Where We Get Positive Thinking Wrong

By on Feb 06, 2017

There’s a huge misunderstanding around the power of positive thinking. Assuming the best about your partner is not about wishful thinking, it is about creating subconscious goals that you and your partner will fulfill.

Skeptics are justified when they question the results from positive thinking. You don’t reach your goals by just thinking and hoping. There’s no action. There’s no changed behavior.

Thinking of this variety can boost optimism, which has a short-term positive effect. There’s a place for this kind of positive thinking, especially if you feel stuck, disempowered or depressed. Nothing gets done when you’re hopeless and not trying.

We don’t substantively change our situation with this kind of positive thinking, however. The skeptics are right. We change our situation and reach our relationship goals when we mix positive thinking with positive action.

First we let the positive in the room by expecting good, then we prove it right through our actions and plans that support this hypothesis.

Assume the Best for a Better Foundation

The reason we should assume the best in our partner and in our relationship is because our subconscious mind finds what it expects. When we assume our partner is basically good and working on our behalf, we find it in their actions. When we assume they are flawed and selfish, we find that in their actions instead.

If we assume that our partner is always belittling us, we hear criticism even when none exists. If we expect infidelity, we see suspicious behavior in everything our partner does even when a late night at the office is just a late night at the office.

The same is true for positive assumptions. If we assume appreciation, we start noticing all the backhanded and indirect compliments from our partner. If we expect faithfulness, we see those late nights at the office as trying to make a better life for us and the family.

Crucially, thinking the best about our partner and our relationship does more than just help us change how we view the situation. It also reinforces positive actions, which is the real key for actually having a good relationship.

Hand Your Partner a Good Script

Assuming the best in your partner helps create the best because we project onto our partner. We hand them the script they follow through our belief in how they will think and act.

When we assume our partner would never cheat, for instance, we trust. We don’t check their phone for suspicious messages. We don’t question their motives or whereabouts. We don’t get mad when our partner shares an attraction or flash of affection for someone else. Instead, we trust in them and hand them a script of fidelity.

Our partner recognizes this trust, even if it isn’t verbalized. We assume they won’t cheat, and we give them the script through this expectation and our behavior that follows it. Our partner then will try and live up to the script, to the role we’ve handed them.

This doesn’t mean our partner will be perfect, however. They will try and live up to the script, but they may not get it completely right. We also might hand our partner an unrealistic or impossibly complex script, which is something I see with many of my clients who have not gotten married yet. Positive thinking and the good script that comes along with it helps, but it isn’t enough.

Reinforce Positive Thinking with Positive Action

Really, a good partner comes from a good partner. Positive assumptions only lay the foundation. The real work comes from action. Action from your partner as they live up to these positive expectations, action from you as you play your part in the relationship and help them be a good partner.

Your partner might experience temptation, for instance. If you assume your partner is basically faithful, there will be open communication and acceptance from you that your partner has felt temptation without it implying they are unfaithful. You still need to handle the temptation, though! There’s still the work to be done, the needed action so your partner stays faithful. The assumption laid the right foundation, but it isn’t usually enough on its own.

This is the case with less existential relationship issues, too.

We might assume our partner loves and appreciates us, but it doesn’t mean we always feel love and appreciation. Maybe our partner feels appreciation, for instance, but he doesn’t show it. Or he shows it, but he expresses this appreciation through actions on our behalf instead of words. Positive assumptions will help, but they won’t save us here.

After we’ve laid the right foundation with our partner through positive assumptions, we still need the action of good communication. We still need the action of understanding and speaking our partner’s love language. We still need the action of working together with our partner and fixing the problem.

When we think the best about our partner, we set the bar high and create a good foundation for the relationship. Without followup action, though, our assumptions are just wishes. They may or may not happen.

The secret sauce is action mixed with positive thinking. Think the best about your partner—and then act on it. This is something you do, and also something your partner does. You start by making the assumption, which creates the subconscious goal. Then you use good relationship tools and put in the effort to achieve that goal.

This is easier said than done, of course. If you want more on projection and how you can hand your partner a positive relationship script, please watch my video with Jungian relationship coach, Debi Maldonado. You can get the video, The Power of Projection, by clicking here.

If you need help putting positive assumptions into practice, or the tools to handle things when your relationship doesn’t go to script, give me a call and I will be happy to help.

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Peter Kowalke

Peter is founder of Kowalke Coaching. He also is founding director of the Philia Mission, a small charitable organization. Contact Peter.