Healthy Marriage Habits Quiz #4 – A Positive Intention Frame

A positive intention frame is what psychologists and marriage therapists call the ability to assume the best about your spouse even when they are at their worst.  This is not the same thing as making excuses for your spouse’s bad behavior.  Rather, having a positive intention frame gives us the ability to not react angrily to every slight and enables us to address bigger offenses in a sensitive and understanding manner.  Having a positive intention frame is the psychological basis for the corporal work of mercy that is “bearing wrongs patiently.”  Again, there is nothing wrong with addressing offenses directly and promptly, but doing so charitably as well allows the offender to save face.  This increases the likelihood that the offender will work with you to find solutions to the problem instead of reacting defensively to what otherwise might feel like an attack or a criticism from you.

Having a positive intention frame allows you to feel comfortable making mistakes in front of each other because you know that each of you is trying your best and that you will both tolerate each other’s lapses and offenses and refuse to see missteps as intentional slights.  Research by Hawkins, Carrere, and Gottman (2002) shows that couples who tend to assume the best about each other avoid conflict more and handle conflict more gracefully when it arrives on the scene.

How important is developing this skill for your marriage?