The practice of gratitude is so essential to creating a happy and more loving marriage that I wanted to start our challenge with this principle. Didn’t get a chance to be in my love challenge? No worries, new ones will be coming in 2016!
A key ingredient to improving our marriages and relationship with our spouse is being able to put ourselves in position of gratitude and thankfulness. That may be hard to believe if you are in a really difficult place, and it may seem on the surface that you have little to be grateful for. But by completing this challenge and focusing on the good, we open ourselves and our heart up to receiving even more of what we really want. Here are three ways gratitude can transform your marriage:
1. It helps you focus on what’s working.
In the busyness of our lives, it’s easy to forget the things that are going well in our marriage, and much easier to focus on all the things that are going wrong. I’m sure you can complete this sentence “If he would just…” with 1,001 things you wish your husband would do differently.
Over time, we begin to tell ourselves certain stories about our spouses. He’s selfish, he doesn’t help out as much as he should, he doesn’t consider my needs, and the list goes on and on. When we think that way, everything our husband does is seen through the filter of those thoughts. We begin to see the ways he’s selfish all the time, we start keeping score of how much more we are doing than him, or we ruminate over all the ways he doesn’t give us the attention we crave.
This week, I wanted you to create a new story that is full of all of the things that are going well and all the wonderful things about your husband that are not always in the front of your mind. By focusing on what’s positive, and looking for what’s working well, you literally create new pathways in your brain that help you to experience your marriage and interactions with your spouse in a more positive light. You begin to re-notice the things that are great about your relationship (even if it’s far from perfect) and you can see more clearly the things your husband is doing right that maybe you don’t always give him credit for.
By looking at the positive and making it a daily habit you literally train your mind to think differently. And over time it becomes easier and easier such that when things are not going so well, your mind is full of good thoughts so that you can navigate those times a little easier. Think of it like a savings account. You are storing up positive thoughts so that when you need them, they are available and you don’t become overdrawn, or in the case of our marriage, withdrawn.
2. It makes you happier, more generous, compassionate and loving.
The impact of gratitude on your own happiness is really quite direct. If you focus on the positive, you feel better and are happier. When you feel happier, you are nicer, more giving and more loving.
It’s as simple as that.
Think about how you feel when you receive really good news or an unexpected surprise. You smile. You feel lighter. It just feels good! And you want others around you to feel the same.
Consider gratitude a gift to yourself, something you’ve been dreaming of only to realize you already have it! Identifying the things about your spouse for which you are grateful can immediately make you feel more positive about him and helps you to see the gifts in him that he shares with you.
Dr. Robert Emmons, a leading expert on gratitude, describes it as a social emotion and one that helps us to see how we’ve been supported and affirmed by other people. When you feel grateful, you want to “pay it forward” because you feel fortunate for what you have. Being thankful makes you realize that there are many other people who would cherish the blessings that you have and helps to remind us that we are fortunate even though our situation may not be ideal. So as you count the things for which you are grateful in your marriage, you go to that “happy place” where your heart is full of generosity, compassion and most important, love.
3. It helps your spouse feel appreciated.
The outward expression of gratitude can certainly work wonders. Think about how amazing you feel when someone acknowledges your kindness, your efforts, your contribution. Appreciation sends our brain signals that we are on the right track, that we are worthy, and good. And it motivates us to continue along that path and even to put forth more effort.
The research on positive reinforcement is profound. We often think about it with our children. We want to encourage them to “keep up the good work” or to “always try their best” and there will be some reward.
But what about our husbands? How are we showing appreciation?
Sometimes it’s easy to get into the mindset that he’s just doing what he’s supposed to do and that we don’t have to express gratitude for the basics. So what if he works hard at his job; that’s what he’s supposed to do. What’s the big deal that he fixes things around the house or takes care of the car – that’s a man’s job.
Well what if he didn’t do it?
Part of the goal of this week’s challenge was to encourage you to take nothing for granted because nothing you have is promised.
If you want your husband to do more, to be more present and attentive with you, you have to first be grateful for what you have. When he feels like he can’t get it right, he’s not going to try. When he feels like his efforts are noticed and valued, he will feel good and want to continue pleasing you.
So today, share with your spouse, something for which you are grateful…say it, email it, text it, post it on Facebook, write it in a note. Whatever works for you will work wonders for your marriage.
I could go on and on about the concept of gratitude. But for now, I’ll just leave you with two quotes:
Want to read more about the practice of gratitude? Check out these resources! (Just hoover over and click!)
Yours in gratitude,