Are you guilty?
Over 2,000 years ago, Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius said: “If you are distressed by anything external, the pain is not due to the thing itself, but to your estimate of it; and this you have the power to revoke at any moment.”
What he meant was — you feel the way you think.
What you believe, expect and think about something leads precisely to how you feel about that something.
This is why two different people can react in two completely different ways to the exact same traffic jam. One person might sit in their car honking the horn, complaining and generally feeling annoyed. Meanwhile, another person (possibly even in the same car), leans back and relaxes, turns up the music and enjoys a snack. It’s not the traffic itself that upsets us, it’s our beliefs and thoughts about the traffic that upsets us.
This is true for all things.
Believe it or not, you actually can experience pain, discomfort, and turmoil without becoming angry, hopeless, anxious (or insert your favorite suffering here). In the end, it’s our perceptions and expectations that make us unhappy.
When we experience unpleasant or “negative” emotions, we want them to go away ... as quickly as possible. As such, to avoid the bad stuff and all of those yucky feelings, we tend to not communicate clearly with ourselves or our loved ones. As we try to avoid, we shift our thoughts and attention outside of ourselves and project them onto another person or the larger environment.
In other words, we start to (unconsciously) blame external things and people instead of looking at ourselves. And for couples, often the person easiest (and most convenient) to blame is the very person we promised to eternally love, our partner.
Here are the two reasons we most commonly get upset or angry with our partner:
1. You had unrealistic or unfair expectations.
You’re basically as happy as you’re expectations. As such, it’s important to keep your standards high, but your expectations low. Most people do this backward. They have crappy, low standards and will accept all kinds of unhealthy behavior from just about everyone. Yet they also have incredibly high expectations and feel let down when they’re not met.
If you’ve ever felt disappointed or frustrated, your expectations were likely too high in that situation. Perhaps you expected a certain kind of gift for your birthday, or for your spouse to read your mind and know that you needed help around the house. You want to hold your standards in a high place, while not expecting your partner to meet them 100% of the time.
2. You assume your point of view is the ONLY point of view.
We tend to think we’re always “right” and that we know the REAL “facts.” But there are many ways to look at a situation. If five people saw a car accident from five different vantage points, it’s likely they would have up to five different accounts of what "really" happened and whose fault it was. None of them are likely 100 percent “right,” it’s really only their perception of what happened.
Take responsibility for your OWN expectations and perception.
You must learn to slow your roll. Before you snap at your partner, examine what you’re thinking (and why you’re thinking it). Ask yourself, “Who says this is true?” or “What else could be true?”
Next time you’re in an argument or feeling frustrated with the one you love, take a couple of deep breaths, slow down and then ask yourself calming questions. If you want to change how you’re feeling, you’ve must first change what and how you’re thinking.
Dr. Abby Medcalf is a relationship mover and motivational speaker who has been helping couples create happy, connected and fulfilled relationships for 25 years. Download the free, easy-to-use tool to be more present, in just two minutes per day, right here.