Pessimism is generally considered to be an undesirable trait, even though at times having a pessimistic outlook can be prudent. When you are planning important financial decisions, for example, it’s sensible to gravitate toward the more conservative end of a given range of numbers. It makes more sense to be pleasantly surprised when things work out better than you anticipated than to feel dismayed because your expectations proved overly optimistic. Pessimism is not in itself problematic, but it becomes so when it manifests as a more or less consistent character trait. Particularly when that trait is encountered in your spouse.
Having a pessimistic spouse is problematic only if you yourself are not pessimistic. Then, it can become a real stumbling block. The same ideas that seem plausible and exciting to you will seem very risky and fraught with peril to your spouse and the relationship is likely to feel the strain. What to do, what to do?
You have probably already tried reasoning with your spouse, pointing out how, in past similar circumstances, risks were taken and worked out well. While taking this tack is a good idea, it is not the only approach to dealing with the disagreement.
Think about it for a moment. Why would someone come to adopt a pessimistic view of life? While there are probably several good answers to this question, the one that jumps out at me would be that the person must have either had or witnessed (or both) painful disappointments in their life. Picture someone reaching up high for a prize, missing it and then falling hard to the ground. If this happens often enough and in important enough situations, the individual tends to become wary of reaching high. They will feel safer and less prone to disappointment if they maintain a low center of gravity. Over time, the prize becomes perceived only as a threat to their precarious sense of balance and well-being, and not reaching up for it as the only true path to safety and security.
While approaching the situation with rational logic is a good idea, it is doomed to failure in that it does not address the emotional element of the situation. Things such as making major financial decisions, or any major decision we may face, always contain an emotional as well as a rational component. And while many of us (read guys) prefer not to delve too deeply into emotions, it is going to prove very difficult to arrive at consensus without taking them into consideration.
The emotional element of the conversation is frequently limited to feeling angry and frustrated when you can’t get your way, and then feeling bitter and resentful. This usually results in adopting a strategy of alternating between pleas and threats, which rarely leads to satisfying outcomes. You need to find a way out of this vicious cycle, a fresh approach that is going to get things moving forward again.
See our So I Married A Pessimist workbook offer below!
This would be a good time to pause, use your head and ask yourself: If my spouse is really reacting to their own sense of fear or insecurity, how can I help them feel more safe and secure? That should help move the situation forward, no? This would be an ideal opportunity to make an acknowledging and empathetic statement, such as: Yes, it is a little scary, isn’t it? So doing does not mean you are changing your position on the subject. What you are doing is acknowledging the five-hundred-pound gorilla in the room.
You’ll find that conveying acceptance and understanding of how your spouse is feeling, even while disagreeing with the conclusions they draw from their feelings, is much more helpful and constructive than glaring at them from across the room with eyes that say: I’m not going to let you hold me back any longer!
By noticing and addressing your spouse’s underlying fears and insecurities, you table the objective topic for the moment and address the deeper underlying subjective issue. Ideally, your motivation should come from a desire to promote support and understanding in your relationship, not from simply wanting to get your own way.
Once your spouse’s fears have been acknowledged and addressed, anxiety levels drop and the stage is set for a rational, constructive conversation. Try to be considerate and thoughtful and not push your views too forcefully. When we push too forcefully we engender a defensive response that often takes the form of the other pushing right back. Rather then getting caught up in trench warfare, it is better to bear in mind that recognizing and acknowledging our spouse’s emotional state does not equate with caving in on the issue.
Sometimes it is helpful to share whatever emotional reservations you may have about a situation. This helps to create a sense of empathy and mutuality, to make clear that both of you have issues you need to confront, this avoids your giving the appearance that you think your spouse is the troubled one while you are as normal as blueberry pie.
If the conversation begins to bog down, it is helpful to keep in mind that reaching a partial consensus is better than reaching no consensus at all. Sometimes it’s best to quit while you’re ahead and table the remainder of the discussion until a later time, ending the present conversation on a high note. In that way, when you reopen the conversation, you pick up where you left off, on a high note, rather than with a sense of distrust and recrimination. Nurturing an ongoing sense of trust and goodwill is a very undervalued concept.
Recognizing the value of and practicing these skills will not only result in greater consensus in decision-making, but will also result in fewer explosive arguments and generally help promote trust and closeness between the two of you. People aren’t pessimistic because they want to be; in their pessimism they are simply trying to preserve a sense of safety and relative security for themselves. Once you recognize this vital piece, you can choose to commit yourself to helping your spouse feel safe and secure. To the extent you are successful, the pessimism and any other defensive strategies your spouse may employ will begin to break up and eventually dissolve.
Supporting you spouse in this way is often confused with coddling or giving in, but nothing could be further from the truth. Using your insight, experience and maturity to see into the problem at a deeper level is reflective of higher psychological functioning and constitutes a rightful goal in our overall personal, spiritual and marital development. It also constitutes a plausible working definition of love.
For as little as $9.95 you can purchase an easy to read self-guided workbook designed to provide the tools and skills you need to understand and cope with your spouse’s pessimistic outlook on life.
: ) :
Pessimism in your spouse can be the cause of a great deal of friction and stress in the marriage. Most people posses only limited skills in dealing with pessimism in their spouse and you have come to the end of yours. What is needed is not the number of a good divorce lawyer but an infusion of new skills and approaches to successfully manage the problem. If you are concerned about the level of pessimism in your marriage and have ever wished there were a fresh, sure-fire approach available to cope with them, So I Married A Pessimist is for you.
Not a quick fix, secret remedy or a magic bullet, So I Married A Pessimist offers practical hands-on advice, insights and techniques that improve the health of your marriage. Unaddressed marital stress can lead to serious emotional and physical health problems such as depression, loss of appetite, backaches, ulcers, drug and alcohol abuse and more. Affecting both your personal and professional life, it is sure to have a negative impact on you.
In So I Married A Pessimist you will learn how to:
Break the vicious cycle repetitive arguments
Understand the root cause of your spouse’s pessimism
Address the irrational aspects of their pessimism
Develop a more effective approach to their pessimism
Harness the healing power of love
Become a positive force in your marriage
This booklet is written by William R. Colagrande, MS a NY State licensed psychotherapist with over thirty years experience. So I Married A Pessimist features an easy to follow fictional narrative to illustrate and personalize the course material, insightful questions to reflect upon and supplemental readings geared to help you improve the love, warmth and closeness you feel in your marriage.
Why continue to struggle with the harmful effects of your spouse’s pessimism when the tools and support you need are only a click away?
Learn to adopt a beneficial lifestyle now!