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Watching people interact in traffic situations provides a humorous and often accurate picture of human nature. Many altercations are packed full of misunderstandings and snap judgments. Raw, unhinged emotion is everywhere on display. Every driver is an insane maniac or a bumbling slowpoke. 

One trait stands out on the road: we perceive reality according to a narrow set of lenses, almost constantly forming heavily subjective judgments. Behind the wheel of a car, we often assume that we are the only ones who matter. Everyone who hinders, tailgates, cuts us off or disrupts our plans is merely an obstacle. 

The immediate way we perceive reality is often inaccurate, emotionally based, and fueled by self-interest. Yet, ironically, we assume we are forming clear, unbiased, objective observations.

Key takeaway: our perception of reality is biased. 

What does this have to do with marriage? 

Marriage is no different. We carry that same pair of narrow, emotional, biased lenses around and often apply them to our spouse. 

Every marriage encounters stressful situations, challenges, and difficulties. The lenses by which we decipher those difficulties are deeply ingrained in our hearts, having been wired into us from childhood. Our perception is a powerful thing!

Even worse, years of habitually adopting a negative mindset reinforce skewed judgments. For example, those who expect negative outcomes often encounter them. It becomes an entrenched pattern of thinking and way of living.

A study by the Stanford Research Institute found that “a full 87.5 percent of people’s success can be traced to their POSITIVE attitudes, while just 12.5 percent of their success comes from their aptitude, knowledge, or SKILLS.”

Our perception of life directly affects our behavior, interactions with others, and even our outcomes. As Proverbs 23:7 “For as he thinks in his heart, so is he.”

A negative outlook creates common behaviors such as:


Some personalities lean towards negativity, but it is primarily a learned response reinforced by habit. It can lead to self-fulfilling prophecies as you expect negative outcomes and thereby generate them.

Why? Negativity–like worry and complaining–feeds on itself. Negative thoughts beget more negative thoughts, thus producing adverse outcomes. It can be tough to live with someone who sees life this way. Your spouse might feel like they can never do anything right and eventually stop trying. 

If you struggle with a habitually negative mindset, it is vital to end the cycle. Depending on how deeply these roots of negativity extend, it may be worth seeking counseling. The source of your negativity might not be your spouse at all but rather deep-seated issues from your past. In such cases, many people have found real help through biblical therapy. 

The good news? Change is *always* possible through Christ

How can we affect genuine, habit-breaking changes in our lives and our marriages? What does change look like?

  • Acknowledge the problem. It might not feel this way, but honest recognition wins the better part of the battle. When you see the problem and want to change, you are more than halfway there. 
  • Repent. Negativity becomes a sinful pattern that destroys your relationship with your spouse and your relationship with God. Only God can change hearts and empower you with the grace to form new habits. Seek God’s forgiveness and allow His light into your life. He is eager to answer that prayer!
  • Adjust three key areas: your thoughts, words, and actions. Start the daily work of replacing negative thoughts with positive attitudes. Speak uplifting, encouraging words. Replace old patterns with a new perspective by “renewing your mind” (Romans 12:2). Replace complaints with gratitude. Fill up your heart with God’s word to shape and mold your thinking. 

Key action: Spend a few moments writing down positive traits you admire about your spouse. Once you start devoting your mind to it, more things will occur, shifting the grounds of your heart. Just as negativity begets more negativity, so does positivity likewise feed on itself. 

Start building up your spouse with your words rather than tearing them down. Pray with your spouse daily and ask God to open your eyes to their attributes and gifts. God has a plan for your marriage!

Do these suggestions seem like a band-aid fix? It is true that growth comes slowly through daily habits and minor changes. But real change is available only through Christ!

To learn more or to seek extra help, marriage classes, or counseling, reach out to us at Dream City Church.

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