrusive thoughts. Move around, engage in an activity, listen to music, read a book, or talk to someone. Your mood will likely improve and it can help improve your marriage as well.

One Response to “Stop Dwelling on the Negative”

  1. My husband and I are in a bad place right now. I’m trying to encourage him to see a therapist (we’ve been down the marriage counselor road and just when she started to hone in on husband’s past, he shut down and decided it wasn’t helpful) for issues related to his not-so-good childhood. His sister was going down a very bitter and angry road and sought the help of a therapist and her life is much better now. My husband tends to shut down when there’s a problem, stops talking to me, and when he finally confronts me he’s basically got it all figured out that everything wrong in his life is my fault. Then he doesn’t understand when I get defensive. This article really rang true for me…I see him ruminating all the time, focusing on the negative. We can’t have any type of discussion without him bringing up things that happened years ago! Things that I already thought we got through and resolved. In his head nothing is ever resolved. How to help someone like this?

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