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The Loving Perspective, Part 4

When you Assume Love, you try to explain how a loving person might come to do whatever your wife, husband, or life partner just did that upset you so. This series offers some tips to help when you just cannot get beyond, "It's awful, I hate it, it must be intentional meanness."

First, we looked at Love Languages. Next, we looked at genetic differences in our ability to read each other's moods. Yesterday, we looked at our spouse's calendar. Today we look at intentional acts, things that appear quite unloving at first glance.

Let's draw a line first. I am not talking here about pushing, shoving, hitting, cutting, damaging something especially dear to you, making remarks known to bring you to tears or render you helpless, or repeating angry outbursts or making threats until you fear being in the same room as your mate.

I am talking here about brief, intentional acts like rolling the eyes, making a snide remark, raising the voice, banging a fist on the table, dumping dinner in the trash, slamming a door, or throwing something that poses no threat to you.

I do not recommend doing any of these to your spouse. When done to you, though, you may want some help seeing how to explain them when you Assume Love.

These acts are the adult equivalent of a temper tantrum. No one, not even a two-year-old, throws a temper tantrum unless they feel horribly frustrated, unhappy, and unable to effect any change, and believe they are in the presence of someone who cares.

Many of them are actually done as loving acts, a frantic attempt to fix your marriage.

For example, if your husband has never raised his voice in the decade you have been together, the one time he does it is significant. If you have ever lived with someone whose raised voice was followed by violence or intimidation, you may want to Assume Love before your knee-jerk response kicks in.

Why? Because a rarely raised voice is a strong bid for your attention. Shrinking away or turning it into a fight will be counterproductive. Stop and think about what you are doing or saying, because it is quite likely severely frustrating your mate. Does this make you to blame for his out-of-character and unmannerly behavior? No. But it presents you with a great opportunity to get closer and strengthen your marriage instead of pushing the two of you apart.

Let's say you are packing for a trip when your mate's frustration reaches the boiling point. Where will the trip take you? Who will you see on it? What dream of yours does it feed? What might your mate dread about any of these? It's big, and you probably need an immediate Third Alternative to calm your partner's fears.

Or perhaps you are nagging, telling your spouse what to do or asking one more time why she will not do it. The frustration should be your sign that what you ask has much larger obstacles than you can see. And not seeing them makes your spouse feel unseen. Feeling seen is one of the key benefits of marriage, and you may be unintentionally taking it away from your mate.

Remember, the opposite of "I love you" is not "I am angry at you." It is "I don't care." Occasional anger can come from great love. Returning anger for anger requires, on average, five positive, loving acts to restore the marriage to a healthy path. Returning love for anger, because you hear the caring through the anger, can bring the marriage closer almost instantly.

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Patty Newbold is a widow who got it right the second time...

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