Chronic negativity poisons a relationship. Have you experienced it? Just as pouring Roundup on weeds removes the life in them, pouring negative messages on and around your partner can suck the joy out of your connection; and, the sourness does not have to be specifically related to your partner. General pessimism can erode the sweetness of your love story, such as:
- Constantly complaining about work.
- Discussing the latest *breaking* news update.
- Talking about how much your lazy co-worker earns… again.
- Honking and yelling at traffic.
- Playing video games which frequently upset your mood.
- Getting sucked into your friends’ drama.
- Scrolling social media and making frequent snide comments about others’ lives and pictures.
Years ago, I found catharsis in fussing about my job to Eric – loud and often. Then, for some reason, I found it off-putting when he started looking at other job opportunities for me. (Why are you trying to fix it? I just need you to listen!) Now, I understand. He was trying to fix it for his sanity. My ongoing negativity was making him crazy, so of course he wanted to fix it. He wanted me to be happy.
Happy spouse, happy house!
When one person in the relationship is out of sorts, it eventually sours both people.
Back when I ran errands for an attorney (an awesome job, by the way), I came across a happy maintenance man on my route several times a month. He always appeared pleasant and had a gleam in his eyes. On February 14th, 1990-something, I saw him and a woman standing in front of the courthouse in dressy clothes. “He’s getting married!” I thought… “No wonder he has been so happy.” (Back in those days, marriage was the ultimate goal in my mind. Marriage = Happiness. Faulty belief alert! Happiness has nothing to do with marriage.) Shortly after, however, I noticed the maintenance man was not sporting his normal spritely demeanor. He looked burdened… annoyed… maybe even hardened. The change in his expression saddened me. (I wonder what is going on in his life and marriage to change him so quickly?)
Whether we want to believe it or not, the people with whom we spend the most time do affect us. My facial expressions have even morphed with Eric’s! And, we affect the people with whom we spend time. If I am blue, I spread blueness wherever I go. Thankfully, the opposite is also true. When we are bright and kind, we spread that everywhere we go as well.
So, all that to say, your outlook on life is going to bring either a pleasant aroma to your relationship or a rotten one. Freshly made, gooey cookies or burnt cookies. A flickering apple pie candle or a pile of decaying trash. Which fragrances do you want to contribute to your partner’s life – and in turn, to your own life?
Tips for Squashing Negativity!
None of us are naturally optimistic enough to completely escape the clutches of negative thinking which is why we all need to be on guard. Check out the tips below and ask yourself, “Do I need to take a more proactive stance against allowing negativity into my life and relationship?”
- Philippians 4:8 – Is it true? “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” This verse is sometimes referred to as the Philippians Filter and is an excellent passage to memorize and post in your home and office. When you take in a thought, hear an opinion, or listen to news, run it through the Philippians Filter before dwelling on it. Is it true? Is it honorable? Noble? Pure? Get into the habit of filtering your thoughts through Philippians 4:8 and you will cut out most of your negative thinking (or as some people call it, your stinkin’ thinkin’).
- Start and end with positivity. Before you put your feet on the floor in the morning, think of something positive you plan to do that day. Give thanks for some blessings in your life. Text someone an uplifting message. Before the day starts happening to you, happen to your day. Before falling asleep at night, thank God for at least three good things which happened in your day. Think about what you are looking forward to in the following day. Write them in a journal. No matter what happens during your day, guard the ends of the day with optimism.
- Define what matters. Write it down. Does this issue matter in the scheme of eternity? If not, how can I move around it or through it? Does every news story deserve to change your mood? Does every disagreement need to color your day? Keep tabs on what truly matters so you can discard the trivial.
- Look for the good. Somewhere, even in the toughest of circumstances, there is good to be found. When we lost my dad suddenly in 2019, there were moments I truly questioned if I even wanted to go on with my life. The grief was so strong and heavy. Yet, even in the midst of the tragedy, the Lord showed Himself faithful through friends, support from all over the place, and highlighting His promises in Scripture. In the worst season of my life, I still have beautiful memories. The good is there.
- Weed out unnecessary negative influences. Are entertainers or influencers affecting your outlook? The news? Other shows? Comedians? Music? Certain people? Are you feasting on some tasty pessimism, but ending up with extreme stomach aches? Negativity does not always taste bad. Sometimes, it comes in attractive and appetizing forms.
