Today’s great post on what we choose to believe about our spouse comes from Marriage Laboratory. Enjoy!
There is a person in my life with some psychological issues.
I mean, we all have psychological issues, but for this person, her issues often render her incapacitated, unable to complete even the simplest of tasks.
I have spent a good deal of time trying to siphon out what of this behavior is her illness and what is just her personality.
If her incapacities are just her personality- that makes me much less enthusiastic about helping her. I feel taken advantage of. I feel like she should do more for herself and rely less on others. But then when I think her actions are based on her illness, I am much more enthusiastic to jump in and help as much as I can. I’m more forgiving and loving.
So, which is The TRUTH? Does she not provide for herself out of laziness or illness?
Here is the groundbreaking conclusion I’ve come to in my heart— IT DOESN’T MATTER.
I am not her caregiver. I am not responsible for her improvement. The story might be different if I were her parent, but I am not. So if my responsibility is not to parent her, what is my responsibility towards her?
TO LOVE HER.
When I believe her limitations come from her illness, I show up with love. When I believe they are her own “fault,” I don’t.
Regardless of what the TRUTH is, I choose to believe the best in her because then I am at my best, I am at peace and I show up with love.
WHO ARE OUR SPOUSES REALLY?
Often in marriage, we spend a good deal of time and effort seeking out the TRUTH of who are spouses really are.
Does my husband not do the dishes because he’s an entitled lazy slob or because he’s just tired from working hard? Or did he just honestly not think about the dishes one way or the other?
Does my wife complain about how she looks because she’s vain and needs constant validation to feel good about herself? Or is she just a little sensitive and appreciates a compliment every now and then? Or is this just how she was raised and what is normal to her?
There are so many potential reasons behind why our spouses do what they do.
When we spend all our mental energy trying to decipher why they do what they do in order to discern what kind of behavior they deserve from us, we are wasting a lot of mental energy and often our conclusions are not serving us or our marriage.
Here’s the thing- YOU get to decide what you believe about your spouse.
Left to autopilot, our brains will go to negative thoughts of their own accord (darn brains! always trying to keep us safe!). So you have to be proactive in this, but YOU get to decide what thoughts you keep thinking.
And that is what beliefs are- just thoughts you keep thinking.
You get to decide which side of any debate you will be on.
There are always reasons to believe the best of your spouse and ALWAYS reasons to believe the worst. In any situation.
I’m sure we could all come up with reasons and examples of how our spouses are lazy. I’m also sure we could all come up with reasons and examples for how our spouses are hard working. Which do you want to believe?
We could all list ways in which our spouses are completely selfish. We could also list ways in which our spouses are completely selfLESS. Which do you want to believe?
BUT DOESN’T THIS MAKE ME DELUSIONAL?
No. It makes you human.
Sad fact: we’re all delusional about other people. There is just NO WAY to know what is in a person’s head and heart, so we think thoughts about other people based on evidence we find, but sadly we are so so so so often wrong in our judgments of others- just flat out wrong.
So, when we make judgments of others- we’re going to be delusional no matter what, we might was well be delusional in a way that will serve us.
In my initial story, there is just no way of knowing which behaviors and motivations and words come from psychological illness and which from some less flattering motivation. I could try to figure it out all day and I would probably be wrong most of the time because humans are just complicated creatures.
So I might as well root for the side of her that helps me be the best me and her be the best her.
I don’t think this makes me delusional.
Aw. Well, thank you.
YOUR MARRIAGE IS A DEBATE TOURNAMENT- WHICH SIDE DO YOU CHOOSE TO ADVOCATE FOR?
Have you ever been to a debate tournament?
My best friend growing up was an ace debater and I used to go to her tournaments. I was always SHOCKED at how she (and other worthy opponents) could debate positively for an issue that I saw as so clearly wrong or vice versa.
For instance, in one debate, they were debating building a hospital in a rural African town that desperately needed resources. How on earth could you argue this was a bad thing??
Well, building a hospital and staffing it with foreigners could put the local doctors and healers out of business. The doctors might provide so many immunizations to a disease that the disease morphs to become resistant to treatment. Because we don’t have a perfect knowledge of this town’s culture, bringing in lots of outside resources, food and ideas could really disrupt the culture and dynamics of the townspeople.
Hmmmmm. More complicated than I originally thought (and so are people!).
The point is, the ball is always in your court to decide which side of your spouse you choose to advocate. You get to choose which side to debate for.
Do you want to believe your spouse’s actions are coming from the best in them? Or the worst? Which side makes you the best you and them the best them? Choose that side and keep thinking thoughts to advocate for it.
And that girl in my story above? Our relationship has NEVER BEEN BETTER than when I gave up trying to figure out her motivations and when I started just believing she was doing her best.
So. The choice is yours. You CAN believe whatever you want about yourself. But just for this week, I’m going to challenge you to rally for the idea that your spouse is doing their best. Look for ways this is true, keep thinking it, try it out.
Let me know what happens.