I’ve been saying a lot about the power of the mind. So if you want to know how I think that incredible information can be applied to marriage and family, here it is: Learn to see the positive; learn to say it positively.

Three Bad Stories

This is a hard one. It’s hard because it’s hard to see positive when you’ve been confronted with negative for years and years. What can you say positive about your wife who comes down to breakfast looking like a truck rolled over her instead of looking like she had a good night’s sleep? What can you say positive about your husband who has nothing positive to say to you? What can you say positive about your fresh little teenager who slams the door on the way out? What’s positive about any of that?

And anything I’m going to tell you will be a stretch because you know deep down in your heart that there really is not much good to say.

So here is my chicken-and-egg question: Did your wife, husband, or child act the way they did because they’re flat-out losers or did your own attitude and behavior contribute to the unwanted results?

Secret #1: Giving The Benefit of The Doubt

Okay, I forgot to say that when you exercise the power of your mind, you do have to begin with an honest look in the mirror. You can only climb mountains if you first put on your own boots. So, put down your right index finger and stop pointing. Take a look inside, and ask yourself whether you may have contributed to the present situation or at least whether a change in attitude on your part can somehow turn around the present situation.

Just for fun, let’s revisit each of the scenarios. Let’s do my Benefit of the Doubt exercise for the first one. The way the B.O.D. goes, you have to come up with five reasonable reasons why the person did the thing they did. One great one will do, too.

Scene One:  Your wife no longer looks attractive. Here are five possible reasons:
1. I have not remembered our anniversary or her birthday this year; I have not given her even a Valentine’s Day card.
2. I criticize from morning till night so she figures, “Why bother? Nothing works.”
3. I did remember our anniversary, her birthday, and other moments. I try to be nice and I don’t criticize, but I tend not to look in her eyes when she is talking. In fact, if the truth be told, when she’s talking, my mind wanders off, so of course, I don’t really know what she’s saying. The conclusion she has to come to in spite of the formal presents on formal days is, “He doesn’t care.”
4. I do care; I do listen. I don’t let my mind wander, but we have not hugged in months, let alone kissed, so she’s got to conclude, “He doesn’t care.”
5. I do listen, I do the gifts, we even hug and kiss, but my wife is grieving over her mother’s death which she just can’t get over. I guess I don’t get that because I didn’t have such a good relationship with my own mother.

See how it works? You step into your spouse’s shoes to see the world from her point of view. Now, let’s do the husband.

Secret #2:  Program What You Want

Scene Two: My husband is always criticizing me; how can I think positive of him? Let’s do this one differently. Let’s assume that the wife is a good wife, a kind person who absolutely does not deserve this. She’s done plenty worthy of praise, but it never comes. So this exercise is not about giving the benefit of the doubt. It’s about helping her handle this difficult man in a positive way. This wife must hold her tears and her pain for the time it takes to engage in rational, positive conversations.

Here is what she could say to him:

“C’mon, say something positive.”

If he can’t, her next statement might be, “Are you not remembering how I took the car in to be fixed for you [or something like that]?”

If his answer is that this is normal and expected, she can reply, “Yes, and so is acknowledgement. Otherwise, logically, you should never criticize because mistakes, too, are normal and expected.”

There are a dozen more ways for her to initiate a positive and helpful conversation to get her husband interested in changing his ways. Here’s one more example:

“When you focus on what bothers you, it can’t make you feel good. Would you like to try shifting your focus so that you feel better?”

As you can see, this wife must exercise the power of her mind to recognize that this criticizing husband of hers needs help. Instead of feeling like a victim, if she can summon up some inner strength, she might get him to see that he can make some changes. At the very least, once empowered, she will recognize that the problem is his, not hers.

Secret #3: Doing Tough Love: Deliver The “Tough” With Love

I’m asking you to react the way a parent needs to resist reactivity when a child tries to push your buttons. In fact, the ability to not let those buttons be pushed takes mental strength that you do have within you. So, for scene three, your teenager always requires you to find the good, even when she is misbehaving. In fact, that is the only way you have a chance of success. When doors are slammed and the child is rude, in your mind you must love that child while outwardly setting limits and consequences.

The only way the consequences will have the desired effect is if they are expressed with love. To help get over the difficulty of doing this when you are ready to bust a gut, do deep breathing and focus on something positive in your life. Tough love will only work if the “tough” is really delivered with love.

So there you have it. Use the power of your mind to say and think in constructive ways to turn bad situations around. Keep posted for more.

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