My husband and I assisted with a marriage conference last weekend led by Dr. Tim Heck, LMFT. One takeaway we learned is that our view of our spouse’s traits is often skewed. When we are dating, these traits skew very positively in our minds, and at times during the marriage this remains true. However during the days or years when we may be disenchanted or displeased with our spouse (or even just because we have been together for many years), our perception of those traits may skew negatively.
For example, I tend to be a tidy person. I like things fairly neat and in their place (although my desk is often piled with files and projects and some areas of the house are less than perfect). Being organized/tidy can be viewed as a positive trait. My husband might appreciate that I keep up with the laundry and not allow the house to become a complete disaster, and that I teach the kids to pick up after themselves. However, he could also see the trait as a negative and view me as a “neat-freak” or controlling or having too high of standards. He may see that I get anxious when things are very messy and see that as fault.
His perfectionism is great when it comes to making a home improvement just right or when an important purchase must be thoroughly researched. However, when standards for unimportant things are terribly high, the trait can be seen as compulsive or critical.
In this way, literally all of our traits can be viewed with both a positive and negative lens. Even kindness and compassion may turn into a complaint that you neglect yourself or your immediate family to take care of others. Being hardworking may be viewed as workaholic. A very social person may be criticized for not making enough one-on-one time with her spouse. A serious person may be seen as too high strung, while a funny person may be seen as not serious or driven enough.
If you have a frequent complaint of your spouse, consider trying to look for the positive side of his or her traits. If he sometimes works late, consider that he may value being a provider and keeping a good job. If she is a saver and doesn’t want you to spend money on unnecessary items, perhaps she values economic security and careful financial decisions. Whatever traits your spouse possesses that sometimes irritate you, try to flip them and see if you can find a positive angle. You did this when you were dating, and it’s one of the reasons you selected your mate without seeing a long list of faults.
Share with your spouse on or two traits for each of you that you sometimes see the bright side of, and sometimes see the down side.
What traits do you have that are sometimes viewed negatively? What traits does your spouse have that you used to view positively, but sometimes see negatively?
Read The Importance of Playful Partners by Simple Marriage. I often forget about the need to add good, old-fashioned play to our relationships. Good ideas here.
Check out Blindly Driving a Marriage to its Death and then Blaming the Victim by the Generous Husband. Is it possible you’re feeling disprespected at work and that putting that on your spouse?
Photo courtesty of freedigitalphotos.net.