Just a brief reminder on this Thanksgiving Day that giving thanks should be more than just a day on the calendar. It should be the practice of our life and marriage. It’s true that some people seem more naturally thankful than others, but giving thanks is something at which you can practice and get better. I’m thankful to each of you for reading Normal Marriage. Happy Thanksgiving!
The other night I had a disturbing dream. I don’t have many disturbing dreams, but this one shook me to my core.
In my dream, my wife and I were separate…and she initiated it! She seemed to have little interest in being around me, and asked me not to contact her. Her indifference toward me was beyond painful, and it was clear that her indifference towards me was going to end our marriage. But that was not the most disturbing part of the dream.
On Thanksgiving Day, it’s good to look at the role gratitude plays in marriage. Many marriages are unhappy, not because of big things like abuse or affairs, but because of a little thing like a lack of gratitude.
Around 2008, Neil Pasricha was having a difficult time in life. His marriage was failing, his best friend committed suicide, and the market was threatening his job. Falling into depression, Neil realized he needed to do something to turn his attitude and life around. So, as a first step, he started a seemingly insignificant website called 1000awesomethings.com.
There, Neil began to build a list of things he was grateful for…both big and small. Things like:
- When the police car that’s been following you for miles finally goes around you.
- When the mug you’re warming up in the microwave stops with the handle facing you.
- When the nostril that’s been plugged up for so long, suddenly opens up.
- When you hit something with your car and there’s somehow no damage.
- When you pick the fastest moving line at the grocery store.
- When you’re on vacation and finally forget what day of the week it is.
He listed one thousand such things, and so many people resonated with these often overlooked reasons for gratitude that Neil’s website exploded. Eventually, his website generated a book entitled The Book of Awesome, which made the New York Times best seller list. All because he pointed out that we have more for which to be grateful than we stop to realize.
In marriage, we are often more unhappy with what we don’t have, than happy with what we do have. We have so many things in our marriages to be grateful for, yet when we don’t get something we want, we feel slighted and cheated. And the more we have, the less grateful we seem to be.
“The hardest arithmetic to master is that which enables us to count our blessings.” – Eric Hoffer.
But gratitude is important in marriage, because…
- It changes your focus. Gratitude causes you to focus on all the good things you like and have, rather than all the things you don’t like or don’t have.
- It leads you to appreciate who and what you have. The more you focus on the things for which you have to be grateful, the more you appreciate them.
- It lightens your mood. Your appreciation for what you have will begin to root out your complaining and frustration…which will lighten your mood. This will make you easier to live with, not to mention more attractive.
- It makes you more of a giving spouse. When you see all you have to be grateful for, you tend to be less self-centered and self-focused. It’s more easy to give of yourself, because you see how much you’ve been given.
Even Scripture stresses the importance of gratitude. 1 Thessalonians 5:18 tells us:
“Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus.”
I know there are a lot of things that go into marital unhappiness, that don’t elicit our gratitude. But note that the passage doesn’t say to be thankful for every circumstance, but rather to be thankful in every circumstance…which would include the difficult ones.
What if you could begin to turn around your dissatisfaction in marriage with something as simple as learning to be more grateful for the many good things you have. What if you could enjoy your marriage more simply by changing your attitude to gratitude?
If you need to be more grateful in your marriage, take these two simple steps:
- Assess. Begin by making a list of all the things you have to be thankful for in your marriage. Big and small, don’t leave anything out. As you make your list, ask yourself what would life be like if you didn’t have these things, or if your spouse didn’t do those things for which you’re grateful.
- Express. William A. Ward once said, “Feeling gratitude and not expressing it is like wrapping a present and not giving it.” Get in the habit of expressing gratitude for the things on your list. You would be surprised by the power a simple, heartfelt “thank you” has on your spouse. Not only will expressing gratitude affirm and encourage your spouse, it will improve your attitude as well. Donald Curtis said, “It is impossible to be negative while we are giving thanks.”
So many marriages could be strengthened if spouses simply became more grateful for what they have and more faithful to express that gratitude. When it comes to marriage, gratitude is a great attitude!
“God gave you a gift of 86,400 seconds today. Have you used one to say “thank you?” – William A. Ward.
If you or your marriage needs a does of gratitude, let me challenge you to do the following: Get a small notebook. Everyday, list five things about your spouse and/or your marriage for which you’re grateful. Don’t repeat anything on your list. Everyday, express your gratitude to your spouse. Do this for 30 days. I can almost guarantee that by the end of 30 days, you will be different, and consequently so will your marriage.
Copyright © 2017 Bret Legg
Gravity is an essential part of life. Without it, things would drift away into space. Likewise, gravity is an essential part of marriage. Without marital gravity, spouses begin to drift apart. And if they drift too far apart, it can bring an end to the marriage.
In my last post, I talked about four things you needed to increase your marital gravity. They were four things that would help draw you closer to one another and keep you from drifting apart. (Check out my last post, “Is Your Marriage Approaching Zero Gravity – Part 1.”)
Have you ever wished you could change your marriage? Maybe you were at odds with your spouse or maybe your marriage had just become mundane and predictable. Whatever it was, you didn’t like the way things were and you wished you could change things.
In a TED Talk entitled “The 3 A’s of Awesome,” Neil Pasricha tells of a time when his life needed a change. A difficult economy had cost him his job, his best friend had committed suicide and his marriage was falling apart.
We all love to hear these words. We can all remember life-changing moments when someone sent us a note or looked us in the eye and said, “Thank you.” In that moment, those words were powerful. They stuck with us, soothed us, and sent us off to be a better person.
Maybe you’ve seen this…a preschooler is sitting on the floor playing with a toy. They’re perfectly content with the toy they have, until they see another child playing with a different toy. Then the preschooler wants the toy the other child has. They don’t want to just exchange toys. They want both toys!
It’s funny in preschoolers, but it’s not so funny in adults. Yet so many of us get caught up in accumulating things rather than appreciating what we have.
We’re just a few days away from Christmas, and perhaps you’re still out there scrounging to find that last-minute perfect gift for someone.
Finding the right gift for that right person seems to come naturally for some. But for many of us, we struggle with finding the right gift. We worry… “What if they don’t like it?” “What if it’s the wrong size.” “What if they already have one?” After all, none of us wants to give a gift that will later surface at some white elephant gift exchange!
So back to the question. Is there something we can give that we can be confident will be the right gift every time? I think there is.
There’s a sweet spot to many things in life. There’s a sweet spot on a baseball bat that sends the ball over the fence. There’s a sweet spot for musicians where all the notes seem to come together effortlessly. There’s also a sweet spot in marriage, but what is it and how do you find it?