Nick: A time I gave Jen the benefit of the doubt recently was when we were chatting with another couple. I paused in the middle of an idea for a moment, trying to find the right way to lay out the end of it, and Jen jumped in and took the conversation a completely different direction. My first reaction was to feel irritated and assume that she did it because she thought what I was saying was unimportant or even boring her and our guests. But that assumption wasn’t fair to Jen. I took a moment to give her the benefit of the doubt. Almost immediately I could see how, from her perspective, it may easily have seemed I’d gone as far with the idea as I was going to, so it was perfectly fine to take the conversation another way.
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The image of a pebble dropped into a still pond is a powerful one for many people. It is a visual representation of the idea that one small act can have a “ripple effect.” It can spread out and be carried across the water of our life and the lives of those around us further than we may perceive. Giving the benefit of the doubt can be that pebble in your relationship with your spouse.
Jen: A time I gave Nick the benefit of the doubt recently was when he was telling me about a change that’s being made to a singing group we belong to. I disagree with the change and don’t want to see it happen. My first reaction was to assume that Nick was sharing the information as a matter of fact. I started to respond in anger, but then remembered that Nick often talks through things he’s thinking about in order to figure out what needs to be done. I gave him the benefit of the doubt that he was open to hearing my perspective and was not just giving me an ultimatum. This calmed me down and allowed me to share my thoughts and feelings without directing any anger at Nick. By shifting my focus in this way, I was able to listen better to what he was saying.
Whether giving the benefit of the doubt is done inwardly or outwardly, it can be a powerful tool in relating to your spouse. Just the simple act of assuming that he/she does not have bad intent and values your marriage as much as you do can go a long way in opening you up to a better conversation about it. The ripples this pebble creates can carry into conversations and interactions and facilitate smoother waters ahead.
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