When our church's resident Marriage & Family Therapist taught on “positive sentiment” a few summers ago, I had no idea what she meant. She explained that it meant basically having a positive attitude, looking at your spouse through the lens of positivity.
I'm not going to lie. Since I value honesty, I'm going to admit right here and now that a positive attitude is hard for me. It's not my natural reaction. Once reality hit after the honeymoon, and the rose-colored glasses fell off, my survival technique has been to expect the worst to avoid disappointment over and over again.
I have to really work at cutting through my natural negativity, especially when it comes to expectations. High expectations for myself as well as my loved ones have interfered in my interpersonal relationships all my life.
So when I say that you “just” need a positive sentiment to have a happy marriage, I'm being a bit facetious. It's not an easy task to “just” check off your list. It's a constant battle, at least for me.
If negativity is natural for you, too, I understand. I get how hard it can be to stop thinking about all your husband's faults and mistakes and what he needs to work on.
I will give you a few positive attitude motivations to change your mindset so that you can enjoy a happier marriage.
1. Acknowledge the Negativity
The first step in any battle is to acknowledge your starting point. We need to be able to identify the problem before we can diagnose it and then cure it.
When the problem is a negative attitude, it's really easy to blame-shift. I don't accept that the problem is mine if I'm constantly thinking, “I'm only being realistic. I'm only trying to help him be better.”
Believe me, blame is really easy to do. But it gets in the way. I can't control my husband, so if I make the problem him, nothing can be done about it.
A negative attitude—or sentiment—looks like this:
If you have a negative sentiment towards your husband, any negative thing they do will push you over the top.
If you have a negative view of him, you'll see even neutral actions as negative things, another withdrawal from your dwindling love bank.
If you nurture a negative attitude, you'll only see his good actions as neutral or expected and you won't appreciate them.
2. Begin Replacing with Positive thoughts
This will take time. But the deposits in your love bank must be more than the withdrawals, or you'll feel empty all the time.
Again, we can't control our husbands, so we're focusing here on what we wives can do about it. We can begin deliberately choosing to replace negative thoughts with more positive ones.
This will move us into the middle ground, a neutral sentiment:
If you have a neutral sentiment toward your husband, both neutral and good actions will only be seen as neutral, as barely meeting your expectations.
If you have a neutral sentiment, negative actions are still seen as negative and hard to forgive.
Neutral sentiments are halfway between negative and positive. Keep working to change that neutrality to positivity. It will take time, changing the habits of our thinking.
This is, of course, the hard part. We must get in the habit of realizing our negative thoughts and develop a strategy to deal with them.
Take every thought captive (2 Corinthians 10:5).
Hold it up to the truth of God's Word (John 17:17).
In a humble spirit of prayer, ask the Lord for wisdom as you evaluate if the thought is true and beneficial (James 1:5).
If not, throw it out (Matthew 18:8).
Replace it with the truth (1 Corinthians 13:6).
Remind yourself of this truth every time this kind of thought tries to gain access into your mind (Philippians 4:8).
Deliberately speak the truth out loud to yourself and then to your husband (Ephesians 4:15).
One way to add more positive thought habits is to read and apply this book, the best marriage book for my own marriage! In the 5 Love Languages, Dr. Gary Chapman helps you show your husband love in the way he most needs it.
3. Consistently nourish a positive attitude
Once you've reached the point where your thoughts toward your husband are more often positive than negative, you can't stop. It's a constant battle that must be sustained with continual nourishment.
Positive sentiments aren't stagnant. Once you reach it, it doesn't mean it will always stay there. Positive sentiments must be continually fed, constantly sustained.
If you have a positive sentiment toward your husband, neutral and good things will be seen as positive, and you will be thankful for them.
If you have a positive attitude, you will see your husband's negative actions as neutral, things that can easily be overlooked or overcome. They become no big deal.
This of course doesn't mean that you don't address issues. Read this post where I discuss how to rebuke your husband, how to lovingly wound him without attacking.
Do you see how important our attitudes, our sentiments, are in how we react to our husbands? We must work to turn our negativity into neutrality and finally into positivity. Then we will react more sympathetically and forgiving to their sins and flaws, as well as more appreciatively to their good deeds. We will be more likely to appreciate their good motives, even if the final result doesn't meet our expectations.
We cannot control their actions; we can and should control our reactions. One of the most effective ways to control our reactions is to change the environment those reactions live in. Let's choose to live in an environment of positive sentiment.
Which kind of sentiment or attitude do you have for your husband right now? Positive? Neutral? Negative? Please comment!