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Beliefs about your Partner are Powerful – Choose Wisely

Jeannine Crofton - Calgary Marriage Counsellor

JEANNINE CROFTON

As a cognitive psychologist I am always searching for the beliefs that either put my clients on the path toward their goal or the one that impairs the client from reaching their desired outcomes. As a marital therapist this endeavor becomes more complex as two individuals in the relationship have unique perspectives about themselves, their partner and their mutual relationship.

Albert Bandura’s Social Cognitive Theory informs this process in that each person’s thoughts, behaviours and interactions lay the foundation for the following thoughts, behaviour and interactions. He calls this “triadic reciprocal causality” and it is the basis for all of our interactions with our partner. It is the place that spouses evaluate themselves, their partner and the relationship itself on an ongoing basis.  So in our relationships our thoughts about how important we are to the partner, our desires for connection, our belief about how valuable the other is to us and our perception of how we show to our broader family, our children and our community all become intermingled in evaluation regularly. Over time we draw even stronger global beliefs about the strength or weakness of our relationship and our ability to influence the relationship.

Couple hugging and smiling on the beach.
Beliefs about your Partner are Powerful

Some adhere to the broad stroke belief of “happy wife, happy life”. While this mantra often brings a knowing look from like-minded spouses it also draws attention to the belief that the onus is on one spouse to keep the other happy and that failure to do so results in impaired happiness for both partners. This is an example of a belief in unilateral responsibility that I continually keep my eye open for. It is a belief that needs some examination.

So much of the marital therapy process is to sit as an observer, with an outside perspective, to identify useful and detrimental beliefs. Then my job is to mine the cognitions of the parties and to illuminate their assumptions and expectations and underlying beliefs about themselves.  To draw attention to these beliefs is an important intervention.

“So much of the marital therapy process is to sit as an observer, with an outside perspective, to identify useful and detrimental beliefs.”

For many, there is little thought about the meta-cognitions, thinking about the thinking, and for others there is too much evaluation. We all make choices about what we entertain in our minds. When our thought lives work in support of the wellbeing of our relationship it can be a powerful focus. This has been proven in the work of Dr. John Gottman. In his Sound House Model he speaks to the research of masterful spouses. Masterful spouses regularly recognize when their partners are contributing positively to the relationship. They believe, expect and look for what their partner is doing right. This discipline of thinking is practiced and fostered in happy couples and is something all can attend to.

Try putting 10 coins in your left pants pocket. Over the day each time you see your partner doing something kind, positive or thoughtful put one of the coins in the other pocket. At the end of the day look to see how many positives you acknowledged. Keep this up to practice your belief that your partner is working towards the wellbeing of the relationship or that they are a caring person. See if this belief can impact your relationship positively.   You can use this strategy to build a belief about any aspect of the relationship. Give it a try!

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