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  • When Stubbornness Gets In The Way of Common Sense

    Sometimes we can be so sure—so stubborn—with what we conclude about our partner’s words and behaviors.  we can be so right but other times we can be so wrong!

    Our partner doesn’t get something done and we take it personally. We are so sure that our spouse is purposefully disrespecting us.

    Our need for intimacy isn’t being met, and we tell ourselves our partner is selfish.

    We share something with our spouse and receive no response or one that is inadequate. We tell ourself that our partner is totally devoid of empathy and could care less about what we have to say.

    We may be right in our conclusions or partly right, but it is important to investigate the possibility that something else may be going on other than what we have concluded.

    I remember a time when I was so sure of something, I even convinced two other people to go along with my conclusion. I was so wrong.

    I recall noticing that the tips of my fingers were a bluish gray color. I scrubbed them yet the odd color remained. I showed my wife and she concurred that the tips of my fingers were a bluish gray.

    Like so many others, I googled my observations, and became concerned. If you have ever gone down the internet-diagnosis-rabbit hole, then you know that any symptom may have dire consequences.

    Since both of us were getting concerned, I contacted my doctor and was quickly set up to come in for a visit with a nurse practitioner. She also concurred with my observation about the tips of my fingers and expressed her own concern. She had me do some blood work to investigate what might be causing the issue.

    Later I was lying awake contemplating what might be going on, and a thought occurred to me. The past few days, I was wearing a brand new pair of jeans that had yet to be washed. I realized that the bluish color was actually dye that was rubbing off my jeans onto my fingertips.

    I had been so sure that I had some concerning medical issue, when all I needed to do was wash my jeans. So I did. Problem solved.

    I was so sure of my conclusion yet so wrong.

    Sometimes we would benefit from running a diagnostic on our thinking—especially when we have hard and fast negative conclusions about our mate.

    When we run a diagnostic, we question our conclusions. We look for possible discrepancies between our thoughts and the truth.

    Had I run a diagnostic sooner, I may have saved myself from a few days of grief. Had I done that rather than turning to a plethora of opinions on the internet, perhaps I could more easily have worked out what was going on.

    When running a diagnostic, one discrepancy in our thinking is mind reading. That occurs when we are certain we know our partner’s motives for their words and actions or lack thereof. No matter how insightful we may be, we could just as easily be wrong. We are not mind readers.

    Another discrepancy is confusing possibility with probability. We may be correct, but often we approach our conclusions as though there is only one answer and we’ve got it. Once we are sure of our conclusion, there is no room for doubt in our mind.

    Still another discrepancy is minimizing the positive and maximizing the negative. We look at our spouse through a negative filter and therefore we filter out any information that doesn’t fit with our conclusion.

    Not only does it help to look for possible discrepancies in our thinking, it also helps to throw a bucket of doubt on our conclusions by asking ourselves whether there could be another possibility other than what we concluded.

    So instead of taking it personally when our spouse doesn’t do something we asked or expected, and conclude they are disrespecting us, we look at other possibilities. Perhaps our mate got busy and stressed, and just forgot.

    When our spouse doesn’t meet our physical intimacy needs, rather than concluding they are selfish and uncaring, we look at other possibilities. Maybe our mate is exhausted from work, taking care of little children and the house.

    If we are sharing something with our partner, and we get no response or an inadequate one, and conclude they are dismissive and uncaring; again we ask ourselves if something else is going on other than our hard and fast conclusion. Perhaps our spouse means well but doesn’t know how to express empathy or to communicate on a feelings level.

    This is very important, because the story we tell ourself about our partner’s words, actions, etc. will determine the strength of the feelings we have about them. It also determines our subsequent actions toward them.

    The goal is not to always have positive thinking when it comes to our spouse, but a healthy goal is to have rational thinking. It makes such a difference whether we are angry or slightly frustrated, whether we are hurt or devastated.

    So be self aware. When you feel your emotions rising and feel an ire toward your husband or wife, take a step back and run a diagnostic on your thinking.

    Whereas you may be totally correct in your observations; your conclusions about your spouse’s behavior and motives, may be off. I find that many couples who see me in my practice have incorrect assumptions imbedded in their fights.

    So run a diagnostic on your thinking. Look for discrepancies and ask yourself if there could be another alternative than what you have concluded. Try it. Practice it. It works.

    And if your fingertips ever turn blue, check to see if the dye on your new pair of jeans is rubbing off on your fingers.

    If you need further help, go to rcochran.com and set up an appointment to see me. Also, there are other tools on my website and my social media page at Ron Cochran Counseling.