Fortunately, there are many mistakes we can make in our marriage and survive. We can overreact in anger at times and receive forgiveness. We can miss an important anniversary and still be able to make amends. We can even experience the occasional unkind action and make it up to our mate.
There are other ‘mistakes’ however, that are not so easily forgotten. There are actions taken which, if they occur consistently, erode the very fabric of our relationship. These ‘thinking errors,’ what the 12 Step Program calls ‘stinkin’ thinkin,’ are corrosive. These ‘errors,’ over time, corrode trust, vibrancy and the very health of the relationship.
You may think I’m exaggerating to make such a statement, but our work at The Marriage Recovery Center has proven the horrific power of these thinking errors. These actions are so corrosive because they are grounded in the primary Thinking Error—Denial. Someone has said denial—the avoidance of taking responsibility for one’s action—as Don’t Even Notice I Am Lying to myself. Because I am lying to myself, I cannot nor will not fully own the damage of what I am doing to you. Hence, nothing changes and the destructive behaviors continue—eroding the relationship.
Here are some of the major ‘thinking errors’ that interrupt our ability to take responsibility. Judge for yourself how you see them impacting your relationships.
1. Denial: “I am not doing anything wrong. I have no problem.”
2. Blame-shifting: “It’s not me that’s doing anything wrong. It’s not my fault. It’s your fault.”
3. Victim Stance: “I’m getting a raw deal. Nothing ever goes my way. I’m getting the blame for everything.”
4. Minimization/ Sanitizing: “Sure, I did something wrong, but it’s not that big of a deal. You’re making a mountain out of a molehill.”
5. Projection: “You are the one who has all the issues you’re blaming me about.”
6. Excuse Making: “Yes, I suppose I did it, but I didn’t mean to do it. It certainly wasn’t my intention to hurt you. If it weren’t for _____ I wouldn’t have done it.”
7. Power Play: “You can’t make me go to counseling/ treatment/ recovery groups. I’m not going to go and you can’t make me.”
8. Black and White Thinking/ Extreme Thinking: “I never get any credit for anything I do. You’re always the one who gets everything you ask for.”
9. Catastrophizing: “If you make me get help we’ll go broke for sure.”
10. Grandiosity: “I know what I think and what I need to do. I don’t need any help. I’ve got a handle on things.”
Can you see the terrible damage that is done by even one of these thinking errors? Scripture tells us to “Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.” (1 Peter 5:8) I can think of no easier way for the Enemy to wreak havoc than through the destruction of our relationships by way of our ‘stinkin’ thinkin.’
How can we cultivate sober mindedness? Here are some suggestions:
First, recognize your innate tendency to lie to yourself. Yes, that’s right. You must look candidly in the mirror and admit to yourself that you have ‘thinking errors.’ We all do and if you think you’re immune from these, you’re really in denial!
Second, ask for feedback from a trusted source. Yes, I know I’m asking a lot from you. This is scary business, but we must obtain feedback from someone who really knows us. Find someone who sees your shadow side, knows what you are like on your worst day and has your wellbeing in mind—trust that they would not tell you something to hurt you, but rather for your growth and welfare.
Third, own the full weight and damage of your ‘thinking error.’ Closely examine the ramifications of your ‘thinking error.’ Look at the ripple effect of how your thinking causes damage in your relationships. Feel the full impact of what you are doing and take responsibility for your actions. Sit with the pain of how you are thinking and how this impacts your behavior.
Fourth, replace your ‘thinking error’ with the Truth. A lie cannot exist side by side with the Truth. For example, if you have a tendency to minimize a problem, ask for the truth about a particular situation. Is ‘excess drinking’ really alcoholism? Is ‘problem shopping’ really an addiction to materialism? If your ‘thinking error’ is grandiosity, practice humility, deferring to your mate and allowing him/ her to make more decisions in your relationship.
Finally, pray for the courage to change. At The Marriage Recovery Center, we encourage people to pray for courage and humility to change. We understand that change comes from a changed heart—and this requires the work of God in our lives. We understand that change comes from experiencing a ‘godly sorrow’ that leads to repentance. (2 Corinthians 7:10) We encourage practicing ‘living amends’—acting in direct opposition to the ‘thinking error.’ If you have blame-shifted, take responsibility. If you have minimized a problem, maximize the problem. If you have pushed your weight around emotionally, defer to your mate. There is no room for pride in the process of change.
In summary, there is no such thing as a small ‘thinking error.’ Even one ‘thinking error’ in a relationship can create monstrous problems. Healthy thinking leads to healthy relationships. We are here to help and offer phone/ Skype counseling on issues related to this article. Please go to our website, www.marriagerecoverycenter.com and discover more information about this as well as the free downloadable eBook, A Love Life of Your Dreams, including other free videos and articles.