A couple sits on the couch looking disillusioned representing negative sentiment override

Do you ever feel like you can’t do anything right in your relationship? Or like your partner is endlessly frustrating, and they’re probably doing it on purpose, just to annoy you? This is what it looks like when a relationship is suffering from negative sentiment override, a destructive pattern that you need to address ASAP. 

“Negative sentiment override” is the fancy psychology term for having an entrenched, negative view of your partner. It happens when you’ve had some bad experiences in the past, and those experiences begin to distort the way you interpret everything new your partner says and does. It makes you assume that your partner’s intentions are bad, or that they have poor character, when you wouldn’t draw the same conclusions in an identical situation with someone else.

Negative sentiment override is very common, but it’s also a relationship warning sign. Many couples counseling clients I meet whose relationships are in a difficult place are dealing with some level of it, but they rarely know that. When you’re in it, negative sentiment override feels like you’re making accurate judgments about what’s happening in your relationship, when you’re really jumping to unfair conclusions based on a build-up of hurt feelings and resentment. It’s very important to get out of this negative cycle as quickly as you can: If you don’t it can damage your relationship. Couples therapy can help you slow down and notice these knee-jerk reactions, so that you can once again experience each other in a way that is open and generous. When you can do that, changing your relationship for the better becomes much, much easier. 

If you have a well-worn mental catalog of all of your partner’s shortcomings, or you’re trying your best to improve your relationship but it feels like your partner won’t give you a chance, this article is for you. Overcoming negative sentiment override makes it much easier to improve communication and work on your relationship. If you’d prefer to listen, I’ve also created an episode of the Love, Happiness and Success podcast about negative sentiment override. You can find it on this page, Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or wherever you get your podcasts.

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How Negative Sentiment Override Impacts Your Relationship 

Here’s an example of negative sentiment override in action: 

Christine is browsing flight deals on her laptop, daydreaming about a mai tai on the beach. 

“Oh, we could get a non-stop to Aruba for under $400,” she tells Patrick. She’s been feeling so stressed about work lately that just the thought of getting away is giving her some much-needed relief.  

“Four hundred? You can’t seriously be thinking about that right now,” Patrick says. She knows that taxes are due next week and that money is tight, he’s thinking. He used to find Christine’s taste for adventure endearing, but after five years of marriage he’s sick of always having to be the adult while she gets to live in la-la land. 

“I was just looking!” Christine says. It’s like he takes pleasure in crushing my dreams, she’s thinking. If I’m happy, he has to find a reason to make me feel bad about it. She gathers her computer and sulks off to the bedroom where she can window shop without feeling judged

If Christine and Patrick didn’t have a long history of fighting over finances, this conversation would have gone differently. But they do have that history, and so negative sentiment override got to work on them both. 

Patrick misinterpreted Christine’s intentions. He assumed that she wanted him to agree to spend money when she really just wanted him to enjoy a daydream with her. Christine assumed that Patrick wanted to make her feel bad about herself — because their money conversations so often do — when his true goal was to soothe his own financial anxieties and avoid getting into a fight

Negative sentiment override makes it hard to give the other person the benefit of the doubt. This not only makes you both feel worse about each other and the relationship, it makes creating any positive change feel like pushing a semi truck up a hill. Even if your partner is trying really hard to solve the problems in your relationship, they won’t feel like their efforts are making any difference if you continue reacting to them from your old programming rather than responding with intention. After a few failed attempts at change, one or both of you may begin to give up hope that things can ever get better, and that is ultimately what causes relationships to fail

Overcoming Negative Sentiment Override in Your Relationship

It’s not like you can flip a switch and banish all the pent-up negativity in your relationship. Changing your narratives about each other takes work, but the payoff is huge. As you get better at recognizing negative sentiment override in the moment, you’ll be able to intentionally shift into more helpful frames of mind.

Here’s how you can do that: 

  1. Build your self-awareness

The first step in changing anything is increasing self-awareness. Spend some time getting familiar with the old stories you have about your partner, where they’re coming from, and how they show up in your interactions with them in the present. 

