Whatever You Pay Attention To Grows…

Whatever you pay attention to grows

As she walked from the workshop to the house, she remembered several weeks ago, when she asked for his help and he completely ignored her, not even answering.

Is your marriage in a state where one of you ignores the other?

Understand that choosing to not respond to someone when s/he asks you a question is a negative response, even if you’d like to justify it as “no response,” it’s a negative experience for the other.

No one likes to be ignored.

In an effort to change the number of positives to negatives from whatever it might be now to Gottman’s well-researched “happy relationship” ratio of

20 : 1

…we need to address another concept Dr. Gottman reveals in his work, that of…


At some point in relationships, we need to assess what kind of sentiment we’re steeped in – because it makes a difference.

whatever we pay attention to grows kids

Dating and engaged couples often make poor choices in a mate based on POSITIVE sentiment over-ride. They view rudeness, a lack of consideration, even abuse, and both small and large value differences in the most positive light possible, extending grace like crazy because their overall perception is extremely positive.

That’s just ONE reason why if you are dating or engaged, you should seriously ask your family for their feedback about the person you might marry – they’re not drowning in hormones or positive sentiment. They can see the forest for the trees.

Couples who have been married for more than three years often begin to experience NEGATIVE sentiments. It used to be seven years, but recent research suggests that as early as three years into a marriage, too many couples begin wondering if they made the right choice in a husband or wife and discontent starts to grow.

Couples who have had children and become empty nesters see a spike in their discontent during those two stages as well.

What is interesting is that the truth becomes irrelevant – the state of the relationship is defined by the SENTIMENTS. 

So what do you do if you’re in trouble? If your husband (or you) is defensive much of the time, and/or you or s/he has become critical and negative?

Gottman’s research shows that those couples who change the quality of their friendship impact the relationship sentiment – you can’t just “increase positive sentiment” by choosing to be more positive yourself – you have to directly impact the friendship element in your marriage for that to occur. I’m guessing this might also apply to parenting and sibling relationships.

create positive interactions today

*TIP ALERT: I’ve also seen combining the above friendship enhancement with “I-statements” instead of choosing to ignore hurts plays a HUGE factor in helping your spouse turn his or her negative sentiment around. For example, “I feel frustrated right now,” as opposed to, “You are so frustrating to talk to!”

The danger occurs when we stop searching for what’s true, and instead, we negatively interpret our husband or wife’s motives with the most negative perception possible, like the gal in Dare Eleven did.  It is the lack of benefit of the doubt, the lack of grace, the infiltration of the enemy, that starts skewing our perception of reality.

Instead of asking ourselves, “What’s true?” AND paying attention to the positives, like our wife in today’s story wisely does, negative sentiment over-ride often creeps in and we STOP our thinking at the negative initial selfish feelings we have over feeling slighted.

None of this is to say we should sign up for being taken advantage of, or being treated like a doormat. Speaking truth into her husband’s life, this wise wife first saw what was actually TRUE (fighting against negative sentiment over-ride) then gently, kindly, and smartly got what she needed, and did not CREATE more damage in the relationship.

Because that’s how the cycle works – we begin the spin – perceive a negative, then dish a negative.

We also miss an opportunity to help others respect us when we lose control and emotionally vomit all over them – which is what the enemy would have us do.

Finally brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about such things.     Phillippians 4:8

How are you doing in this department? Where are your relationships right now? I confess, I have one relationship where I’m seriously struggling with negative sentiment over-ride – on both sides. Please know I understand the difficulties involved.

And what am I doing about it?

As for me, I had a conversation with this person. I let them know what was going on, and that I was sorry for contributing to the problem. We talked through options for both of us.

It was awesome.

It’s not fully better yet, but it’s getting there. And they are working on it too, which helps.

A lot.

I encourage you to do the same.  You know this is nothing new, if you’ve been here for a while. It’s making a difference for me, and it’s helping me continue moving forward.

I hope you are subscribed to the blog and journeying with us. We don’t do things perfectly, and sometimes we stumble, but you are welcome to learn along with us.

I’m so thankful you are on the journey with us.  We NEED each other 🙂

Meditation and relaxation on an empty road

And whatever you do, please join me in this: don’t give up. In the words of Zig Ziglar, “Anything worth doing well is worth doing poorly until you can get it right.”

If you are parenting, follow Debbie if you have tweens, teens, or twenty-somethings. If you enjoy fiction, read Dare to Respect, the novel of 6 women who accepted the challenge and follow the Dare to Respect blog.  Come join the discussions!

Love to you,



Want a better relationship with your Tween / Teen in 40 days?

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Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

5 thoughts on “Whatever You Pay Attention To Grows…

  1. What is a spouse to do when the “ignoring” is a chronic ongoing issue. Namely when you try t talk to the other and they default to the computer screen?

  2. This idea of getting to THE TRUTH really helped me put the last two times I was frustrated into perspective. I knew I was frustrated because I wanted something and I had a want. I had to walk away from the situation and talk to God so I did not blame the other for stonewalling. I was putting words in his head…..

    • K –
      YOU ARE SO RIGHT! 🙂 I’m also really good at deciding what others are thinking. 🙂 Only God knows! 🙂

      Love to you,

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