Giving Your Partner the Benefit of the Doubt.
After twenty years of working with individuals and couples, and seventeen years in a happy and loving marriage, one of the notions I have relied upon the most is giving your partner the benefit of the doubt. How we think about our partners and our relationships has an enormous influence on how happy we are in those relationships. Oftentimes, when one's partner says or does something that we find hurtful, we assume they are intending to hurt us. We tell ourselves "He/she is such a jerk" or "he/she doesn't really care about me". Although there are relationships in which one or both parties are actively and intentionally harmful to one another, this is not what I have found to be the case most often in my work. In my clinical practice, I encourage clients to think about who their partner has shown him/herself to be 90% of the time and ask themselves, "Is my assumption congruent with who my partner has shown him/herself to be most of the time?". If we can intercept the negative meanings we attach to our partners' behavior and introduce the idea that they are not intending to hurt us but are in fact hurting, angry, scared, etc., we can remind ourselves of times when our partner did act loving, caring and kind toward us. Remembering the kind things our partners have done for us and others and intentionally making a point to see them through that lens can be powerful and can transform our relationships from ones in which we feel rejected and alone to ones in which we feel loved and fulfilled. We can recognize that they are not the "jerk" who "doesn't care about me". We need to remember who they really are, who they have been most of the time and that we can give them the benefit of the doubt