  1. Slow down

When you find yourself getting defensive with your partner, or feeling really irritated and annoyed for reasons you can’t quite pinpoint, slow down and consider whether negative sentiment override could be playing a role. When you notice you’re making assumptions that might be distorted, you can challenge them by thinking about other reasonable explanations for what’s happening. 

  1. Heal old wounds

Addressing old wounds can be an important part of overcoming negative sentiment override. If there have been major betrayals or emotional ruptures, then forgiving your partner for past hurts can help you start a new chapter. Working with a good couples counselor who practices Emotionally Focused Couples Therapy can be very helpful if old wounds are the core issue. 

  1. Increase appreciation

Negative sentiment override is damaging to relationships because it makes people feel unrecognized and unappreciated. If it persists for long enough, you can start feeling hopeless and like there’s no point in trying. To avoid that outcome, make a conscious effort to notice and appreciate your partner’s efforts to change and grow for the benefit of your relationship. 

  1. Stay in the present

When you’re having a conflict with your partner, stay in the here and now. That doesn’t mean you can’t ever discuss your history together, but create some separation between the past and present. Rather than saying “You always do XYZ, just like that one time four years ago…” you could say something along the lines of, “I’m feeling the way I felt that one time four years ago. Is that pattern resurfacing, or is there something else going on?”

Support for Overcoming Negative Sentiment Override

As much as we may wish we could snap our fingers and do away with all of the unhelpful judgments in our relationships, it doesn’t really work that way. It takes time to fundamentally change the way that you experience your partner, and often it takes support from a relationship expert who understands these complex patterns and how to overcome them. 

Changing your story about your partner will make a huge difference in how your relationship feels and functions. And if you would like to do this valuable work with a counselor on our team, I invite you to schedule a free consultation

With love, 

Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby

P.S. — For more advice on changing difficult communication patterns in your relationship, check out my “Communication that Connects” collection of articles and podcasts. 

Music in this episode is by Sallie Ford with their song “Soul Sick.” You can support them and their work by visiting their Bandcamp page here: https://sallieford.com/.  Under the circumstance of use of music, each portion of used music within this current episode fits under Section 107 of the Copyright Act, i.e., Fair Use. Please refer to copyright.gov if further questions are prompted.

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Negative Sentiment Override: the Communication Killer

The Love, Happiness & Success Podcast with Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby

Free, Expert Advice — For You.

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This is Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby, and you are listening to the Love, happiness and Success podcast. There is a powerful communication killer lurking in the subconscious depths of most relationships called a negative sentiment override. Just because you haven’t heard of this before doesn’t mean that you’re probably not doing it.

Most of us are, whether we know it. Or not. On today’s show, you’ll learn how to spot it, stop it, and immediately improve your communication and help your relationship grow. Our mood Music today is the song, “Get Out” from Sally Ford. I chose this song because I feel like it captures that, ah, feeling that comes from when you’re interacting with somebody who is just being so frustrating.

You can take it. A k a, the specific mental and emotional experience that is really toxic. Having a positive relationship when you are feeling that way about your partner, not gonna end well. Communication is not going to feel easy. And that’s our topic today. So super cool song you can check out Sally Ford, s a l l i e ford.com for more on that subject.

But. You know what? Segueing into our topic, the negative sentiment override, is when you’re jumping to a negative interpretation about what’s happening, about your partner, about what’s being said, it’s like, the opposite of taking somebody’s good intentions. It’s really like kind of looking at a negative interpretation of a relational situation, and that has consequences, and it’s something that we’re all vulnerable to doing because we do it automatically. 

We do it unconsciously, particularly if we’ve had not so awesome experiences in our relationship in the past. And everybody in a long-term relationship has had not so great experiences with their partner at some point in the past, nobody is in a relationship with a perfect person.

We are all weirdos. We do weird stuff. And being able to understand how those experiences have impacted us, how they have shaped our thinking, and then developing a very clear and conscious appreciation for the person our partner is trying to grow into, how we are trying to grow and evolve. That is the antidote, but it’s hard to do.

