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The Positive Perspective

Image of The Positive Perspective

Caleb remembers what it was like during those first few dates. Erica was mesmerizing. He could hardly believe he had the privilege to go on dates with her. He loved the way she smiled, those cute dimples on her cheeks. He loved the way she chortled and cried while watching rom-coms. He loved that she was a bit of a klutz, slightly clumsy and infinitely muddle-headed. That gave him plenty of opportunities to swoop in like a knight in shining armour to save the day. She brought excitement and purpose to his life. She told him that he completed her.

If their wedding can be described as a royal ball, then their BTO would be the castle. The arrival of a princess a year later completed this royal family.

But a happily ever after it was not meant to be.

He couldn’t quite remember how, or when it began. But after the Nth time she had forgotten where she put something or to do something important, Caleb was feeling rather frustrated. This frustration seemed to be growing in other areas of the couple’s life as well. 

Her needs for his help become tiresome and suffocating. Gradually, they spoke less and less, and dimples were replaced by frowns.

What had gone wrong?

The Positive Perspective is the fourth level of Dr John Gottman’s Sound Relationship house. A Positive Perspective basically means that the couple, on a whole, has a positive impression of each other, and their relationship. Try closing your eyes and imagining your partner. If what you saw is a lovely person who you feel deep fondness for, your relationship likely has a Positive Perspective.

It is also a cumulation of the strong foundation that needs to be build well in the first three levels of the Sound Relationship house. If the first three levels (Build Love Maps, Share Fondness and Admiration, Turn Towards instead of Away) have been done well, your relationship will quite naturally have a Positive Perspective.

Key to the Positive Perspective is something Dr Gottman calls the Positive Sentiment Override (PSO). This occurs when you have so much positivity in your relationship that you would always assume the better of your partner/relationship. This leads to a tendency to focus on the positivises, rather than the flaws. Take the example of Caleb and Erica. Erica was swamped with work on one of their date nights. In her busyness, she had forgotten about her date with Caleb and could not attend to her phone at all. Caleb was thus left waiting for her at the restaurant. How he reacted next provides us an indication of whether the couple has PSO.


Caleb tried to contact Erica when she didn’t turn up. However, his messages and calls were unanswered. Anxious, he called Erica’s office, and finally reached her. She explained herself to him, and apologised for forgetting to tell him about what happened.

If the couple has PSO, Caleb would probably understand that Erica is busy and quickly forgive her. He’ll probably be worried that Erica is hungry and bring her food. He may even offer to accompany Erica at her workplace, and have an “office date”.

However, with their relationship in choppy waters, they have NSO (Negative Sentiment Override) instead. Caleb was reminded of all thosetimes when Erica had been forgetful and messed up his plans. He grumbled about the time wasted on waiting and scolded her for being so absent-minded. Coupled with Erica’s stress from work, the conversation eventually became a shouting match.

It is important for us to practice the first three levels (covered in the last 3 eDMs) often as it sets the foundation for what Dr Gottman calls a Culture of Appreciation within the relationship. Start with the simple things: be curious about your spouse, find something to appreciate your spouse for every day.

With the foundations built up strong, the next important principle to maintaining The Positive Perspective is to let your partner influence you. Research has found that men who allow their wives to influence them have happier marriages than man who resist it. Do note that this works both ways. Couples where both are engaged in power sharing and discussion would find that they are better in handling conflicts, leading to a more positive relationship.

Keen to find out more about the Sound Relationship House? Keep an eye out for our future articles!

Written by: Lin Feng, Social Worker, Fei Yue Community Services


Gottman, J.M. & Silver, N. (1999). The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work. Three Rivers Press.