Research shows that couples who blissfully stay together for a lifetime have an uncanny ability to downplay the negative and highlight the positive in their mate and their relationship. Do you do that? When you are with your friends, do you talk up your mate's overall helpfulness or do you prefer to tell a juicy story about the one incredibly thoughtless thing he or she did? It's all in the eyes of the beholder. Take this joke, for instance:
A woman's husband has been slipping in and out of a coma for several months, yet she stayed by his bedside every single day. When he came too, he motioned for her to come near her.
As she sat by him, he said, "You know what? You have been with me all through the bad times. When I got fired, you were there to support me. When my business failed, you were there. When I got shot, you were by my side. When we lost the house, you gave me support. When my health started failing, you were still by my side. You know what?"
"What dear?" she asked gently.
"I think you bring me bad luck."
When you started your relationship, you talked like an optimist, expressing joy and happiness about building a future together. As the years progressed, you and your mate probably shifted into a pessimistic auto-mode, in which you talk more about what is wrong and less about what is right. All the good things you've come to expect from your mate, you've come to neglect and ignore.
How can you renew the optimistic feeling you once enjoyed? For one thing, find a single positive in your relationship every day and say it out loud.
Even if things aren't perfect at home, you can still find one upbeat moment to focus on. For instance, if you and your partner bicker a lot, but were more civil on a certain day, point that out: "Hey did you notice that we didn't argue at all today? I am proud of us." Just because your mate did something to tick you off early in the day don't ignore something positive done later in the day.
Next, choose your friends wisely because pessimism and optimism are contagious. Rather than hanging out with a couple who teases or puts down their mate in public, find one who builds their mate up.
Finally, practicing optimism means finding and sharing a variety of activities with people who inspire you. Do you enjoy exercise, yoga, sports or cooking? Find friends who like to do those things. Do you like to write, paint or knit? Then introduce your child to those activities.
If becoming a love optimist seems like work to you, just consider the time and energy you will waste as a pessimist who instills anxiety, anger, and fear into your relationship. Practice these uplifting strategies and in days you will discover that you like yourself, your mate, and your life much more.
Laurie Puhn is a Harvard-educated lawyer, couples mediator, and bestselling author of "Fight Less, Love More: 5-Minute Conversations to Change Your Relationship Without Blowing Up or Giving In," who frequently appears on CNN, "Good Morning America," and "The Early Show" to offer relationship advice. Visit her at www.fightlesslovemore.com