I have a confession to make, writing these blogs have been good for me and subsequently my relationship with my husband. This seriously helps me dig deeper in my own life, marriage and in how I show up and am with my husband. Also, what happens in our relationship becomes inspiration for these blogs. I do let my husband read them and he offers his thoughts and opinions. I like to think they have positive effects on him as well. So, I am very thankful to all of you who like, share and comment on my blogs and articles.
My digging deeper blogs have recently challenged me to level up. What exactly does level up mean? It means being aware of what I am doing in my relationship. It means digging around and sniffing out my bullshit. It means holding myself accountable, being honest with myself, accepting responsibility for my BS and raising my expectations of myself and my behaviour. That means apologizing for my mistakes and repairing the damage.
I am returning to the foundation for this one; your frame of reference, the lens that you look at your partner through. Remember at the beginning of your relationship it was sunshine, rainbows and unicorns? Remember how they could (almost) do nothing wrong? Remember how both of you were on your best behaviour? You have an emotional bank account where you make deposits and withdrawals. When you start out in your relationship you feel like you are a millionaire! All deposits, no withdrawals.
In my Magic 7, I talked about focussing on the positives. In that article, I talked about fertilizing your garden, or the grass on your side of the fence. Focusing on all the things going wrong eclipses the good stuff. Even if the good stuff is small, it’s often the small stuff that matters. When you make sure the positives outweigh the negatives, to get ahead (according to John Gottman) you need to deposit the 5 positive interactions to 1. The good has to outweigh the bad.
But, how do you get a leg up on that if your emotional bank account is well into overdraft? Recently I did a 21-day challenge to look at an abundance of the things I am grateful for. The rule is that 3 weeks makes a habit, supposedly. I was pretty diligent in it. And found that it had the most beautiful ripple effect for me in elevating my happiness. Then after the 21 days, I stopped doing it. Why did I stop? I’m not sure. It was easy to do and benefited me immensely. And that trickled to everyone around me. But I stopped doing it and it stopped having an effect on me. Then this got me thinking… when I did the gratitude challenge with my husband as part of the 21 days it helped. Then, I thought: Why not just focus on my husband and the things I am grateful for with just him? But here’s something to add: Why stop at 21 days? And maybe I should verbalize or show my partner my gratitude? That gratitude can stretch beyond just my husband to our relationship. It is soooo easy to do.
However, if you are in serious negative emotional overdraft (for example, are you only criticizing your partner or disgusted by them or their behaviour?) in your bank account, this will take a concerted effort. But anything worthwhile takes work and commitment and INTENTIONALITY. Even if they are handing you their deficits, their emotional bank account is in overdraft too if you are lobbing missiles back and forth at each other. Someone has to start, let it be you.
Be patient with this process and stick with it. You will have to be intentional with this and retrain your thought and behavior patterns. For example, do you automatically expect the worst of them or the best? Do you automatically think the worst or best of them; do you give them the benefit of the doubt, and do you believe in them? If not, then that’s where you have to start. AND don’t forget to tell them you have faith in them. Once your frame of reference shifts to the positive then the negativity doesn’t have a stranglehold on your relationship. And the best part? Focussing on the positive, being in a space of gratitude becomes easier…the more you focus on the positive the more positivity shows up!
Now let’s be real. We all make mistakes. Nobody’s perfect. But, once you shift, your relationship shifts. That can’t be avoided. Whether your partner follows suit, you have no control over. But when you are on the same team, team members support each other, encourage each other, bring their best and expect the other to bring their best. In other words, they bring out the best in each other.
May you bring forth the best in you and share that with your partner. And they bring their best to you. Elevating each other and your relationship 🙂
Ali Wilks has a BA in Psychology and an MSc in Human Ecology specializing in Family Studies. She is also a certified stepfamily coach, the owner and founder of Step by Step Mom – a stepfamily/stepmom coaching business and Wellness Editor at Stepparent Magazine. Her other job is with Children’s Services, since 1998, in Edmonton, Alberta. She is currently a trainer on Edmonton’s Caregiver Training Unit teaching classes on building skills, providing advocacy and support for foster, kinship and adoptive parents. These classes include building the essential skills in raising nonbiological children from the foster care system who present with special needs. Ali is a stepmother of 3 adult children (with a couple of grandkids too) and the birth mother of 2 beautiful girls.