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Improve or Save Your Marriage and Love With Daily Gratitude
A Quick Turnaround With Gratitude
My wife and I have been married for over 25 years. We love each other deeply - and we're darned stubborn. But the difficulties and arguments had piled up over the years, and we weren't feeling the love. We needed a change. We changed all that in three months - in just 10 minutes a day - just by sharing gratitude. You can, too!
Gratitude: The Key to Instant Happiness
What is gratitude? Gratitude is a wonderful feeling we can create any time we want by focusing our attention on something wonderful. We can look at something right in front of us or remember a wonderful event. And then just silently say, "thank you." Our heart opens with a wonderful feeling. Our feelings follow our attention. Focus on something positive - really pay attention to it - and relax, and wonderful feelings start to flow.
Along with expressing love in a way our partner understands; and apology and forgiveness; gratitude is another wonderful way to renew a marriage or any love relationship. In fact, I think it will work with parents and children, too. If you're a parent and you try this with your child, let me know what happens. You may be teaching them how to have a lifetime of happiness. You may even be creating a link that will keep your relationship strong through those difficult teenage years.
Let me tell you how my wife and I turned around our marriage after 15 years of pain and frustration in just two months - in ten minutes a day!
How to Share Gratitude
Before we go to bed - and, ideally, before we're totally exhausted - my wife and I take ten minutes to share gratitudes. We do our best not to wander off topic, and especially not to get into frustrating situations, or even interesting ideas. We just focus on the feeling of being happy about something.
We started very simply, with just four topics. We would take turns. Each one of us would express gratitude for:
- Something from nature
- Another person (not one of us)
- The other person - I would appreciate my wife, and she would appreciate me
- Ourselves - recognizing something we accomplished or a quality that made our day better
It didn't matter who would speak first. We didn't need to give reasons. In fact, the shorter, the better. When we're really tired, we can do this in about four minutes. But ten is nicer. Long silences are a space in which we build the good feelings.
Gratitude for Nature
I got inspired to share gratitudes one day when I noticed that I wasn't noticing. I could be out under a beautiful sky like the one below, and not even see it. But if I take two minutes and look at a sky like this, and breathe, I feel wonderful. And I wanted to share that wonder with my wife.
Some days, it's not so easy. Sometimes it's late at night, I'm lying in bed, and I realize I never got outside all day. That's okay - there's still plenty of nature to be grateful for:
- I can remember a day I spent in the woods or at the ocean or in a park.
- I can be grateful for my cat, who is, after all, a natural animal.
- I can even be grateful for a piece of fruit or a vegetable I enjoyed at dinner
It's all nature!
Jacobs Ladders Across the Sky
Appreciating Another Person
Today, who, in your life, was unexpectedly helpful, friendly, or even silly? Who showed courage or even simple courtesy or professionalism. All of these things give us people to be grateful for.
And if everyone was truly nasty today, you can, of course, remember an inspiring teacher or supportive friend from the past. Or a movie star you find inspiring.
Kris and I have found that appreciating other people aloud to one another helps us see the good in life - and the good in each other.
Appreciating Your Partner
If possible, appreciate your partner for something he or she has done today. Make it very specific. And, if you can, don't pick something that was done for you. Pick something they did that was for themselves, or from their heart. Here are some examples:
- I know you really want to start exercising, and it was great to see you put on your walking shoes and head out the door this morning.
- I saw you kick back and relax, and just listen to some music. It's so great to see you get out of workaholic mode.
- I'm so glad you explained things to Nancy when she was puzzled.
Appreciating Your Loved One's Gifts to Others
Gary Chapman, in The Five Love Languages, calls this Words of Affirmation. He explains why it is so important to be specific, and to truly support the person we love in being himself or herself, rather than selfishly supporting what the person does for us.
If you want, you can add a second item, thanking them for something they did for you, like:
- "Thanks for helping me clean my shirt when I spilled grape juice all over it. I never knew how to get out a stain like that."
- "Thanks for the lovely dinner. It was delicious."
Celebrating the Rewards of Life
Gratitude is Not Positive Thinking
Sharing gratitude is very different from positive thinking. It is more open and relaxed. It is slower and more appreciative. It is more about feeling than thinking.
That makes a great deal of difference. Gratitude opens us up to the right brain, where we experience the flow of life and change. It leads to joy and to healthy, relaxed growth. In relationships, it leads to an increased flow of love.
