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(Laura): I hated football early in our marriage—and in one way or another, I let my husband know. Unfortunately, I let him know while at football games. The sun was too bright, it was too hot, no one scored, the wrong team scored. It didn’t matter.
I made a big deal out of it. I don’t do this now. It’s important to me that my husband spend time doing something he enjoys, and I can muster the wherewithal to be pleasant and show him support. I don’t have to complain—I can look for the silver-linings.
We all have Eeyores and George Castanzas in our lives. These are people that are chronically negative. They are the Debbie Downers that don’t see the good things right under their noses.
In today’s episode, we are going to discuss “MAGNIFYING.” This is our second in a series on anger in marriage.
What is MAGNIFYING?
Magnifying is blowing things out of proportion. A person who magnifies exaggerates the negative and provokes angry responses.
Often people who are guilty of magnifying fall into one or several camps.
- Personality Disorder (Denial)
Let’s look at depression. Depression is often marked by emotional reasoning. Emotional reasoning is a thinking habit. It’s the false belief – because something goes wrong that everything else will.
Eeyore comes to mind. He is chronically negative. He is also the master of exaggerating. He has trouble seeing the good in his life, namely the support he has from his friends. Eeyore can’t see the honeycomb for the bees. Pooh, on the other hand, gravitates to the beehive. Oftentimes, he recruits some friends to help.
Pooh is able to take a difficult situation and see the good in it. He even find moral support along the way.
Living with anxiety is like living with a worry monster in your head. It dictates what you do, what you say, and how you behave. This can negatively impact relationships as it is self-focused and can ignore the needs of others. The anxiety can overpower a person’s ability to see how it may be affecting another person.
A common scenario we see as couples counselors is disagreements surrounding in-laws. A situation such as Christmas at the in-laws can bring lots of stress. (Be sure to reference our “Stress-Free Holiday” Podcast episode if you struggle with this.) A spouse can ruminate over a particular in-law and how disagreeable that person is. Meanwhile, they miss all the good that is happening around them and make others miserable.
Many times perfectionism and anxiety go hand-in-glove. This person struggles with a kind of fear. It could be a fear of failure or fear of rejection. It bleeds into relationships. This person can be so focused on controlling something that the behavior ends up controlling someone.
A perfectionist could nit-pick a spouse to death, making it difficult for the two to have cordial, productive conversations. This person could say “the car ride we took to Disney was horrible.” Which can make implications that the other spouse’s company was not appreciated.
People with personality disorders often struggle in relationships. One of the biggest red flags that someone has a personality disorder is their inability to recognize their faults or see that they have issues. Because of this, everyone else is to blame.
This person often behaves dramatically to emphasize their reaction to just how “bad” others are. Essentially, this person is in a great deal of denial. Don’t misunderstand me, not all people that live in denial have personality disorders.
Oh, No! I Magnify! What Can I Do to Stop It!
First, I would recommend taking a look it yourself. Are you depressed? Anxious? A perfectionist? Are you in denial over something? If you answered ‘yes’ to any of these, it’s important to seek help. Your relationships will improve if you work on these things.
Next, I would suggest catching yourself in the act. When you find yourself in the midst of magnifying, stop and ask yourself this: “Is this really that bad?” Another thing to remember to tell yourself is “I may be irritated right now, but I can deal with it.”
What Does the Bible Say?
In Philippians 4, Paul exhorts them to put their focus on the Lord always. He specifically tells them not to be anxious, but to consistently bring their thoughts and prayers to Jesus. In Philippians 4: 8, Paul says, “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about such things.”
In Colossians 3 and in Ephesians 5, Paul encourages the church to be thankful and sing songs of gratitude. In 1 Thessalonians [5:16]-18, Pauls says, “Be joyful always, pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”
James seems to go a step further. At the beginning of his letter (James 1:2), he says, “Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds.” James encourages Christians to rejoice in trials or difficult circumstances.
What If It Is My Spouse Who Magnifies?
Boundaries will be key. Ask them, “Is it really that bad?” And empathize. Acknowledge that they are frustrated, but also help them to see that they can handle it.
We hope that today’s episode ups your communication skills game. When we’re angry, it can be really easy to use poor communication. Today’s tips can prevent you from blowing a disagreement out of proportion and can stall out unnecessary escalations.