Help! I’m a Black-and-White Thinker and My Marriage is In Trouble!

Help!  I’m a Black-and-White Thinker and my marriage is in trouble!  Those who are more severe in their Black & White Thinking often struggle in relationships.  They have a significant desire for successful relationships, but struggle due to the difficulty to understand and speak “relationally.”  A successful marriage, in many black-and-white Thinkers’ minds, is where both partners do what they’re supposed to be doing.  Yet, many black-and-white thinkers marry someone who has a different idea of what a successful marriage looks like.  If you’re a black-and white thinker married to relational thinker, here are a few tips to help you in your marriage:

Get Rid of Anger

Anger, which often is a secondary emotion, is the emotion that many black-and-white thinkers are most comfortable expressing, yet it is also the # 1 intimacy buster in a relationship.  Expectations and standards for the other person often provide the fuel for such anger when they are unmet.  Harsh words, criticisms, complaints, and verbally and physically expressed anger will harm a person so much emotionally that relationships often succumb to anger’s oppression.  If you want your marriage to improve, the anger expressed has to be significantly less, and the anger inside has to be put to death (click here for more on anger).  In order to get rid of the anger, the primary emotions under the anger need to be explored and addressed, and the expectations and standards need to be challenged.

Intimacy Over Actions

Emotions and feelings are abstract and therefore difficult to grasp for many black-and-white thinkers, yet they are absolutely necessary to acknowledge and even feel.  To have a better relationship with your relational spouse, emotions of sadness or hurt cannot be covered up or funneled into anger, but ought to be worked through and talked about.  Your Relational spouse most likely will not connect with you through your works, but through knowing your emotions and feelings, and you knowing theirs.  Relational spouses desire couple intimacy (into-me-see) over couple efficiency (working well together).  If you want a better marriage with a relational spouse, you’ll need to understand yourself better so that you can share this part of yourself with your spouse.  Of course, in order to do this, it will require weakness and vulnerability (2 very attractive qualities to a relational spouse).

Shift Tactics: Be Vulnerable

Since the Operating System of the black-and-white thinker is “All or Nothing”, “Right or Wrong”, etc., Black-and-white thinkers ought to acknowledge that their thinking does not work well for the intimacy that is needed by their spouse.  They will often love their spouses by doing things around the house, chores, or other projects to make their spouse happy.  Even though these things may be appreciated, they often miss the mark.  Additionally, black-and-white thinkers will complain or criticize the relational person for being a perfectionist or unable to please.  He  may think, “If my spouse is annoyed, they’re annoyed at me because I did something wrong.  I try to do what she wants, but she is still annoyed.  I can’t do anything right in her eyes.”  If this is the case, your love may be expressed in actions, but the intimacy that is desired by a relational spouse is hardly ever achieved through acts of service, but more through heart connection.  And the heart connection is made when you are vulnerable.  Self-reflect and identify your fears, sorrows, and desires. Then share them.  Equally important is this: seek to know and understand theirs to the best of your ability and acknowledge them.  If the black-and-white thinker can recognize that this shift  in approach is needed, and that the acts of service is ineffective for intimacy (but good to show love, so don’t stop!), then a good step towards a better relationship with your spouse is being made.


Black-and-white thinkers often think moralistically, meaning they see things as right and wrong or good and bad.  They generally interpret actions, words and situations as right or wrong.  My challenge to black-and-white thinkers is this, challenge your own thinking.  Instead of declaring or judging actions and words as “right or wrong,” or “good or bad,” try taking a step back and asking yourself this:  What is wise? What would a wise person do or say?  How would a wise person respond?  Ultimately, this is another way of asking the cliché question, “What would Jesus do?” as Jesus is the wisdom of God (I Cor 1:24).  When considering how Jesus responded to the adulterous woman (John 8), Jesus did not respond immediately declaring what was right and wrong, but instead pondered his reply.  Without condemning the woman, Jesus responded mercifully to her while acknowledging right and wrong at the same time.  Additionally, he helped communicate to everyone ready to judge that they have their own sins to worry about.  True wisdom is not simply declaring right or wrong, but considers the relational qualities of mercy and grace for the person as well.  


As black-and-white thinkers think mostly in “right & wrong” and “good & bad,” the importance of meeting laws, standards, and expectations are paramount.  Yet without the addition of relational components, such as grace, mercy, compassion, kindness, and empathy… relationships will suffer.  Jesus, who also knew of right and wrong and good and bad, was also full of grace.  He did not come to “abolish the law” (what was right and wrong), but to fulfill it.  He fulfilled the law by being perfectly obedient to the law, yet he loved and valued people fully also.  Jesus in the Gospels is not only the model for Black-and-white thinkers, but he is the Savior of black-and-white thinkers.  God desires to conform us to the likeness of Christ (Rom 8:29), and for black-and-white thinkers, this is the goal that is necessary for us to join.  In order to become like Christ, we must confess our sinfulness, recognize our need for Christ, and cooperate with the Holy Spirit to grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ (2 Pet 3:18).  In other words, the process of becoming more relational (and therefore to have successful relationships) is to become more like Jesus, to love like Jesus, and to value others like Jesus.  As we do so, our marriages change.

The definition of insanity is to repeat the same thing while expecting different results.  Not all marriages will change if we simply try harder, but many change when we try differently.  If you are a black-and-white thinker, seriously consider getting rid of your anger, seeking heart connection (intimacy) over actions, being humble and vulnerable, and cooperating with the Holy Spirit to gain the relational qualities of Jesus.  If you strive in doing these things, your marriages are bound to improve.  And if you need help, give us a call (877-414-HOPE)!




The Black & White Thinking Christian is my newest resource for helping black-and-white thinkers grow in life, relationships, and in Christ. If you are a black-and-white thinker, or have one in your life, this is a great resource for personal growth and understanding.


For more information on Black and White Thinking, Consider these blogs…

Help! I’m Married to a Black & White Thinker

Insecurity and Black & White Thinkers

Emotions and the Black & White Thinker

Black & White Thinking in Relationships: Differences in Men & Women

The Black & White Thinking Christian

When Black & White Thinking is Ruled by Pride

Black & White vs Relational Thinkers: An Introduction (Part 2)

Black & White Thinkers vs Relational Thinkers (an Introduction)