"Attitudes Shape Actions"

 Written By: Dewey Wilson, Ph.D.


Have you ever noticed how quickly a negative attitude seems to multiply, or the wide-spread damaging effects negative attitudes have on ourselves and others? By definition, an attitude is formed once a person assigns either a positive or negative affect to an evaluation they make of a behavior, event, issue, object, or person. You might already know, or at least find it interesting, that attitudes have a function! They exist primarily to guide a person’s behavior. Something else you might find interesting is research shows that attitudes are also directly associated with determining the level of a person’s activity.

You might be asking yourself, “Why is this important, and how does it pertain to marriage?" People who project an overall positive attitude tend to be more active and intentional than those with negative dispositions. Those more active also demonstrate higher levels of confidence and tend to be more proactive in dealing with situations and managing relationships. 

So, if what we just learned is true, then the opposite is also likely to be true. Spouses who consistently possess negative attitudes tend to project less confidence and are more likely to become reactive when dealing with situations or managing relationships. Makes sense, because why would a husband or wife that is constantly viewing their spouse and the marriage through negative lenses naturally be inclined to participate in activities together? So, how do we overcome negative attitudes or avoid allowing them to shape our behaviors toward our spouse? Consider the following:

  • On a scale from 1-100, what percentage of your attitudes would you say are negative and what percent are positive? Be honest! Would your spouse agree?
  • How do your negative attitudes tend to make you feel or how do they impact your drive to be active?
  • Examine your self-talk. What you constantly rehearse in your mind will ultimately become your reality. When you realize you are dwelling on negative attitudes, literally envision yourself apprehending those attitudes.
  • As much as you can, identify one positive thing about the situation or about your spouse. Then, try to identify another. You might even consider writing them down for easy access in the future. As you consistently take part in this exercise and are successful, you’ll eventually begin to automatically assign positive affects to your spouse’s words or actions.
  • Remember grace. Those who recognize the role of God’s grace in their lives tend to extend more grace to others. We often judge others by their actions and ourselves by our intentions. God forgives us when we are at our worst even though we don’t deserve forgiveness.
  • Be active in your marriage. Even when it’s not on your top ten list of things to do, be willing to do things together like go for a walk or go see a movie. Decide before you go that you’ll make an honest attempt to have a positive attitude.

It takes time and hard work to change negative attitudes. And, while it involves more than what is listed here, this can be a good place to start. Here’s one last thing for you to consider: Your attitude about changing your attitudes will accurately predict your behavior. For you see, our attitudes really do shape our behaviors.