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Marriage Helper Words of Wisdom:

Punishing Your Spouse Isn’t The Answer

With Kimberly Holmes

We are on location at one of our Marriage Helper workshops this weekend, and there are so many couples there from all over the United States. I’m going to share with you one of the things that they’re learning right now. I’m going to start it off with a story.

This just happened this week. Currently, I’m the one who’s working out of the house and my husband’s currently working from home. Our roles have kind of changed in what it looks like to take care of the house. And if I’m going to be honest, it has been a big fight for about the past year as we’ve tried to find a new normal. Yesterday, my husband called me while I was at work, and he said, “Guess what, I’ve been spending all day cleaning, and I’ve been washing clothes, and I almost ran the dishwasher, but it wasn’t full yet, so I decided I’d wait.” And he was so excited about all the things that he had done. I was like, “That’s awesome. That’s great.”

But, guess what happened? When I came home, I realized that he had done all those awesome things, but he didn’t take the trash out. And what was so easy for me to do was to focus on that one thing, that one thing he didn’t do and to say, “Why didn’t you take the trash out?” when he had done all of these other things.

It’s Easy To Focus On The Negatives When You’re Comfortable

When we become comfortable in our relationships, it’s so easy to start focusing on all of the negatives that people do, and assuming the worst about them.

We can start saying, “I see that you did all of those other things, and that’s great, but here’s what you did wrong.”

When we start doing that in our relationships, what happens is, our spouses are going to start doing those things less and less because we’re not noticing those, we’re not giving feedback and rewards of those. We’re focusing on the negative, rather than what they’re proud of and that they’re excited to share about.

If I come home, and I just notice the trash not being taken out, my husband’s response to that is, “Well, all of the other things I’ve done, I guess they didn’t matter that much, so I’m just not going to do them anymore.” And that’s not what I want.

Focus On The Positive First

What we need to do in our marriage is to take a step back, to focus on the positive first, to point out the positive, to compliment our spouse on it. In psychology, there’s something called positive psychology, reward-based psychology, where when you reward good behavior, that behavior continues to happen. When we notice the good things our spouse does and we reward that, that behavior is going to continue to happen. If we continue to only focus on the negative, then we’re not going to see the positive continue to happen.

That’s our word of wisdom for you this week. How can you start focusing on the positive things that your spouse is doing, no matter what situation your relationship is in right now?

How can we focus on the positives and know that the negatives are there, and need to be worked on, but focus more on the positives- even talk about the positives way more than the negatives. Be sure to start doing that this week. It’s going to make a huge difference. Not only this week, but make it something you practice time and time and time again. It takes intentionality, it takes being conscious of doing it, but once you get in the habit of it, it will become easier and easier. You can do it. We believe in you.

Related: Should I Change For My Spouse?