And the issue with negative sentiment override is that it is so common. It is so automatic. It really blocks and obscures not just relational growth and improvement, but it prevents the kind of healthy communication that is necessary for healthy relationships and relationship growth. And I wanted to make an episode on this topic because of you and what you’re telling me. 

This is another one right from the suggestion box. I tell you what, we’ve had so many couples  and individuals too actually reaching out for relationship help at my practice, Growing Self. And you know, I just, in looking through like what’s going on in people’s lives, what’s bringing them in, it’s communication.

Communication. We can’t talk to each other. We’re getting into these fights. The same things keep happening over and over. It’s so annoying. We love each other, but we can’t talk to each other. Please help. So I really wanted to make a podcast that addresses the super common and important experience. And I’ve mentioned this on other podcasts that I’ve done about communication, but even though communication is a super common and important pain point in virtually all relationships, the reason why communication feels hard and the path to improving it is often unique to a relationship. 

Well not, you know, totally unique. There are a dozen different flavors of why communication problems happen. Um, but knowing what is really at the core of the communication issues in your relationship then informs what needs to change in order to improve it, because the same  strategy won’t be effective for everybody. 

And so, you know, there are common elements in communication and oh gosh, there’s an old writer who had a quote. I think, uh, happy families are all the same, but unhappy families are all kind of their own thing. And it’s sort of true with communication stuff. So positive communication. There are ways of learning positive communication. There are strategies that can be learned. There are things that you can do to improve communication and get a better response from people.

You know, strengthening relationships have all good things, and those are, you know, mostly the same. But when it comes to problematic communication, it really is important to do a little bit more careful digging, to understand the unique kind of recipe for disaster that you guys are currently engaging in.

And I say this, you know, I’m a marriage and family therapist by trade, and so I’ve worked with a lot of couples over the years and the different thing with marriage and family therapists, that is unique among the helping professions is this systemic perspective and being able to get into the core dynamics that are creating problematic communication and problematic interactions because without that, when we try to teach like healthy relationship skills, we’re like, okay, here’s what to do to have a better experience. 

Even if you do those, if you haven’t kind of addressed the engine of negativity at the core of it, the system will revert back really easily. And I say this, you know, in addition to being a marriage and family therapist, I am also a licensed psychologist. I’m a board certified coach, and nothing in either of those training orientations would have prepared me to talk to you about what we’re gonna be talking about today, which are these relational dynamics. You know, I am not wearing my psychologist hat when we’re talking about this stuff. I’m wearing my M F T hat for your benefit.

Okay, so let’s jump into this topic and learn all about negative sentiment override, how you can tell if it’s happening in your relationship, and then if it is, I’m going to give you some actionable, very specific concrete things that you can do like today to begin correcting this in yourself. And hopefully, I mean, you could share this podcast episode with your partner, see if they can relate to it, but, you know, whether or not your partner engages in this work. If you’re keeping your own side of the street clean with negative sentiment override, you can still really improve your relationship and have a much better experience in your communication because you are showing up in a different way. So I, I hope that that feels very empowering to you, what we’ll be talking about.

Okay. So here are some signs that negative sentiment override, AKA the communication killer might be happening in your relationship. First of all, do you feel like you can’t do anything right in your relationship? Like you, you know, breathe too hard and your partner’s like, stop that. That would be an indication of negative sentiment override, or do you kinda feel that way about your partner?

That they are just frustrating and not only are they being frustrating, they’re probably doing it on purpose just to annoy you. That kind of mindset. That’s how it feels when your relationship is suffering from that negative sentiment override. And you know, even though this is a common thing that we’re all kind of vulnerable to, it is so important that you are aware of this and that you take action to correct this ASAP.

Because if you don’t, it can really, really damage a relationship. And if you let it go for too long, as you know, unfortunately many couples do, there’s like a point of no return where this goes too far. It can really erode the fabric of a relationship. So, It’s important that this is on your radar. 

