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A spouse who contrasts a partner’s negative attributes against more desirable attributes sets himself up to betray the couple’s commitment. This person entertains thoughts about doing better. By doing this, the person imagines being happier with a different person, perhaps someone already known or a stranger met in a bar or online.
Many people fall into the illusion that images they see in pornography can become their reality. People in marriages where one or both spouses have slipped into this pattern chip away at their commitment to each other until no desire remains to work on and solve problems that inevitably arise between married couples.
All spouses make comparisons. Those who make positive comparisons focus on their own partner’s best attributes.
Consider the wife who appreciates her husband’s public displays of affection. He holds her hand as they walk through the mall. He also compliments her in front of friends. Husbands who display public affection for their wives seem rare to her, and she grows to value her husband more in comparison to other husbands.
Or consider the husband who appreciates that his wife flirts with him. He likes that she brushes against him when they’re working together in the kitchen. She smiles and winks from across the room. She also sends kisses to him via text messages while he’s at work. He doesn’t know any other men whose wives give them as much attention as his wife gives him.
A spouse who feels gratitude for a partner’s positive attributes is likely to feel that losing the partner would be disastrous. The appreciation of a spouse’s positive traits cements the commitment to the relationship — and erects a wall of security around the marriage.
The problem of failed marriage commitments is one that has a solution. The solution is in married people adjusting their focus. One useful adjustment is to not think so much of one’s own needs and wishes that you fail to honor the needs and wishes of your spouse.
The other adjustment is to focus on and cultivate an appreciation for the spouse’s best characteristics.
Jon Beaty, writer, counselor and father of two, lives near Portland, Oregon. He’s the author of the book “If You’re Not Growing, You’re Dying: 7 Habits for Thriving in Your Faith, Relationships and Work.” [lz_pagination]