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"I Can't Do Anything Right"

How many times I have heard this in my office from clients whose partners ignore the good they do and instead focus on the deficits of their behaviors. 

For example, Ryan left work early on day and arrived home before his wife, Barb.  Ryan spent an hard hour cleaning, proud of making it a warm and comfortable place for Barb. He scrubbed the kitchen to prepare to cook them a meal, tossed in a load of laundry, and straightened out the living room and bedroom. He was excited to welcome his wife with a clean house, and anticipated an appreciative smile on her face. But the first words Ryan heard from Barb that when she got home that evening were, "Why haven't you taken out the recycling yet?" She had found the one thing that Ryan didn't have time to tend to in the past hour. Later, Ryan expressed to me that he felt that he couldn't please her, that there was nothing he could do right, even though he had done a number of things that could be seen as thoughtful and loving. 

Unfortunately, this kind of exchange is a very common occurrence in many relationships. One person may have very good, even loving intentions, but the partner overlooks this and instead finds the negatives. This is because of our brain's natural tendency to focus in on negatives over positives in our environments and in out lives.

The Brain: Focus on the Negatives

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