And so negative sentiment override. Okay. It’s like this, fancy, you know, psychology term. Um, I believe it was the Gottman’s research, John and Julie Gottman, where, negative sentiment override was identified as one of the principle things that is happening in unhealthy relationships that is making them so difficult and, a major point of intervention for marriage and family therapists.

And so what it means is that you have this entrenched negative view of your partner. That is often so fast and so automatic that you’re not even conscious of it. But it can happen either when you’ve had some bad experiences in the past with your partner, or with other people that you were with before your partner, or with your parents.

So you know, these negative assumptions of what’s happening don’t necessarily have to come from the experiences in this specific relationship. You could have carried this into your relationship with you, depending on what you’ve been through in your life. But if you have this, it will subtly shift the way you interpret what is happening in your relationship in a negative way.

You may in assume that your partner has malicious intentions, you know they’re doing something on purpose. Or even worse, if you are making negative assumptions about your partner’s character, like, well, they did this annoying thing because that’s the kind of person they are, that is actually a pretty significant relationship warning sign.

I don’t wanna talk about that like it’s a common, you know, communication blip. When I hear anybody in a relationship who has kind of rewritten their narrative about who their partner is, what they’re capable of, particularly if it’s like questionable morals or you know, their capacity for growth and change.

I always, even if I don’t say this out loud, always think “uh oh” a little bit, because I understand that this is a serious situation. I’m so glad that a couple is in couples counseling at that point, because they require intervention. But, unless there is intervention, that’s not gonna get better.

When it’s that level of negative sentiment override and it’s going into somebody’s character flaws, that is a sign to me that the person I’m sitting with is, on the off ramp. They are almost detaching emotionally from the relationship. They’re telling themselves a story that this well is dry and that it’s not going to change or get better. 

And on the other side of that, the fact that somebody is sitting in couples counseling is in itself a positive prognosis. People who are really, really done don’t ever get through the door. So, you know, there’s always hope when people are there and talking about how they feel. So I don’t wanna make it sound overly grim, but to be paying attention to this. 

Negative sentiment override can happen kind of on a spectrum. At the mildest end of this spectrum, you’re not giving your partner the benefit of the doubt anymore. You’re jumping to a negative conclusion rather than a positive one. You’re interpreting what they’re doing in a negative light, but at the more, more serious end of that spectrum, again, if it’s turning into global judgments about who they are as people and who they’ve always been and who they will always be. I just wanted to bring it into your awareness, that is really pretty serious. And if you hear that kind of language coming from your partner, you need to take that very, very seriously.

Even if you don’t think that your relationship is that bad, if you hear your partner saying those kinds of things, please take that seriously. I will refer you back to a couple other podcasts I’ve done. One is How to Stop a Divorce and Save Your Marriage. The other one is Why Relationships Fail.

Okay, so in addition to understanding what negative sentiment override is, let’s talk about how it impacts your relationship and why it is so serious. And we’re gonna take this back to the mildest form. I mean, this is something that I think we can all relate to, just that feeling of misunderstanding that is so easy to have crop up in communication, and they can happen over the mildest life experiences. But again, just paying attention to it so that you have this deeper awareness of what’s happening and then the path forward. 

So a very easy example, say you’re messing around on your phone and kind of like looking at different things and you say to your partner, oh, we should get this thing for the living room.

Or, oh, let’s go on a trip somewhere, or whatever. And you show him the Airbnb in Hawaii and he sees the price tag and he is like, no, no, no, we’re not doing that. I can’t believe you’re even thinking about that. That is way too much money. After everything we’ve been working on, you know, with our financial goals as a couple, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, and you’re like, ah, okay.

All right. Calm down. Calm down. Because what just happened there is that this imaginary partner went to, how could she even be talking about this? We are really focusing on money. Why would she say that? what does this mean? This feels disrespectful. I feel like I’m being pushed into this thing that I don’t wanna do.

Like, you know, a lot of negativity around just what happened that was this like triggering reactive thing and where you maybe were like, I’m just messing around on my phone. I’m just dreaming dreams. You know, like maybe when we get the financial stuff sorted out, we could talk about this, but I don’t like the way you’re talking to me right now.

