Misplaced Attention

The thing that cripples relationships is focusing more on their flaws than on their loving or their goodness.  This misplaced attention makes no sense and underlies many of our difficulties with forgiveness.

Every spouse has enormous good to offer the other one; when we don’t pay attention to those gifts, we can kill the marriage.  We ignore the endless piles of laundry she cleans and folds, the jobs he goes to year after year, the ongoing effort she makes to tolerate our flaws.  Our anger blinds us to the ways in which our partner overcame his childhood difficulties to be a productive person, her simple dignity in how she acts under stress, or what a loving father he is.  We miss both the small indications of love we regularly receive and the larger moments that sustain our lives.  The list of our lover’s good qualities is endless and limited only by our effort and imagination.  We take our lovers and relationships for granted and do not notice our blessings until something goes wrong….

Love suffers when we focus on our partners’ difficult traits and problematic behaviors to the exclusion of their beauty and goodness.  We accentuate our painful experiences when we focus our attention on difficult traits.  By focusing on what is wrong, we immediately put stress into our bodies and minds.  By taking our partners’ good qualities for granted and focusing on their errors and flaws, we create more stress in our lives and relationships….  What brings love to our relationship and sows the seeds for forgiveness is simple:  appreciating absolutely everything we can about the person we are with each and every day.  There is nothing simpler to do, and no more powerful gift you can offer to your partner.

— Dr. Fred Luskin, Forgive for Love, p. 128-130

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