Your husband comes home an hour late and wants to relax in front of the television, eating the dinner that’s now grown cold. But the kids still need help with their homework and you’re exhausted from a brutal day at the office.
Or maybe your wife got irritated again, although you’re not even sure why, and decided to go out and spend the evening with her girlfriends, commiserating over cocktails. She doesn’t come home until long after you’ve gone to bed and when you leave for work early the next morning, she’s still asleep.
Partnership choices begin with choosing and committing to one person. But the sustainability of the relationship is determined by all we choose to see in our partners, and where we place our focus. There are hundreds of qualities that make up each of our partners. For instance, my husband is strong, compassionate, disciplined, healthy, smart, fearless, curious, caring, inquisitive, patient, an active learner, an avid reader, and an amazing father. He is confident but not arrogant, handsome and charismatic, is appreciative of me and values my opinion, plus he tells me I’m beautiful and how much he loves me daily.
He’s also fiery and doesn’t handle stress well; it takes a lot for him to lose his cool, but when he does, you don’t want to be the cause of that stress.
He is strong-willed and hard-headed. When he has his mind set on doing something or solving some problem, there really is no telling him not to do it or to give up attempting to figure it out. He will spend hours, sometimes days looking for the solution.
He is perpetually late, to everything…always. He’s not doing it to be disrespectful, he’s just probably the worst time-manager on the planet.
It’s the same with your spouse or partner. There are hundreds of qualities that make up who they are as an individual. Making partnership choices includes picking which of those qualities we focus upon and give our attention to. I can just as easily look at how my husband can be both incredibly strong and deeply caring, or I can look at how he was late to an event a week ago. Both are true. Both are a part of who he is as a man. But one feels good when I think about it and focus on, it and the other does not.
This isn’t denial. It’s total honesty and intentionally being willing to see and accept all the attributes that make up a person. It’s also the very personal desire to feel good. A desire to feel loving as I move through my day and he crosses my mind. A desire to see the best in the man I promised to love. And a desire to bring out more of all that is good within him, by simply focusing upon and appreciating those pieces.
In each of our relationships, we have a choice about what we look at and what we focus upon. We can zero in on all the attributes of our partners that irritate us, or we can embrace and celebrate the parts of him that we adore.
And it’s just a choice.
Imagine yourself walking up to a table that has all your favorite foods laid out before you; things like crab legs, ice cream, and cookies, 20 different kinds of cheese, rack of lamb, asparagus and berries. But on that table also contains your least favorite foods, such as liver and lima beans. You can fill your empty plate with liver and lima beans; that’s certainly an option. Or you can choose to fill your plate with the many things that taste good and feel good in your body when you eat them.
So when you find yourself getting irritated with your partner, stop and ask yourself, What is it that I am focused on right now and how is that making me feel? Then you can consciously make a decision for yourself in that moment whether or not you want to continue to focus upon that aspect of your partner, or if there’s something else you could look at that might feel better. Actively reach back for a specific memory that gives life to that endearing aspect of your partner so that it feels true for you.
This takes some effort because it’s infinitely easier to let our minds go unattended and swim around in painful thoughts. But if we can take the small effort to not fill our plates with liver and lima beans, we can periodically question our thoughts in our most important relationships.
We get to decide what fills our attention, just like we can choose what fills our plates. Maybe if we make the extra effort to focus our attention and awareness on the best parts of our partners, that relationship wouldn’t give us heartburn nearly as often.
Sharon is a certified Master Life Coach and a Six-Time #1 International Best-Selling author, specializing in love and relationships. Click here to get my three-part video training on how to forgive so that you can move forward without the baggage.