Why are you all, you’re always so critical? Anything that I want, you’re a dream smusher. That’s what you are, you know, and again, there was an empathy failure in that moment. Can I relate to it? That negative sentiment around what you’re, why are you being so mean and getting so angry and weird all of a sudden, as opposed to the opposite of that, which is, going empathetically into your partner’s shoes just for a second and being like, you know what? We have really been cooking at home every day. We’re taking this so seriously. I could understand maybe how he felt minimized when I said that, or that he feels like, you know, we’re not on the same page. But that doesn’t happen when negative sentiment override is present because you’re busy thinking about how grouchy he is and irritable and you’re just trying to have a fun conversation. What’s wrong with him? 

Anyway, so you see how that works. And so what just happened in those moments, and again, we can all relate, is that what happened in terms of the thoughts and feelings and perceptions of each person in that imaginary story pushed them further away from each other. There were assumptions that were made.

Uh, there was meaning that was made. There were things assigned to somebody’s character around why, why would they do that right now? Why would they say that? And it also totally blocked communication because now all of a sudden this couple is very grumpy with each other. There was a flare up of negative sentiment and then, you know, the male partner in this imaginary story was like blah, and the female partner in this imaginary story is like, what?

There’s defensiveness. There’s kind of aggressive communication. Now they’re annoyed with each other for the way they’re talking to each other, and all of this could have been prevented if these two had heard this podcast that you’re listening to right now that explains the importance of negative sentiment override and being able to identify it in themselves when there’s a flare up.

Or you know, that would be the first line of defense. And if that fails, being able to identify when it is happening in your partner so that you can then manage it effectively and repair this situation. Right, because whenever this flares up, it just feels true. You know, we are used to being informed through our own senses of what we see, what we hear, what’s happening around us.

This feels like the truth and it’s easy to miss the fact that we’re all running stuff through our own filters. That’s what creates negative sentiments or negative perceptions is the way that we are interpreting things, and it can be difficult to gain awareness about the fact that that’s happening, but that is truly the path of growth and to changing this.

So the very first step of creating change here is to increase your self-awareness, and that means spending some time just getting familiar with the stories that you’re telling yourself about your partner, about the situation. And being curious about the source of your own thoughts. Like, I know that there’s a lot in our culture these days about embracing everything and, you know, uh, being entitled and empowered.

But I tell you what, as a practicing psychologist and marriage and family therapist, the best advice I could give anybody is don’t believe everything you think, because of this tendency towards unconscious bias that comes from these old emotional experiences. And you know, sometimes your first reactions to things are true and you can trust your excellent judgment in these moments, but it is worth reflecting, and particularly if you’re in a relationship with somebody that you care about. 

Just getting very curious about where this is all coming from so that you can make sure that you’re thinking through things accurately. You are acting with empathy. You are trying to put yourself into another person’s shoes.

You’re using good emotional intelligence skills to manage the situation even if you are right. So really digging into self-awareness and being very familiar with your own habitual stories is how you can begin to change this dynamic because when you’re aware of these stories, you can then see the influence they have on how you react and interact in the present moment.

It comes from these thoughts, these mindsets. And the reason why is if you’re not doing the self-reflection, you won’t be giving your partner the benefit of the doubt. It will be easy to jump to conclusions that you’re right and they’re wrong, and you will behave like you are right and they’re wrong.

And those. Behaviors will then, you know, influence the way that you communicate and your partner is likely to have a negative reaction to that, and then they will behave in a more negative way towards you. And whatever that original thought was about who they are will then be confirmed and it just turns into this negative spiral.

And the other thing that is so hard about this is that when people are trying to work on a relationship, when negative sentiment override is not like examined and worked with in an intentional way, it’s like, you know, Sysiphus pushing that boulder up the hill only to have it roll back down again.

Because even if your partner is trying really hard to solve the problems in your relationship or do things differently, if you’re not like, letting that in, if you’re still viewing them according to those old tapes and reacting to them in that old way, they won’t feel like their efforts are making any difference. And after they try something a few times and you react that same old way, they’re like, well, okay, now what? This isn’t working. 