The Power of Positive Thinking backfires. The greatest illustration of this is O. J. Simpson, the poster-boy for Denis Waitely (who called himself a doctor and created the Power of Positive Thinking). OJ was supposed to be the great success story. But (according to civil court judgment) he murdered his wife, and he's now in prison for armed robbery and other crimes. That's not where I want my marriage to go. How about you?
Appreciating ourselves is not boosting our ego. Instead, we bring ourselves to awareness of things we do each day to make life better. The ego is all about being vague. By being specific, we encourage healthy change:
- "I'm glad I took out the garbage without being reminded."
- "I got going on that article I've been avoiding, and it's well on the way."
- "I decided not to buy that expensive package the salesman was pushing on me."
If you're naturally modest, this may feel odd at first. But, once you do it regularly and see the smile on your lover's face as he or she sees you grow, you'll get into it. And then your healthy changes will accelerate.
Growing More Gratitude
After a while, I suggested other things we can feel grateful for. We've added two more to our evening sharing of gratitude. Now, we do these first, before thinking about nature:
- A work of art or literature
- A memory from earlier in life
Appreciating Art and Literature
My wife and I both love to read. And I've been watching some amazing movies lately. We found it easy to add these to our gratitude list. And it doesn't have to be recent. Sharing memories of favorite movies, art, or books from times past gives us joy right now. And it might even encourage us to re-read a book, share an old favorite movie, or try something new.
In fact, just before Christmas, I appreciated a children's book from my wife's childhood, The Light Maze. And, for Christmas, she gave me a wonderful gift: The two other books the author, Joan North, had written.
I Remember When Our Cats Were Kittens
Books, Movies, & More
Sharing Happy Memories
For a long time, I've been wanting to remember the best parts of my life. A lot of the good got lost in a haze of pain. Once our daily gratitudes were working well for us, the time became a safe and encouraging space for exploration. So I began to share memories. That allowed my wife to get to know more about me from before we met. And I'm getting to know her.
Then it grew. We have now shared memories of our honeymoon and our best vacations. Sharing these really gives us a feeling of gentle strength and renews our commitment to joy in the midst of life's ordinary frustrations.
What Works for You?
Nature, literature, and memories work in this family. What would work for you? It might be totally different. Maybe you want to reflect on family and friends more, or talk about great moments in sports. Maybe you want to re-live great vacations and adventures. There are so many things to be grateful for! Do what works for you. You can read this hub by Akhildev43 to find ten great ways to maintain affection.
Gratitude Growing in Our Lives
After four months of sharing gratitude each day, my wife and I are finding that gratitude is becoming a way of life.
Celebrating My Mother, Who Is Gone
For example, we now see the form of sharing gratitude as a way to do other things. Last week, I faced a problem. It was my Mom's birthday, and I always remember her then, even though she passed away over eight years ago. My question: How do I honor someone I love who is gone?
The answer: with gratitude.
My wife, my older brother, and I got on the phone together and shared happy memories of my mother. That's not the way we did things when I was growing up. Then, there was a lot of arguing, mostly. But, because I'd practiced gratitude just ten minutes a day for four months, I found I was able to set all that aside, and relive the happy memories and appreciate the strengths my mother shared with me.
All I have of my mother are memories; why not relive the good ones?
Nature and Poetry
Daily gratitude is making other, smaller changes in our lives, as well. Each night, I remember something wonderful about nature. So, now, each day, when I take a break in the afternoon, I pay more attention to nature. I relax as I take my walk. I notice the sky. I'm much more in the flow and feeling good. With less stress, I'm getting more work done, solving more problems, and losing a bit of weight.
My wife celebrates nature by writing haiku. She can share her gratitude each day with a one-breath poem.
Where Will We Go Next?
I have a funny feeling that, as my wife and I share memories of past vacations, the yen to travel will strike once again. It's been a while, as our parents get older and we face challenges in the new economy. But gratitude gives energy. As we focus our attention on wonderful things, wonderful things happen, and we get the energy to make more wonderful things happen.
I call that the Three Gees: Gratitude, Grace, and Generosity:
- Gratitude is a choice we make to focus on, and feel, the wonder in our lives.
- Grace is the energy that lets us move through life gracefully, naturally solving problems and making great things happen
- Generosity is the natural result of grace. When we're full of good energy, it overflows!
Can you think of anything better to do with ten minutes a day than share gratitude with a loved one?