It's not good to only see the silver linings.
We've all heard the saying, "Every cloud has a silver lining".
And while that metaphor sometimes helps people who are stuck in a pessimistic thought pattern, trying to see the positive side of life can be unhealthy without balance.
Every relationship has its ups and downs, just like every person has their own strengths and weaknesses.
And we shouldn't just give up when things aren't perfect ... but how much should we ignore, pretending everything is sunny and wonderful?
In our latest Expert video, Senior VP of YourTango Experts Melanie Gorman asked a group of relationship Experts whether it's a good idea for a couple to focus on the positive side of things when they're faced with relationship challenges.
The responses from our team of Experts — Carolyn Mein, John Gray, Hans Stahlschmidt, and Debra Dupree — offer brilliant insights into how a healthy balance of positivity and realistic acceptance can be the key to a happy relationship.
Yes, finding something positive in your interactions with your partner is a good thing...
According to a study by Barbara L. Fredrickson, when you feel positive emotions such as love or interest, you’re broadening your mind’s resources.
By actively trying to find something positive, you actually force your mind to come up with more reactions to cope with your situation — solutions that can help to prevent some of those explosive (and useless!) fights.
...but not ONLY, and not always.
It can be just as unhealthy to focus only on the good as it is to focus only on the bad.
The same applies when facing a challenge in your relationship.
It's hard, though, to focus on anything good when things seem bad. You know it's true from your own life. When you're having a bad day, you tend to focus on all that's going wrong.
Here are 4 things you need to remember when trying to find the positive side in the face of conflict:
1. Know your partner’s weaknesses as well as their strengths.
When you know their weaknesses and vulnerabilities, you’ll find you can forgive more easily.
For example, if you know they’re bad at apologies because of something in their past, you’ll find you’re not nearly as resentful when they can’t say “I’m sorry” as easily as you can.
Being more forgiving will cut plenty of unnecessary arguments.
2. Be honest about your own weaknesses.
The only way to overcome our weaknesses is to acknowledge them.
And if you let your partner know what your weaknesses are in advance, you can both make sure to be sensitive to them.
Meaning, if your past has left you with a fear of abandonment, your partner walking out to calm down when he’s angry might cause an even bigger conflict.
But if you communicate how it makes you feel, he can work on perhaps finding a different method to calm down so as not to hurt you even more, or even just tell you a time when he will be back, so you know it's not forever.
3. Don’t expect your partner to handle everything the way you do.
Understand that everyone is made up of moments from their past. The way your family handled stress, for example, might be very different from how his family handled stress.
The things that bother you might have been acceptable — maybe even expected — from him when he was growing up.
4. Most importantly, be supportive.
Know what your partner needs to hear in the moment, not just what you want to say.
Typically, men want to hear positive statements. Try saying things like:
- “You’re right”
- “That makes sense”
- “That’s a good idea”
Even if you disagree, it’s a good idea to use a phrase like that as a buffer before you explain your opinion.
A woman, on the other hand, typically wants to feel like you’re genuinely interested.
Try phrases like “Help me understand it better” or “Tell me more”.
Let her know you’re not just casting her feelings off as wrong.
That doesn’t mean you can’t have a different opinion. But, as the phrase goes, “It’s not what you say, but how you say it.”
So don’t panic whenever your relationship has a challenge.
Take a deep breath and try to find something good to focus on, while staying present in reality.
You’ll find it’s much easier to solve problems with a lighter heart.
If you need help finding the positive side, working through the negative side, or are having other troubles in any of your relationships, please visit the websites of our Experts and contact Debra, Carolyn, John, and Hans directly. They’re here to help.