You know, even if you are committed to your marriage, you can still make it a miserable experience. Today, we will look at three negativity traps you can fall into and how to get out of them!

If you have ever felt yourself stuck in a rut of negativity, you know how draining that can be on you and your spouse. Negativity is not something anybody should dwell on. So, as we explore the topic today, we also want to remind you that except when it comes to related medical complications, happiness is very often just a choice.

Yes, if you train yourself to make the choice of happiness 10, 50, 100 times a day, you are going to infuse A LOT of joy into your marriage.

The three types of negativity we are going to look at today are rumination, bitterness and ingratitude.

Rumination

Rumination is going over and over the same bad negative things again and again. It usually focuses on the past or present (vs. worrying which focuses on the future). Along with focusing on negativity, rumination brings with it a with a desire to understand what happened; however there is usually no conscious responsibility to take action that comes along with it.

Rumination gives an excuse that says as long as I keep hashing the situation through and figuring it out, I don’t actually have to take the responsibility and deal with it.

A study from 2008 (Noeln/Hoeksema, Wisco & Lyubormirsky) found that rumination consistently predicts the onset of depression. In other words, where there is a pattern of rumination, you are putting yourself at risk for depression.

That’s why it is important to stop the negative pattern and instead focus on the positive. While we do need to take the time to ponder our failures, figure out what went wrong and come up with how we can do things differently in the future, something constructive needs to come out of this way of thinking. Remember, focusing on the positive results in happiness!

How can you do this? Take what we call “happy breaks”. Play happy music loudly, jump on your trampoline, or go for a run.

It is also a good idea to plan a problem solving session where you’re actually going to sit down and deal with the issue. Don’t ignore what goes wrong in your life. Instead, balance out the time you spend thinking about it, and take breaks of happiness at regular intervals.

Another great way to knock rumination out of your life is to get your eyes off yourself and onto someone else. And of course, it’s always a good idea to focus on the relationships closest to you – especially your marriage!

Bitterness

Unforgiveness registers in body as stress, and there is plenty of research that shows how stress impacts you physically. It can also cause medial and mental health problems.

When it comes to the offenses that come at us, although we can’t control them, we can control our response. Will you become angry and bitter? Are you going to let stress and its effects consume you? Or are you going to forgive and move on?

Bitterness can also create a victim mentality – it gives you an identity of being a wounded individual. Once you have this mindset, it is easy to stay there and ruminate, but really, you’re hurting yourself more than anybody else.

Something to help us overcome bitterness is empathy. Remember that hurt people hurt people. If you have been hurt or wounded, try to understand that the offence came from someone who is most likely hurting inside. Empathy is the understanding that if I had walked in their shoes up until this point, who am I to think that I would have acted any differently? Empathy stops our pride and keeps the bitterness at bay.

Ingratitude

Gratitude is a state of being thankful. It is something that has to be cultivated and expressed often. When it comes to our marriages, it is easy to take our spouse for granted and fall into the habit of ingratitude as a direct result. A great way to throw little positive tidbits into your marriage is to learn to notice the kind and selfless acts of your spouse and acknowledge them with gratitude. Affirm what you want to see more of in your spouse.

Going further, express appreciation not only for their inputs into your marriage (those little acts of kindness), but also for who your spouse is as a person (character based).

Remember, happiness is a choice and gratitude helps to create happiness. Choose joy for your marriage.

Q&A Section

Today Caleb wanted to discuss the question, “How do we decide when to have kids?” and brought up a few concerns that many people raise (such as finances, travel, choices, etc). We would love to hear your thoughts on the matter as there are so many differing opinions on this topic. Please give us your opinion in the comments below.

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