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How to Create Positives from Negatives in Marriage
How negative events can translate into positive avenues of progress and help you explore deeper issues in your marriage.


By John Dalog
What initially may be a negative could turn out to be a positive with the proper perspective.


Once upon a time two little boys were walking through a field. Suddenly one of them stumbled and fell into a pile of horse manure and the other, who was right behind his friend, fell into it too. The first little boy got up, disgusted, brushed his clothes off moaning and grousing and loudly proclaimed his unhappiness. The second boy got up and started running wildly around the field.

"What is wrong with you?" the first boy asked, "You crazy or something? What are you running around like that for?"

"The horse!" exclaimed the second boy, "I'm looking for the horse!"

"What do you mean?" asked the first boy.

"Well, if there's a pile of manure here, there's gotta be a horse nearby!" the second boy replied, happily grinning as he ran looking.

And so it is in life. Some of us, upon stepping into a pile of manure, see only the manure. Others look for the horse.

"Cute story," you say, "but what does that have to do with me? I mean, if I have a fight with my spouse, or one of us is downsized, or my husband is complaining I never have time for him then where's the horse?! All I see is a bunch of problems!"

True, but problems are also opportunities to create a more joyous and successful situation for yourself, if in fact, you're willing to go look for the horse.

Buried within any problem is an opportunity. When one of you is downsized, for example, there's an opportunity to look at how you and your spouse can deal with unexpected problems. For instance, do you panic, diving into a tailspin of "what ifs" that go from the loss of a job to the disintegration of your entire life and marriage? There's an opportunity for you to look at how you do or do not ask for help from others. Do you steadfastly refuse to ask for help from others or do you lean on others constantly for the tiniest little thing?

Being ready and willing to explore any of these (and related) questions will automatically increase your future of happiness and success. If, for example, you find you tend to panic or stubbornly refuse to ask for help ("what will the neighbors think?") discovering your pattern gives you the opportunity to learn new ways of dealing with unexpected problems, which in turn will increase your happiness in the future.

When your husband complains that you have "no time" for him, for example, then yes, that's a problem you need to address. However, it's also an opportunity to explore what's going on with your spouse like why he feels somewhat abandoned. Perhaps you've lost touch with what really matters to your spouse. Maybe he has concerns that he’s been reluctant to share like a fear that his dreams are slipping away, or that he’s missing a certain closeness with you. Delving into these issues may very well prevent marital disasters down the road.

"This all sounds very nice," you say, “but I haven't got the time to take everything that happens and investigate it." Of course you don't, and you don't need to. Rather than thinking of this as a suggestion to examine everything in minute detail, think of it as an attitude to adopt a different approach to the problems that come up. Just asking yourself the questions, "Where's the opportunity here? What good might come of this? What might this situation alert me to that I otherwise wouldn't have noticed?" is enough to get your mind going in a different and more profitable direction.

You'll find that you panic less, problems seem less horrifying and you feel more empowered in your world as you take this approach. Take advantage of the problems life hands you to point you to a happier, more successful way of living where there are less and less "piles of manure" and more opportunities for relationship bliss.

Noelle C. Nelson, Ph.D., is a relationship expert, popular speaker in the U.S. and abroad, and author of nine best-selling books, including her most recent, "Your Man is Wonderful" and "Dangerous Relationships." Dr. Nelson focuses on how we can all enjoy happy, fulfilling lives while accomplishing great things in love, at home and at work, as we appreciate ourselves, our world and all others. For more, visit www.noellenelson.com and www.yourmaniswonderful.com/blog.


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Over 1 million couples turn to Hitched for expert marital advice every year. Sign up now for our newsletter & get exclusive weekly content that will entertain, educate and inspire your marriage.



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