It’s probably harder to notice this when we think about your reactions to your partner, but I think we can all relate. I certainly can, to me, like trying really hard in a moment to communicate nicely or do something differently. You know, my husband has told me that this is bothersome, so I’m gonna do this, and still kind of being perceived in the way that I used to be versus, you know, what’s actually happening in this present moment.

And that’s not a nice feeling, right? I think we all wanna be recognized for what we’re trying to do, the things we’re working on. You know, I’m making an effort here. It’s difficult to keep putting yourself out there in a vulnerable way if that isn’t recognized. Even a little bit of negative sentiment override will make it very difficult to do that with your partner.

And so that self-awareness is the very first piece. But then also I would just like to mention that this needs to be sustained over time. It’s not like a one-and-done kind of thing. You can’t flip a switch and banish all this pent up negativity or these old stories because changing your narratives is pretty deep work. 

If you’re changing your narrative about yourself, your partner, your expectations and relationships, what should be happening versus what is happening, right? Um, that takes a lot of work over and over again to just even notice them, much less change them. But when you’re able to do that, the payoff is huge.

Because. If you do that, then you can shift into more helpful ways of thinking. That will be very pro-relationship. It’s almost like you get control of the situation back again. You have more agency and more options for how you bond to somebody in that moment rather than being influenced by these automatic negative beliefs that just air quote, “make you feel” a certain way without reflecting on them.

Okay. So that awareness and just being cognizant of the fact that these narratives are happening is the most important first step. And then the next thing to do is really get in the habit of slowing down. So when, if you’re having any kind of reaction, if you’re feeling angry, defensive. If you’re experiencing something as hurtful, or if you’re feeling annoyed or irritated for any of these reasons, just slow down and think about, what am I telling myself right now about this situation that is making me feel the way I am? 

And notice that language shift. Cause I didn’t ask you to think about what your partner is doing right now that is making you feel upset. It is, what are you telling yourself about what is happening right now that is creating these feelings inside of you?

And this is very important because it brings your power back. When you go into what’s happening in my head right now, it is empowering. You are in control of that and it also, the language that we’re using it, is once again, in your sphere of ownership, if you are having a reaction to your thoughts, what are you telling yourself about what’s happening right now that is within your control to evaluate, reflect upon, and experiment with changing. 

And it is the opposite of this very disempowering stance that people, particularly those who have a lot of that negative sentiment override take in their relationship, which is blaming their partner for what is happening. How they’re feeling.

If you only did X, Y, Z, then I would feel differently. That is so disempowering. What do you do with that? The only thing you can do with that is try to demand that somebody else change. You. Be different. Here’s what I need from you. If only you could do all of these things, then our relationship would be better and that is the source of so much pain and conflict in relationships compared to, you know, that self-reflection and, and taking responsibility for how you are showing up in a relationship. 

You know, it may be true that the relationship cannot grow. That happens sometimes. Maybe you are actually in a relationship with somebody who is not willing to grow with you and do the kind of work that I’m describing, but you will never find out if the only way that you have of trying to improve your relationship is by insisting that the other person take full responsibility for everything that happens and be the one to change.

So it’s hard to do. It’s definitely a shift in not just the way we’re relating to our partners, but the way we’re relating to ourselves. So slowing down in those moments. And you can just say that I would love it if both you and your partner listen to this podcast about negative sentiment override, and it turned into a situation where you are able to say, you know, I do that sometimes.

Sometimes I start telling myself stories about what’s happening and it’s not helpful to our communication. It makes me feel worse. So here’s what you can expect from me going forward when I notice myself doing this. I’m going to say something in the moment. And I’m gonna ask you for a few minutes, maybe I’ll go do some journaling or thinking, because I wanna make sure that I have my thoughts straight before I just keep plunging forward into this communication thing that is not going to end well.

So, slowing down. Then it’s also really important, in addition to working on this self-management kind of work that I’ve been describing to, not in the heat of the moment, but after the fact, do some quiet reflection to think about whether or not there is unfinished emotional business in this relationship that needs to be addressed, or if there is unresolved conflict that is just never been attended to.

