My friend Tammy from Creating Success Stories sent me some questions this week about my advice to Assume Love. I’m going to answer one at a time.
What do you suggest for a couple where only one partner is willing to “assume love”?
This is the marvelous thing about assuming love — it doesn’t take two. One person can change the marriage. And this approach most benefits the one who assumes love.
Let me explain why this is true, because so many approaches to a better marriage really do require both partners to make it work.
Imagine you come home one night and walk directly into the kitchen. The two of you have somewhere to be an hour from now. You hit unexpected traffic and spent twenty minutes stopping and starting, moving forward one car length at a time. Now you’ve got to eat and hit the road as fast as you can.
Is there a dinner already prepared and waiting for you? No, your spouse is in the other room, answering emails.
How do you feel?
How’s your mood?
How do you act toward your mate?
How does your mate feel now?
What’s your mate’s mood now?
The doorbell rings. It’s a cab driver, carrying in a bag of styrofoam containers with your favorite meal from a restaurant the two of you love.
How does your dinner go? How’s the trip after dinner? Well, if you assumed love and tried to think of a loving reason why your spouse might be in the other room answering emails when you’re both in such a rush, it probably goes pretty well. You were probably in a hopeful mood and greeted your mate with a hug and a kiss.
If you didn’t assume love, if you stuck with an assumption that it’s uncaring, lazy, even disrespectful to sit and answer emails when a quick dinner is needed, you’ve probably already made a sarcastic comment to your spouse, who felt it was undeserved and is now in a sour mood, too. You’re eating your favorite dinner, but you might as well be gulping down bologna sandwiches.
Now, as it happens, the meal was provided by your brother, after you called and fumed about the traffic on the interstate. Your spouse was racing against the clock to fix a brewing disaster at work in time to get out to wherever you two needed to be, expecting to skip dinner unless you got home in time to solve the food problem.
But your thoughts about the situation, not the situation itself, decided how you and your spouse would feel. Assuming love is a method for checking whether your thoughts are coming from some random association made in your childhood or an earlier relationship or if they’re coming from what you know about your spouse.
My approach focuses on how much love we allow in, while most relationship-based approaches focus on how much love we give each other. If you two had been to a marriage counselor who advised you two to communicate more, you might have added anger about your spouse’s silence to your mix of thoughts as you arrived home, unless you stopped to assume love and let your imperfect spouse’s love in.
When you stop and assume love, unless your partner is behaving in ways a loving person cannot behave, you’ll feel better and open your heart to whatever love you are being offered. There’s a good chance this change in you will lead to better treatment of your spouse, but that’s just an incidental benefit. You do not need to do anything more for your spouse, and your spouse does not need to assume love, too, for you to reap the benefits of assuming love.