More on When to Assume Love


I was so glad to receive a comment about yesterday’s post, wondering if I was injecting a bit of sarcasm.
I was glad to receive it. I know this technique is a bit difficult to grasp. I welcome any opportunity to make it clearer, because I think it helps enormously. All by itself, and in just a few critical minutes, it can be the difference between divorce and renewed love for your spouse.
At first glance, Assume Love looks like I am suggesting you give your spouse the benefit of the doubt whenever possible. Avoid blowing up over little stuff. Avoid carrying grudges.
But Assume Love is so much more powerful than that. In fact, if you just give your spouse the benefit of the doubt, you might miss out on the real power in this technique.
Assume Love is not, like most marriage education techniques, a way to make things better between you and your husband or wife. Everyone else pays attention to the relationship. I pay attention to you. Assume Love is not about a better relationship. It is about you and whether or not you enjoy being married.
All three of my techniques—Assume Love, Expect Love, and Find Third Alternatives—are about your experience of your marriage. They work a lot faster than fixing your spouse does and create a lot less resentment than changing yourself for your spouse.
Imagine this. You are self-employed. Lately, your revenues have been way down. Your husband has been unemployed for six months. He hardly even checks the web for openings any more. You read of an opening in his field. Your hopes go up. Maybe, maybe, you will pull through this financial crisis before you lose the house.
He says, “There’s no point applying for this one.” First, you are crushed. Your hopes shatter on the floor around you. Next, you get angry. You have, after all, been looking for clients for your business day in and day out while he watches TV. This feels so unfair! Next, you feel abandoned. You cannot believe he would turn this down when it leaves you so vulnerable. To lose your house when you are both less than ten years away from retirement is unthinkable. You are sad, angry, and scared all in a big, crazy bundle. And maybe you contemplate just walking out on him, certain you would be safer and happier single and on your own.
This is where you Assume Love. Sure, you practice with it when he puts the vegetable peeler in the wrong drawer or borrows the book you’re reading and doesn’t return it. But moments like this are the ones where it makes all the difference in the world. You cannot pretend this doesn’t matter to you. You cannot just give him the benefit of the doubt.
Now you ask yourself, “if this man still loves me completely and still possesses his best qualities, and I had no doubt of this, how might I explain what he just did?”
Your first answer is likely something like, “He doesn’t care if I lose my home!” And you recognize that the man you married, when you were sure he loved you fiercely, would care. A lot. You are looking for an explanation of why a good, loving man would do this.
And do you know what’s happening as you do this? The chemical soup released in your brain as you got sad, then angry, then scared begins to clear up. And this is very important, because the soup is designed to focus your attention on threats. But you know that a husband refusing to apply for a job is hardly the sort of threat our bodies are designed to handle. No immediate escape is required. You will not be called upon to fight for your life, as you might if this were a tiger or a fire. Instead, you need to broaden your focus. And to do this, you need to dissipate the chemical soup.
So you try again. “Perhaps he’s afraid to apply after all this time out of work.” And then you think back to the man you fell in love with. Courage is one of his greatest strengths. Fear does not explain this one.
So you think about the way he said it, “there’s no point applying for this one.” This is a clue. What’s different about this position? Your thinking is getting clearer. More things are popping into your head now. You remember him saying this about an earlier job, months ago. Where was that job? Could it have been at this company?
No, it was a different company. But did you notice how you stopped being furious and began to be curious? Feels better, doesn’t it?
So you look again at this job ad, and the company name looks oddly familiar. Your husband has mentioned this company before. When was that? He was still working then. When was it? Was it when he was ordered to let two of his people go, as the company was going downhill? It was! Now you remember. He let them go and one quickly landed a job at his level at this company. And ever since, his disgruntled former employee, Leonard, has taken every opportunity to show him up, hiring one of the employees he tried to hold onto, getting himself put on the same panel at that conference. The advertised job would surely report to Leonard.
When you check in with your feelings, the sadness and the anger are gone. You’re still scared of losing the house, but you know that applying for this job would be a lot to go through with a very small probability of getting a job. It may have even been painful for your husband just to read that Leonard’s hiring. And when you realize how much you care about this, you wonder how in the world you thought you could leave this man.
But you could have. You could have added to his pain over the job offer with accusations that he does not care about your well-being or is not as courageous as he should be. His response probably would have increased your fear. Your fear would have stung him like any loss of respect. One of you would have rejected the other. The other of you would have withdrawn to avoid further pain. And you, too, could have ended up divorced over a job ad at a difficult moment in both your lives.
Those are the very moments at which to Assume Love. If there is an explanation, you are much more likely to find it or find yourself willing to ask gently for it after you Assume Love. If there is no explanation, you are much more likely to recognize this with a clear head after you Assume Love.
Unless you have married someone incapable of loving you, you will spend less time angry, scared, and hurt. You will find yourself with more respect for your man, and most men respond very, very well to respect from their spouse. You will spend more time feeling tender toward the man you married and receiving the rewards of tenderness.
And this is what it means to Assume Love. You bring yourself back from the strong emotions of your initial explanation of an event and reap the benefits of a more accurate explanation.
It works well for the little stuff, too, the things you could just overlook by giving your man the benefit of the doubt. But if you use it for the little stuff, you will be ready for the big stuff: the porn, the surprising raised voice, the big decision made without consulting you. And you just might enjoy being married in spite of the surprises.

About the author

Patty Newbold

I am a widow who got it right the second time. I have been sharing here since February 14, 2006 what I learned from that experience and from positive psychology, marriage research, and my training as a marriage educator.


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By Patty Newbold

Patty Newbold

I am a widow who got it right the second time. I have been sharing here since February 14, 2006 what I learned from that experience and from positive psychology, marriage research, and my training as a marriage educator.

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