10 Kinds Of Negative Thinking That Can Poison Your Relationship

10 Kinds Of Negative Thinking That Can Poison Your Relationship

There are some subtle things that every couple does in their relationship that chip away at their happiness. You might not always realize it, but certain kinds of negative thinking can poison your relationship to a huge extent.

According to recent census data, 39% of marriages end in divorce. And many unmarried intimate relationships fail, devolving into bitterness and conflict. Some relationships are more doomed than others when our lizard brain (or survive brain) dwarfs our thrive brain (or “thinking brain”). If you’re like most people, chances are you’ve interacted with your partner through one or more harmful ‘lizard brain’ reactions without realizing it.

10 Kinds Of Negative Thinking That Can Poison Your Relationship

1. Jumping to Conclusions. 

We convince ourselves we know what our partner is thinking or feeling and make up stories about situations without evidence. We project our own thoughts and feelings based on our beliefs, not facts. We might say something like, “You obviously don’t like this new outfit because you haven’t said a word.” Or we might say, “I can tell you’re angry with me because I’m late.” 

Takeaway: You can sidestep this lizard brain reaction by reminding yourself that your assumptions are not the truth. You can check out the facts before making conclusions to save a lot of unnecessary friction with your partner. “Do you like my new outfit?” Or ask what your partner is feeling: “Are you angry with me because I’m late?”

Related: 10 Silly Habits That Seem Insignificant But Slowly Ruin Relationships

2. Catastrophic Forecasting.

You forecast the worst possible outcome of a situation without evidence. Even when facts contradict your negative belief, you continue to predict things will turn out badly. “There’s no use in putting a bid in on that house. We’ll never get a loan.” 

Takeaway: When you catch yourself worrying over something that hasn’t happened, identify your negative prediction. Then ask yourself, “Where’s the evidence for this conclusion?” And instead of making a negative conclusion, ask your mate, “Do you think we will qualify for the house?” Perhaps he/she has a more positive outlook that the two of you can share.

3. All-or-Nothing Criticisms.

You categorize life into the extremes of black and white and blind yourself to the shades of gray, where truth usually lies. You criticize your partner’s behaviors or habits with extremes: “You always pile dirty dishes in the sink instead of putting them in the dishwasher.” Or “You never listen to me when I try to communicate with you.” 

Takeaway: Listen for times when you use words like always, all, everybody, either-or, nobody, never, or none. To reverse this lizard brain reaction, try using, “When you … I feel …” to communicate how a certain action makes you feel: “When you continue to pile dirty dishes in the sink, I feel like my requests don’t matter to you.”

10 Kinds Of Negative Thinking That Can Poison Your Relationship
Don’t let negative thinking poison your relationship

4. Labeling.

Labels are for cans or jars, but we often label our partner with negative attributes: “You’re mean and selfish.” When he/she makes a mistake, you speak as if your partner is the mistake: “You’re such a klutz.” You smack on a negative label because of one incident instead of looking at the entire picture. 

Takeaway: To dodge this trespass, look at the big picture and try to be more forgiving. We all have slip-ups, forget, or have accidents. Step back and speak of yourself, using “I-messages” instead of “You-messages”: “I’m uncomfortable with how we’re talking; I’d like to take a time out and come back when we’re calmer.” When you refer to your own feelings (I-messages) instead of pointing your finger (You-messages), it reduces defensiveness and tension and promotes open dialogue.

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Bryan E. Robinson, Ph.D

Bryan E. Robinson, Ph.D., is a journalist, author, psychotherapist, and Professor Emeritus at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. He has authored 42 books including his latest, #Chill: Turn Off Your Job And Turn On Your Life (William Morrow, 2019) and Chained to the Desk: A Guidebook for Workaholics, their Partners and Children, and the Clinicians who Treat Them (New York University Press, 2014), and Daily Writing Resilience (Llewellyn Worldwide, 2018). He is a licensed marriage and family therapist and a licensed mental health clinician. He maintains a private clinical practice in Asheville, NC, and writes for Forbes, Psychology Today, and Thrive Global. You can reach him at bryanrobinsononline.com.View Author posts