Save Valentine's Day By Putting On Your Rosé-Colored Glasses
By Dr. Bonnie Ray Kennan, MFT
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Are you avoiding Hallmark stores this time of year? Do you cringe, then quickly change the channel, when the Pajama-gram ads air? Are you secretly hoping Valentine's Day will simply pass without a fight and you won't have think about it anymore??
Chocolates and flowers are always welcome, but there is a better gift you can give your partner that will be far more cherished and long lasting. If you would like to feel more connected and loving, try what I call "putting on your rosé-colored glasses." This means that you will mindfully cultivate an optimistic set of attributions and assumptions about your partner. I'll explain.
Attributional style refers to one's patterned, repetitive habits of attributing motive and explanation to another person's behavior. For example, when a husband comes home with flowers, Wife A, a woman with a pessimistic attributional style, will automatically assume he has been doing something wrong for which he is trying to repent. (You can fill in the blanks about what comes next). Wife B, who has an optimistic attributional style, will reflexively assume she is with a great guy who wants to express his love and adoration for his wife. Many behaviors will follow both scenarios, regardless of what is actually true about the the husband's act of bringing home flowers.
News Flash: in most cases, it doesn't matter what is actually true! I know that is a tough one, but try it on. I'll elaborate more in another blog, but for now, take that leap. Absolute, objective truth is frequently not relevant to being in a healthy, loving, and satisfying relationship.
Now, these attributions/explanations are not completely arbitrary because past behavior helps us to predict an individual's future behavior. Nonetheless, there is an aspect of this that is completely arbitrary. You can change your relationship by simply becoming more like Wife B, (the woman with an optimistic attributional style).
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John Gottman's research on successful married couples shows that they have cultivated habits of explaining each others behavior in terms that are generous. They automatically assume positive intent. They remember shared events in their relationship history favorably. They forget little things that went wrong and view their partners generously.
The effect of this seemingly small shift, over time, can be dramatic and relationship-transforming! If you are experiencing relationship blah, or worse, are locked in a toxic and dysfunctional dance, try something different this year. If you act fast, you may still be able to get a nine foot teddy bear or some chocolate-covered strawberries for your beloved. But before you present your Valentine with his/her valentine, put on your Rose-colored glasses!