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Coach Paradise: Look at Your Marriage Through Positive Lenses

Dear Coach Paradise,
I don’t know what is going on with my husband and me. We have been married for four years. Something is wrong, and I really want to fix it before it gets too far gone. It’s at the point where he’ll say, “Maybe we should get a divorce,” and I snap back, “Fine with me!” His negativity is really getting me down. He always seems to look on the dark side of things and worries a lot. I feel like it I have joined him and become more negative myself.
This isn’t how I want to be or feel. I used to be able to brush it off, but lately it bugs me when he won’t just lighten up and have fun. My friends tell me that we should go to a marriage counselor, and I’m all for it. I also read that there are relationship coaches, and figured it wouldn’t hurt to write and see what you have to say. We have a baby and lots of good stuff going on, and I want to make this marriage work.
Wife in Distress
Dear WD,
The fact that you are writing lets me know that you are committed to this relationship, willing to accept responsibility and take whatever action will help you and your husband be “happily married.” Counseling can be very helpful. I would keep that in mind, discuss it with him and ask around for referrals from friends who have had positive experiences.
It’s great that you notice how your behavior has changed — i.e. you have become more negative. Couples often take on aspects of each other without realizing it. When they are positive aspects, this can be a great thing. When they are negative, it can end up double the trouble. I’m glad you realize that you feel better when you lighten up and choose positive thoughts and fun actions.
I have a couple of suggestions. First of all, acknowledge what is working!
Make a real effort to notice everything that your husband does that is loving and positive — in relationship to you, to your baby and in every other situation. Keep an evidence journal where you write down what you notice on a daily basis. Do this for at least a week and see what happens. You can then let him know that you appreciate all the positive things he does. This serves two purposes: It shifts your attention from noticing the negative to seeing the positive, and it encourages behavior with positive reinforcement (praise, a kiss, acknowledgment). Two birds with one stone — putting on new glasses for your own perceptual challenges and highlighting how good it feels to keep on doing the lighter, more upbeat things.
Aside from shifting your focus regarding your husband (and this can work without your doing or saying anything — just holding a new vision of him will have an impact), I would encourage you to focus on yourself : on what makes you feel good, what your vision is for yourself and on what actions you need to take to keep yourself on track. Sometimes we are vulnerable and take on others’ stuff when we stop listening to our own inner guidance. This can happen when we abandon practices that keep us centered, when we get distracted by life (new babies) and what others expect and demand of us.
Last but not least, think about what “happily married” means to each of you. We all have a lot of preconceived notions about what marriage is and is not. Much of it comes from our family histories, societal pressure and our past experiences. A lot is unconscious. Uncovering and looking at each of your beliefs and creating a shared vision for your relationship will help you to create a marriage that will support and nurture both of you over the years to come.
To your happiness,
Coach Paradise
Editor's note: Coach Paradise (AKA Anne Nayer), Professional Life Coach, is a member of the International Coaching Federation, an MSW clinical social worker-psychotherapist and a medical case manager with 30 years experience working with people of all shapes, sizes and challenges.
For further information about her services, call 774-4355 or email her.

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