Loving the Person You Married
Change how you feel by changing how you think
I like doughnuts. I used to eat them a lot, especially the glazed ones. When I noticed I wasn’t losing weight from my exercise routines as easily as before, I began to think more about the calories I was consuming, educated myself in healthy lifestyle changes and in changing my thoughts, changed how I felt towards doughnuts. We’re still friends and meet on occasion, but not daily.
There is a lot of research that shows that changing how we think chemically changes how we feel. A placebo effect is one example.
According to Miriam-Webster’s Learner’s Dictionary, a placebo is
a pill or substance that is given to a patient like a drug but that has no physical effect on the patient
In Bendetti’s 2010 experiment, “How Placebos Change the Patient’s Brain”, he found that
mechanisms that are activated by placebos are the same as those activated by drugs, which suggests a cognitive/affective interference with drug action.
In other words, in many cases, how a patient thought changed how they felt as much, if not more than the actual prescription did.
Change how you think = change how you feel.
Fantasies – Are they detrimental to your relationship?
Science fiction and romance novels are among my favourite genres of movies and books. I get lost in a world that’s not real because it’s fun or ideal. It’s a fantasy. That may not be harmful in and of itself and maybe a fun break from the drudgery of dishes and laundry, but when it becomes my go-to for pain, chemicals are released and habits are formed. Dr Person, Professor of Clinical Psychiatry at the College of Physicians and Surgeons, Columbia University, wrote on fantasies:
What one should look for is a major shift, which can indicate a problem. A woman loves her husband and for a long time is quite happy with her life, then she begins to fantasize about a stranger she sees on the bus on the way to work.
A friend once told me that women more than men give pieces of themselves to fantasies. While I don’t know if that is true, I can relate. We see how well that man listened in the chick-flick, or we’re drawn to that dark and brooding character, fantasizing ourselves playing the role opposite them. What couples should understand is that this could taint their relationship with their spouse because they can never measure up to that fantasy. Fantasies are not real.
Oxytocin is a powerful chemical. Released when mothers nurse their babies, when people exercise, when women talk and share feelings with another, this chemical forms connections – it’s the attachment chemical. According to Carlos Shafer (The Neuroscience of Relationships),
Oxytocin is in higher levels during the time when the attraction phase of a relationship begins to decrease and attachment increases.
But this chemical is not loyal. Just by sharing feelings regularly with a co-employee, oxytocin can be released. Now your brain has formed an attachment to that person which may be mistaken as attraction or love. And if you are not careful, a fantasy will begin. But, as I said, fantasies are not real.
One of the first steps couples need to follow in loving their spouse is to pick up and take back those pieces that they gave out to their fantasies. Cut them off. End them. Throw them away. Change the workplace if necessary. Your relationship with your spouse is your most important relationship.
If you can recognize this in yourself, congrats! feel proud! Do you know what that says about you? You are willing to learn, willing to change, willing to be courageous!
When couples start seeing their spouse’s faults
After the first few years of being married, of “falling in love”, couples start seeing more clearly the faults of their spouse. This is natural, but if we don’t direct our thoughts proactively, we will ONLY see the faults.
Your spouse may have an anger issue, attention deficit, a social awkwardness, whatever it is. But I’m sure if you pondered on their other qualities, reflected on the reasons you were drawn to them, you could come up with a list of all the wonderful qualities they also have. That’s the first step to loving your spouse – by choosing to direct your thoughts to the positives. Don’t just see them as angry, inattentive, awkward. See their good side. Maybe your spouse is really goal-oriented. Maybe they can rebound from a problem and look at the bright side. Maybe they can relate well to the shy person in a group and help that person feel included.
Look at where you are weak as well. Objectively examine your faults and strengths. Do you focus on your faults? Does your spouse? You are not your faults. You are more than that.
How do you both fit together?
Maybe you are great at finding bargains and not so much at keeping track of a budget. But maybe your spouse likes working with numbers and tracking them. Your differences can make a good fit. Change how you look at your spouse’s differences and you will change how you feel about him or her.
There’s plentiful research out there that shows we truly can change how we feel by how we think.
This takes mindfulness. Many people just let their thoughts go wherever they go and allow them to govern their feelings. But you have a choice of what to dwell on. Now you know that you can change how you feel. Thoughts will jump into your head, but you choose what stays and what to put in there. You may have “fallen in love”. But staying in love is a choice you make. Try these first few steps to strengthen your marriage; to choose to love your spouse.
Couples Counselling at the Centre
Carlos Schäfer – Director & Principal Psychologist at the Centre is highly experienced in couples and relationship counselling. To get an appointment or to make enquiries, please call (03) 9820-5577.
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