How to Stop Focusing on the Negative Aspects in Your Relationship

I like to eat dinner early after a workday, however my partner is the total opposite. Dinner for me means 6:00 pm and for him it means 9:00 pm. Earlier this year we made plans to go out to eat at my preferred time, 6:00 pm but he ended up being late which triggered me and sent me up to what I like to call the “2nd floor”.

The 2nd floor phenomenon is a term put into use by relationship expert John Gray that refers to the idea that all the things we love about our partner live on the “1st floor.” All the good things they do in the relationship, all the things we’re grateful for, and all the things we love about them live there in our minds. Everything else, all the things that annoy us, trigger us, or old memories of when they let us down from the past, live on the “2nd floor.” Ideally the majority of our relationships are experienced from a 1st floor perspective; however, there will be times your partner does something that can quickly send you up to the 2nd floor which is what happened when my partner was late for dinner this time.

I immediately started thinking of all the times he’d been late in the past, how sad I am that we don’t usually share dinners together, and all the other ways we’re not compatible. Where he hadn’t followed through in the past, all the needs I have that don’t feel as important to him that aren’t being fulfilled. 

Once I get up onto the 2nd floor, my brain starts to scan my memory trying to find all the evidence it can to support the initial concern or worry that I have that’s gotten triggered by something simple like him being late.

If this has ever happened to you, immediately getting upset by something seemingly small that your partner does, then you’re not alone. This is actually a very common experience to have in your relationship and this is something that the brain does. If you can start to get that this is normal and expected and will probably happen in your relationship it will allow you to take a step back and not take those thoughts so seriously.

My partner and I are now at the level of being able to have fun with it saying “Hey, right now I’m stuck on the 2nd floor” and he’ll say “Yeah, me too” and from there a more lighthearted dialogue can begin to open and diffuse the conflict.

Whether you’re a man or woman reading this article you will learn more about this phenomenon and what to do when you get stuck thinking about all the negative things your partner does. You’ll learn how to get back on the 1st floor and how to make it a regular practice so that you experience more frequent harmony and pleasurable connection in your relationship.


1. Acknowledge Your Thinking Patterns

As I mentioned in the intro to this article, acknowledging with your partner when you’re on the 2nd floor and being able to recognize when you’re there is a great place to start. See, your brain is wired for survival and can be extremely vigilant looking out for danger to protect you from.

It’s simply doing its job focusing on threats so that you can avoid them. Living in the 21st century, you aren’t exposed to the same kind of dangers that you used to be vs. back in the caveman days however this tendency to focus on the negative is still there. If you can understand that your brain is simply doing its best job to keep you safe, it will help give you context to why you get stuck on the 2nd floor and to not take it so seriously. It will also allow you to have some compassion for when it’s happening to your partner, too.


You don’t have to react to all of your brain’s survival functions; you can simply notice, name, and acknowledge both to yourself and to your partner.

It’s also up to you how you perceive and interpret your life and all the moments in it. The times when my partner is late for dinner I remind myself that he does care and this isn’t personal, he’s just not the best with time. He easily gets caught up with work and his projects, and I look to see how much he has improved around time over the years. When I reflect on the full picture and not my narrowed perspective, I can more easily prevent myself from getting stuck on the 2nd floor.

Remember that life is all about perspective. What lens do you want to be seeing your life through? Which thoughts and beliefs are going to serve you, your relationship, and the life you want to be living?

2. Actively Seek + Go to the Other Side

Once you’ve real. ized you’re stuck on the 2nd floor and have a hard time seeing the good stuff about your partner and your relationship, you’ve got to drain out what’s blocking you from getting back onto the 1st floor and remembering what you love and appreciate about your partner.

To do this, you are going to have to override the Reticular Activation System (RAS) in your brain. The RAS is like a bot, it sorts through the information you are perceiving, accepting evidence that supports your current beliefs and overlooks or denies any evidence that would disprove your current belief. Because it’s working against you trying to find evidence of the belief you may be holding onto (my partner can’t do anything right, my partner is selfish or lazy) it’s so vital to make it into a practice of finding examples of the opposite.

When you get stuck on the second floor, your brain is naturally going to look for all the evidence it can to think negatively about your partner and your relationship. It’s up to you to consciously look for positive characteristics and examples to balance out the one sided perspective.

Take whatever judgment you are holding of your partner and turn it around to the opposite and look for evidence of how that is true. For example, if you are judging your partner to be selfish, try seeing how your partner isn’t selfish, both in the moment that you are frustrated about and also in general in your relationship. You can also flip selfish around to generous and look for ways in which your partner is generous.

Give your RAS a new positive belief and the key is to look for specific examples. The specific examples elicit an emotional response and help the perspective to really land within your being. If you just turn the judgment around but don’t find examples, it remains as a thought and doesn’t actually shift how you feel.

3. Turn it Around to Yourself

Another way to get back down to the first floor is to take a good honest look at yourself and see how you are showing up and how you are contributing to the frustrations that you have with your partner.

It is very common for the subconscious mind to project judgments and frustrations onto other people, that one has with themself. And intimate partners are often the first and easiest target for such experiences. So identify the key and common judgments you have of your partner and see how you show up in that way. You may need to look in other areas of your life, it might not show up in the exact same way. When you can find this trait in yourself, it helps to cultivate more understanding and patience towards your partner.

For example, I used to see my partner as selfish, and because I saw him through this lens, I was constantly collecting evidence to strengthen the truth of this reality. However, I was able to break this lens when I started to reflect upon how I was showing up as selfish in those moments when I was judging him to be. I judged him to be selfish because he was prioritizing his wants and needs. But when I humbled myself to see outside of this narrow perspective, I could see how I was selfish because I wanted him to act according to my wants and needs.


The other way to shift out of focusing on the negative aspects of your partner is to see the role that you are playing in how things are unfolding. Don’t put the full blame on him. Reflect on how you have contributed to him being this way, showing up or not showing up this way, etc. It might be something that you did in the moment and it also might be a result of how you have behaved for the first several years of your relationship. Remember it always takes two to tango. If you put the full blame on your partner and only see their flaws, they are going to defend and resist your accusations. Intead, practice leading with accountability.

Make it a practice

It’s in your relationship’s best interest to routinely catch your negative thought patterns, investigate them and look for the positive. Don’t just do this work when you’re in a fight. You will have a more fulfilling life and relationship if you commit to thinking in this manner.

The truth is everyone in a relationship starts to see their partner through a lens and it’s easy to get lost from the reality of who they are and how they do show up for us. A key to a successful relationship is to look for the good and express it. When you acknowledge your partner’s positive traits and actions, you reinforce those characteristics and behaviors, while also building more love and connection within the relationship.

When I consistently practiced this framework I outlined here and put the work in to shift my beliefs and judgements about my partner and our relationship completely transformed. Remember that the next time you’re in a fight it’s a choice you can make — stay stuck, disconnected, and on the 2nd floor or actively find ways to drain it out to get back to a harmonious and loving 1st floor connection.

If you want to learn the most effective tool I have come across for seeing beyond your projectings and transforming your negative thinking, check out my course on ‘Overcoming your Limiting Beliefs.

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Justine Baruch

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