One of the best ways you can take care of your marriage is by eliminating negativity. This means making a commitment to end criticism, blaming, shaming, and put-downs. This also includes following the ouch rule – if one partner communicates that an ‘ouch’ has just occurred, meaning ‘ what you just said hurt me or isn’t ok with me’, your partner stops what they are doing and takes their partner’s feelings seriously. You avoid making dismissive comments like, “you’re too sensitive”, and instead say “I’m sorry I hurt you”.
Make an agreement with your partner to eliminate negativity and start tracking your progress. Every day, you can use your home calendar and put either a smiley face, sad face, or “R” – a smiley face means your relationship was successful that day – no negativity; a sad face means your relationship experienced reactivity or disconnection; an “R” stands for repair – everyone makes mistakes, and you can always have a redo. Apologize and move back into connection. Couples can also purchase a zero negativity kit.
Here are some tips to help you be successful:
– You know your partner well. Stay away from comments that usually lead to fighting, hurt feelings, defensiveness, and disconnection.
– If you don’t have something nice to say, don’t say it.
– You can still speak your mind and disagree without being negative
– Use “I” statements to express yourself instead you “you” statements.
– Talk in a way that makes your partner want to keep listening – with respect and kindness.
– Treat your partner the way that you would want your kids to be treated by their future partner – your kids are watching you.
– This is hard for all couples! Imago Relationship Therapy founders, Harvelle Hendrix, Ph.D. and Helen LaKelly Hunt, Ph.D., share their own experience in taking on the no negativity challenge and the importance preserving emotional safety in relationships in in the article Stop Abusing Your Partner with Negativity.