You may ask yourself weekly (or even daily): How can I save my marriage?

There may be some effort put forth, such as nice gestures and kind words. But there’s something underlying those efforts that could be sabotaging your attempts at solving the “how to save my marriage” puzzle.

Read on to find out what could be sabotaging your marriage…

This Toxic Element Can Kill a Marriage

You spend time asking yourself “how can I save my marriage” and then brainstorming nice things you can do for your spouse to try to improve your relationship.

Let’s say, for example, you decide to make a really nice home-cooked meal for your spouse. It’s a great gesture to show your caring for him or her and your desire to be giving of yourself.

So your husband or wife is running late and doesn’t call to let you know how long they’ll be. You’re feeling exasperated because you’d timed the dinner to be ready five minutes before their arrival, and now the gravy is congealing.

When your spouse arrives, he or she apologizes for being late. To keep the peace, you say: “Oh, it happens. How come you didn’t call?” But you’re thinking: You’re always late and inconsiderate – you never call.

Your spouse says, “Oh, I forgot my phone today.”

“Oh,” you respond, but you’re inside you’re saying, You’d lose your head if it wasn’t attached.

Do you see what’s happening here? There are two different conversations taking place: one verbal, one hidden. And, it’s this hidden conversation that may very well be the conduit through which toxicity is leaking into your marriage.

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In cognitive therapy, this underlying conversation shows where we really exist emotionally in terms of what we think about our spouse and ourselves in relation to him or her.

Meanwhile, your spouse more than likely has their own hidden conversation. Their inner dialogue may have been, He/she is always attacking me.

You both fall into an underlying pattern that puts you on opposing sides: anger on the part of one spouse, and victimhood on the part of the other.

What happens is both spouses get stuck in a groove of remaining on high alert for behavior on the part of their spouse which confirms their thoughts: if you mention something about your spouse being late, even in a neutral way, he or she may begin to hear it as an attack, and they fall into their internal dialogue that confirms your victimization of them.

So how do you stop these toxic thoughts? Read on for 3 tips to clean up your internal dialogue…

Sweep Out Toxic Thoughts, Save Your Marriage

Tip 1: Identify underlying thought patterns

Until you read today’s blog, you may not have realized what was being said inside your own head. You grow comfortable with and accustomed to these thoughts – they form a sort of backdrop to your interactions with your spouse.

So now that you know this backdrop can exist, you need to ask, “What is being said?” Identification of these toxic thought patterns is the key in changing them.

You may actually be shocked by what you’re thinking! But, you’ll also begin to realize why you have a since of dis-ease with your spouse: you may have a lot of negativity humming along beneath every interaction you engage in with them.

Tip 2: Recognize them as they occur

The next time you are speaking with your spouse, pay attention to when those thoughts spring up. What actions or words on the part of your spouse are likely to trigger the negative response? Write them down. Of course, you don’t want to stand under your spouse’s nose with a notebook and pen in hand, because you would make your spouse feel as if they’re under a microscope, which could exacerbate your interactions!

Just make a mental note to write them down later so you know what your triggers are.

Tip 3: Reframe thoughts as they come

As you begin to understand what your hidden interior dialogue is, you can begin to take each conversation with your spouse and handle those thoughts for that particular interaction.

For example, your spouse is late: instead of making blanket statements in your mind such as “always” and “never,” take this incident as a lone one. Instead of thinking, He/she is always late… neutralize the thought and make it, he/she was late today, traffic must have been bad.

This simple reframing dilutes the anger factor that would otherwise build if you think the former.

My best to you as you analyze and reframe hidden interior dialogues.

Have you ever really paid attention to what you’re saying internally when talking with your spouse out loud?

After doing this exercise this week of being on the lookout for inner dialogue, were you surprised by what you “heard” going on in your head?

What role are you taking in your head: victim, martyr, angry person, or something else?

Please share your ideas and personal experiences on this topic with other members of the community.

Wishing you hope and healing for your marriage,

Stephanie Anderson

Editor-in-Chief

Marriage Sherpa

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