Because the other reason for sentiment override patterns is if you’ve had bad experiences with your partner in the past. Maybe there has been an attachment rupture or a betrayal of trust, or you’ve gone through something hard that does not feel quite resolved for you, that could be part of this negative sentiment override.

If there have been long-standing patterns of not being able to find constructive solutions to old conflict, then it could be around feeling like your partnership is out of balance. One of you is maybe doing more than the other. It could come from feeling emotionally invalidated by your partner on a regular basis if you’re not getting your needs met in your relationship.

And, you know, many couples have tried to talk about these things, but unfortunately they only come up in the heat of the moment, right? Most of the time it’s fairly neutral. So why should I bring up how hurt I was about something that happened three weeks ago? I just need to keep going, which again, creates stability in the moment, but you’re kicking the can down the road and, over time, it turns into these negative thoughts, negative feelings, negative automatic assumptions.

That is the byproduct of not successfully addressing things, authentically and vulnerably when they come up, because these things are important, and I think that one of the mindsets here that can really create so much problems in relationships, I think we’re socialized to believe that air quote, “conflict in a relationship” is a negative thing, that it’s bad.

And that conflict means having disagreements, having passionate conversations about things that we disagree about, having differences of perspective, talking about our feelings when it’s painful or when the person is maybe feeling hurt or upset by what it is that we’re saying. You know, these kinds of moments can get lumped into this global conflict umbrella when the reality is that these kinds of vulnerable, authentic, very real moments when we’re talking about the things that are important to us, the times that we have felt pain or disconnection or hurt or lonely in our hopes for how things could be different? Yeah. We have strong feelings about that in the moment, and yeah, your partner might struggle to take that in. They might be like, ah, what are you talking about? This conversation is making me feel bad. And to have the kinds of skills that allow you to stay in that ring. 

Talk about how you’re really feeling. Help them understand you, and for you to be able to take in how they are feeling in a real way, that is not conflict, that is actually the process of having and maintaining a very healthy relationship. So the other pieces of this, in addition to slowing down, getting awareness and taking the time to think about, is there old stuff that hasn’t been dealt with that we need to deal with?

Once you’re doing that, it becomes much easier to shift your narrative into something that feels more positive, more constructive, and that helps you show up in the way that will create a positive moment between you and your partner. One of the things that negative sentiment override will reliably do and why it’s so damaging to relationships is that it makes people feel unrecognized, unappreciated, unseen.

You know? Have you ever had that? I’m sure you’ve had that experience. I know I have had it where I’m just kind of bopping along or I say something and my husband communicates to me that he just interpreted whatever that was in a way that is surprisingly negative, and that hurt my feelings a little bit.

And you know, that’s not a good feeling. We want to feel loved and appreciated and respected in those moments. And you know, we all have our ups and downs, but if this becomes habitual, if you’re getting this feedback from your partner, if your partner is kind of showing you that they don’t think well of you, they don’t respect you, they don’t value your opinion, they don’t think that you have good intentions, maybe they don’t think that you’re a good person, that can make you start feeling kind of hopeless. 

It makes you feel like the relationship is emotionally unsafe, like you withdraw, right? And so it’s very important to manage this effectively before it gets to that point. So the thing to do here, noticing it’s happening, slowing down, healing the old wounds, but then thinking about what is a new story?

A new story that involves my conscious appreciation of my partner. Right now. And so this can also be a little challenging to do, and a great exercise I would suggest is to, not with your partner, like step away, it’s certainly not in the heat of the moment, but make a list or write out a story of all of the things that you really love and value and appreciate about your partner as they are. 

What are some of the favorite experiences or memories you’ve had with them? What are the things that they do well? Right? Maybe even there are things you take for granted that they do really well and that you really appreciate about them, what makes them special and important and irreplaceable to you?

And you know, this doesn’t minimize or invalidate the fact that there may be things you would like to have be different about your relationship. That is all fantastic. We should all have relationship goals. But the way to begin creating positive change in your relationship is through positivity rather than negativity.

