Healthy Marriage Habit #4: Positive Intention Frame

Each day, in celebration of the release of my latest book, When Divorce Is Not An Option: How to Heal Your Marriage and Nurture Lasting Love, I’ll look at one of the 8 habits that separates “marriage masters” from “marriage disasters.”  Last week, I summarized all 8 divorceoptionhabits and we’ve looked at the first three habits in greater detail already.   Today, I’ll describe the four habit, Creating a Positive Intention Frame.  After a brief explanation, you’ll have a chance to take a quiz that can help you evaluate how healthy this habit is in your marriage.

HealthyMarriage Habit #4–Positive Intention Frame:  Why is this important?

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.

Take the Quiz!

T  F  1.  My spouse and I are good at giving each other the benefit of the doubt when we hurt each other.

T  F  2.  My spouse and I tend to assume that offenses are due to momentary lapses in judgment rather  than an intentional desire to be hurtful or offensive.

T  F  3.  When my spouse does something I find offensive or irritating, I tend to assume that I misunderstood his or her true intentions.

T  F  4.  My spouse and I rarely, if ever, react to each other as if we were intending to be offensive or hurtful.

T  F  5.  I feel like it’s safe to make mistakes around my spouse.

T  F  6.  I feel like my spouse and I go out of our way to assume the best about each other.

T  F  7.  I am confident that my spouse is looking out for my best interests.

T  F  8.  Sometimes my spouse offends me, but I doubt he or she would ever do so on purpose.

T  F  9.  My spouse and I tend to be generous about extending forgiveness when we disappoint each other.

T  F 10.  When something goes wrong at home, my spouse and I are NOT quick to blame each other.

Give yourself 1 point for each “T”

You scored ______ out of a possible 10 points.

A score of 8 or higher means that maintaining s Positive Intention Frame is a real strength in your relationship.

A score of 4-7 means that your marriage would significantly improve by giving greater attention to increasing your ability to exhibit a Positive Intention Frame in your marriage.

A score of 3 or lower indicates that this is a critical area for improvement in your relationship.

How’d you do?  Even if you feel like your marriage is, in general, in good shape, if you’d like to strengthen your ability to cultivate greater Self-Regulation in your marriage, check out When Divorce is Not An Option:  How to Heal Your Marriage and Nurture Lasting Love.  Or, for more personalized assistance, contact the Pastoral Solutions Institute (740-266-6461) to learn more about our Catholic-integrated tele-counseling practice for couples, families, and individuals.  Let us help you experience all the love God has in store for you!

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