- Cut some conversations short. Finding I felt down and out after almost every conversation with a particular friend, I decided to do an experiment. The next time I talked to her, I determined I would counter every negative comment she made with a positive. It turned out to be the shortest conversation we ever had (and I think she might have been annoyed as she counted on me to commiserate with her – which had not been blessing her life either). My experiment yielded the results I expected. She wanted a friend who would feed her negativity, and since I was not nourishing the negative, she cut our conversation short and went home. As much as I had come to love this person, it did not seem healthy to consistently drench myself in negative heaviness to keep a relationship.
- Surround yourself with truth and positivity. Nateefa is one of my longest and dearest friends and she still makes me laugh like no other. Everybody loves Nateefa. Everybody. If you want to be uplifted, spend a few minutes around her. She will make you smile, make you laugh, pray for you, and encourage you. God gave her a gift we need to be careful not to abuse! Find those people who improve you and spend your time with them. Simultaneously, seek to become one of those people who make others better.
- Confront fears. Going back to Philippians 4:8, we all deal with fears which are not based in truth. What are your fears and what are the roots? Are these fears rational? How can you stare them in the face and overcome them? After a lifetime of fearing snakes, I held one. I felt tears fill my eyes as I reached out for it, but I made it. Am I completely okay with snakes now? Nope! I still do not want to see one on the sidewalk (or anywhere else in the wild), but I am a little less freaked out by them than I used to be. The ball is now rolling towards gaining a healthy relationship with creepy legless crawlers.
- Give your time. Give your emotions. Give your money. Help someone else who is going through a more difficult time than you. Pour yourself into bringing joy to someone else. If you have to put on an act to get started, then do it. Fake it until you make it. Make it your goal to focus on someone else’s happiness and see what it does for you. You might be amazed. Check out this heart-warming story for inspiration. Does giving ever benefit the recipient as much as the giver?
- Put on the garment of praise (cf. Isaiah 61:1-3). When I was growing up, my church used to sing a song by David Ingles, “Put on the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness. Lift up your voice to God. Praise in the Spirit, and with understanding. Oh, magnify the Lord!” At the time I took it for granted as “just another church song,” but the words still ring true today as songs based on Scripture do! Put on the garment of praise. Praise the Lord in times of heaviness. Another tune I often turn to was written by Mike Hudson and Brown Bannister which the lyrics, in part, are “Praise the Lord. He can work through those who praise Him. Praise the Lord. For our God inhabits praise. Praise the Lord. For the chains that seem to bind you serve only to remind you that they fall powerless behind you when you praise Him” (cf. Psalm 22:3). When you feel weighed down, praise Him. When you do not feel like praising God, that is a sign you desperately need to praise Him anyway.
- Does everything have to be a crisis? Years ago, one of my relatives asked another relative, “Do you always have to have a crisis?” Perhaps she was asking in jest, but there was so much wisdom in her question. Was this person truly in one crisis after another, or was there something inside of her which felt compelled to turn everyday inconveniences into life-shattering catastrophes? Do you find yourself dealing with daily crises? Are they truly crises or can they be redefined? When something is a crisis, we deal with it differently than we do mere disruptions.
- Do I need to talk to someone about my struggles? Counseling has gained a poor reputation with a lot of people, but much of that is due to fear, ridicule, or hearsay. We can all benefit from quality None of us are perfect and we all need a willing ear or shoulder sometimes whether we want to admit it or not. If you feel weighed down by constant negativity and you have taken steps to de-clutter your life of unsavory influences, it might be time to sit down with someone who can help you unearth some hidden issues which might be contributing to your discouragement.
Full disclosure, I have struggled with my share of negativity. Not only did I encounter it (we all do), but I embraced it. I fed into it. I passed it along to my friends and Eric. Not even my parents could escape. In one interesting conversation, my mom asked, “Heather, do you like any of your friends?” It jolted me, but it was a fair question. My complaining had become constant; and, who wants to be around a chronic complainer? Thankfully, the Lord is faithful, and not only did He hold up a mirror to my sour face, but He made a way of escape (as He promises to do). If you are mired in negativity, there is freedom. Be encouraged!
No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it. (I Corinthians 10:13, ESV)
Nobody can motivate himself in a positive direction by continually using negative words. – John C. Maxwell
A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty. – Winston S. Churchill
Stop letting people who do so little for you control so much of your mind, feelings and emotions. – Will Smith
Keep breaking free!
Does negativity have a foothold in your life and/or your significant other’s life?