And so by doing a positive inventory of all the things that you like and appreciate about your partner can be a really important first step in reconnecting with some of that positive energy. I will also challenge you to think about how the ways of being that irritate your part, what you love about your partner the most, can in fact also be the flip side of the coin about the things that you really appreciate about them.

So, for example, there are differences in every relationship, and acknowledging and valuing these differences is actually a big part of the creation of real emotional intimacy that does not come from sameness. It comes from differences. And so like, I personally have been married for a long time and I could create a list, a scroll that is 20 feet long about all the things that annoy me about my husband in different capacities.

And it is also true that when I really think about what those things are, there is a flip side to all of those qualities that is actually a beautiful part of his personality and what makes him so  special. And so every personality component, there’s like a light and a dark. For example, someone who, you know, maybe says blunt things from time to time or can be kind of harsh in the way they communicate, there is also oftentimes a level of honesty and authenticity there that can be very refreshing. 

There can also be a courageous spirit. If that isn’t present, then you have somebody who might engage in passive aggressive behaviors to communicate how they feel. But that’s not what this is.

You have somebody who is going to say it directly out loud, perhaps in a louder tone of voice than you would like, but you know, there it is. And so being able to find and embrace the things that you appreciate about your partner for who and what they are. And everything that we fight about can have those different dimensions.

You’re fighting about money all the time. Your partner is just, you know, spending money like crazy and uh, doesn’t like to save money and is always like, what’s the next new thing? And that’s a source of a lot of pain and arguments and contention. If you listen to any of the podcasts that I’ve created around financial counseling or financial coaching for couples, you’ll know that the process of healing that is very much drilling down into, what are the differences in values? Where does that come from? Why does that make sense? What do you associate with money and with finances and maybe your way of being in this relationship? 

As long as we are in balance with each other and working together, because of you, I am maybe spending a little bit more money and doing more things and enjoying my life a little bit more than if I was married to somebody who was exactly like me.

So it, it’s, it’s finding the gift within the situation as it is and making that clear and concrete to yourself so that you can start shaping a different narrative about what is happening and really a more sympathetic and empathetic and probably more accurate point of view that incorporates your partner’s actual experience in these moments.

And if you don’t know what that is, or if you’re having trouble creating that narrative for yourself, a great strategy here would be to ask your partner. For example, you know, when this thing happens, I start telling myself stories that you are doing this on purpose. You said you would do this thing, then you forgot. And I feel like, how could you possibly have forgotten? You know, you just don’t care about me. This is my old story. 

What is actually going on for you in those moments, like, why? Why does this happen? And then listen to what your partner says. You know, I mean, hopefully you’re with somebody who’s emotionally mature enough to be able to, you know, be reflecting on their own process and being able to engage with you in an authentic and honest way.

But if you’re not aware of those stories and how they are impacting your responses to your partner, you won’t be able to have those kinds of conversations or those kinds of experiences because the interactions themselves will be so negative that they will prevent and obstruct that kind of conscious communication from happening.

So, understanding, negative sentiment override, what it is, what to do with it, and what to do instead is an essential piece of this puzzle. And I hope that hearing about this was helpful for you. I hope that you had, you know, even if you’re having a very different life experience than mine, at least a few flashes of recognition, either from the way you’re operating or things that you’ve seen happening in your relationship.

And I hope that they provide you with some new ideas and things to try that can help you have a better experience and improve your communication. So thank you for spending this time with me today and if this was helpful, if you’d like to, you know, have this actual conversation, you are invited, you can come to my practice growing self, um, growing self counseling and coaching, and schedule yourself a free consultation to meet with me or with one of the other.

Excellent marriage and family therapist on my team to talk more about your situation and get their assistance in, you know, unearthing some of these things and discovering your own dynamic and talking about how you can use these new awarenesses to put different things into practice that helps strengthen your relationship.

That is why we were here. That is what we do and you are invited to do it with us. All right. Thanks for listening and I’ll be back in touch next week with another episode. Take care.

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