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100 Q’s for R’ships: How important is positive thinking?

October 3, 2011

Why not start the week with a question from the “100 Questions for Relationships” series?

Standing naked in the shower this morning, with nothing else to contemplate, it occurred to me that positive thinking might be a useful attribute for participating in our daily relationships. Certain no-one else had ever come to this conclusion before, a quick Google search confirmed my fear that people have been stealing my ideas – even before I was born! However, this devastating insight won’t deter me from playing out my (possibly unoriginal) thought process.

When I lie awake late at night wondering why my beautiful wife Mordana has stuck with me through:

  1. A very dubious courting period (my love poems have room for improvement)
  2. The realization my looks were never going to improve
  3. Two children who inherited half of my genes
  4. Various moments of questionable decision making
  5. Having to admit she chose to marry me

it occurs to me there is only one way she could have made it this far – an extraordinary amount of positive thinking!

For those who know me, they’ve almost certainly been wondering how’s she’s put up with me for this long too. Making it this far must have taken more than just a sunny perspective – it’s not just about being positive about life, it’s essential to maintain a generous view of your partner’s intent and motivations.

The flip-side of this equation can be seen when relationships break-up. We’ve all seen situations where long-term relationships end and history become HISstory and HERstory:

  • The charming billboard proposal becomes an example of his profligacy
  • Her social ease becomes evidence of flooziness
  • Her successful career implies neglect in some other area
  • His parenting skills leave much more to be desired than previously stated
  • His charming tendency to avoid all domestic chores is somehow seen to be wrong (it was worth a try)

These changes in recollection may have some element of truth. However, it’s also highly likely the dissolution of the relationship is coloring the perceptions of the beholder.

A relationship can only really be assessed by its participants, and each has its own ups and downs. However, it still seems a common trait of partnerships and friendships that seem to be working is a preparedness of all parties to “give the benefit of the doubt” and attribute the best possible intentions to both the great and terrible moments. When we choose to attribute nefarious intent to events where there’s nothing other than our biases or moods driving the decision, we run the risk of “reaping what we sow” (which in this case would probably be a bad thing).


A positive attitude does not involve ignoring tangible evidence of room for improvement in a relationship, nor does it imply a need to accept insensitivity, thoughtlessness or deceit. However, starting from a base of earned trust in the integrity and goodness of your friend or partner seems to create a good foundation for taking on the challenges and obstacles we encounter in any long-term liaison.






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