Change your lens, change your relationship!
First of all, how would your relationship be different if you approached your partner reflecting on two questions:
- What can I celebrate in my partner?
2. What’s right with our relationship?
This sounds challenging, right? We are not programmed this way! Our default is looking for what’s not right first. It’s called the negativity bias. Our brain is wired to give more weight and attention to negative information because it may threaten our safety. From an evolutionary perspective, our survival depended on this negativity bias. But constantly focusing on problems and imperfections can really have a detrimental impact on our relationships, stress levels, and happiness.
You get better at what you practice
Learning how to pay attention to the good takes practice. It’s about changing our lens. Professional photographer Dewitt Jones knows a lot about changing lenses. In his work as a photojournalist for National Geographic, he specialized in capturing beauty and goodness all around him in his magical, iconic images. In his TedTalk Celebrate What’s Right with the World, he explains how focusing on the good doesn’t deny the brokenness or pain around us. Instead celebrating the good helps us see a larger, more balanced context. Consequently, we respond to problems with more energy and creativity.
The value of positivity is proven
This positive strengths-based approach is well established and researched in fields as diverse as organizational development (the Appreciative Inquiry methodology, for example) to parenting (the positive discipline school, for example).
Similarly, in couples work in Imago Relationship Therapy, we focus on training our brains for positivity, especially as it relates to our partner. We know that energy follows attention, and what we pay attention to grows. How can you begin to change your lens on your partner, to focus not just on the irritating parts, but also on the beautiful qualities you fell in love with?
Are you available to receive an appreciation from me?
Certainly, one important practice centers around appreciations. We begin each session with an appreciation dialogue that helps couples anchor in positive connection, with respect and openness. Giving and receiving positive feedback helps us attune to positive emotions such as gratitude, joy, love, and pride. Furthermore, positivity may actually help us get more of the behaviors we want in the relationship. In addition, we may tackle areas of concern or frustration with more energy and willingness, if necessary.
Feel free to try this at home!
You might try this at home. Take turns sharing one specific appreciation with each other. The partner who is listening can mirror (repeat back word-for-word) or summarize at the end. Go slowly and enjoy celebrating what’s right with your partner!
Dialogue in your toolkit
- Are you available to receive an appreciation?
- One thing you said or did recently that I appreciate is…
- This matters to me because…
- When you said or did this I felt…
- How this is similar or different from my childhood…
- Thank you for listening.
Remember, this isn’t how we’re wired. It takes practice to learn how to offer and receive appreciations. So reach out to an Imago therapist today for support to change your lens… and change your relationship.