Good-way-bending, bad-way bending, positive ratchet, negative ratchet

My friend and I came up with the concept of “good-way-bending” probably about 15 years ago. Since then, we have observed it in action and refined it. We originated the term before the concept of “spin” was prominent in the public’s consciousness, but now the two concepts can be seen as related. In a relationship, especially at the beginning, good-way-bending occurs when your love interest sees you, your actions, etc., in a positive way, i.e., ‘bends” things cognitively in a good direction. It is positive internal spin about you.

Another concept that covers the situation in which good-way-bending occurs at the beginning of a relationship is “honeymoon period.” The reason for good-way-bending is not difficult to surmise: in general, people like exciting new things and go into them with high hopes.

Bad-way-bending has, naturally, the opposite meaning. Often you see the phenomenon occur after the relationship has soured a bit; your love interest suddenly sees everything in the relationship in a negative light, as if to convince him- or herself that it just isn’t worth the trouble. Bad-way-bending can also occur at the beginning of a relationship, as when a person approaches the new romance in a spirit of extreme caution or negativity, not giving credit where it is due and throwing water on the fire of romance.

Good-way-bending is pleasant in the main. It can be worrying, however, when love interests paint a picture of us that is extremely unrealistic in its positivity; we may worry that a demystification or disillusionment is coming that will bring about a case of bad-way-bending, which is always frustrating and demoralizing.

I have two other related concepts to offer today: the positive ratchet and the negative ratchet. In the case of the positive ratchet, the good things you do bring substantial joy and happiness to your love interest while your mistakes do not bring much pain and unhappiness. In other words, your efforts to bring good things to the relationship pay off, and you don’t get slammed for your missteps. The negative ratchet brings misery: no matter what you do right, it’s no big deal, but if you make the slightest mistake, punishment is swift and substantial.

The positive ratchet may easily be combined with good-way-bending, but it is not necessarily so. It may be your SO sees your behaviors in a realistic light but nevertheless is appreciative of the good and doesn’t sweat the small stuff. Likewise, in a negative ratchet situation your SO assesses the good and bad properly but simply is slow in approbation and swift in disappointment. It is theoretically possible for good-way-bending to be combined with the negative ratchet, and vice versa, but I have not experienced it myself and suspect it is unlikely.

Woe betide the person in a relationship in which both bad-way-bending and the negative ratchet pertain! Sadly, I was recently in just such a relationship. The good things in the relationship was very good, the kinds of things upon which very healthy and long-term partnerships were based. She recognized these things, but celebration was slim. On the other hand, to her all my faults were magnified, all my mistakes immediately noted and never forgotten. The bad, as she perceived it, seemed to accumulate like a debt and grow with compound interest. In the end, bad-way-bending became so extreme as to be comical and delivered the relationship its death blow. (I did not handle the relationship extremely well from the beginning; I emphasized long-term plans when she was not ready for that discussion, and had I chilled out more overall the relationship would have had a better chance. Still, the negative ratchet was so prominent that I don’t think it could have lasted.)

All of these concepts are also useful outside the realm of romantic relationships. For example, their applicability in the world of work should be readily apparent: bosses engage in good- and bad-way-bending all the time, and positive and negative ratchet situations in the workplace can also be quite common. The concepts are also helpful in friendships, familial relationships, etc.

I wish I were immune to good- and bad-way-bending; I wish I were able to assess any interpersonal situation in complete justice; but I am not and cannot. In general, I think I tend to engage in good-way-bending and the positive ratchet when it comes to romantic relationships. Doing so is better than the opposite, I suppose, but I think I hurt myself sometimes by perceiving things as better than they are. In other words, I can be a wide-eyed romantic who rushes into things too quickly, too enthusiastically. I must take care not to do so in the future.

  • Share/Bookmark

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.