Is Your Relational Glass “Half Full” or “Half Empty” ?

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You’ve all heard the old tried and true question about whether someone sees their glass as “half full” or “half empty”.  This refers to whether a person tends to be optimistic, focusing on the positive, “my glass is half full” or whether a person tends toward pessimism, focusing on the negative, “my glass is half empty”.  Dr. John Gottman, a renowned relationship researcher at the University of Washington has published research that gives us important insight into this age old question.  He has been able to predict, with frightenly high accuracy patterns of interaction that lead to divorce and relationship dissolution.

One factor that regularly is associated with relational problems and divorce is something he calls a negative cascade.  A negative cascade is occurring when partners in a couple relationship regularly and overwhelmingly label each other’s actions and motives as negative. Interestingly, this “cascade” can become such a powerfully distorted tidal wave that even actions others see as neutral or even positive get labeled negatively or just ignored. Most all interactions become evidence of the limitations, shortcomings, even evil intent of their partner. It can get to the point where not only is the glass half empty, it feels thrown, crushed or stolen by the partner.  A relationship like I’ve just described is a relationship in BIG trouble, likely well on its way to ending.

Thank heaven there is another option! In sharp contrast, Gottman has found that relationships characterized by positive cascades include partners who expect and look for actions on the part of their partners that are positive, indicating love and thoughtfulness on the part of their partners. These folks usually shrug off actions by their partners that feel negative as out of character, exceptions.  Relationship positive people tend to see negatives as neutral at worst. Most importantly they keep close score creating in their minds a mountainous pile of positives.

I hope that at this point in my blog you’re absolutely sure that you desperately want positive cascades for all of your close relationships! Well, friends here is the really good news…………everyone can create positive cascading, not only regularly seeing their glass as half full, it is possible to honestly experience your glass as regularly running over. How?  Become a dead serious, totally committed, Sherlock Holmes issued master sleuth for detecting ALL possible signs that your partner cares about you. Become a total believer that your partner is ALWAYS doing something that you can choose to experience as a sign that they want to be with you. It is up to you.

Strive to become a person who truly experiences their glass as half full, because half full is well on the way to getting there, while half empty is no where most of us really want to be.  Good luck. You deserve the best so don’t settle for less!

Dr. Tom Smith, Co-Principal Investigator, ACHMI and a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist

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