Being Thankful For Your Marriage!
As Thanksgiving has drawn near (Only a couple of days left to get prepared!), I keep being stirred more and more to focus on what I am thankful for. I do wonder why we don’t keep this focus all year round. It’s been demonstrated by research that gratitude has many benefits. Why don’t we tend to make it more of a habit? It is a good question, but one that we may try to answer at another time.
My focus today is to encourage you to be thankful for your marriage and all that that entails. Many of my clients spend a lot of time focusing on their spouse’s faults instead of the good things. Unfortunately, focusing on negative things causes more anxiety, fear, and anger to arise. No wonder there is so much loneliness and frustration even while being married if that is the focus. I want you to try something for me. I want you to practice gratitude this Thanksgiving. Below I will share with you a few benefits of having thankfulness for your marriage and some ways you can work to be grateful for your spouse and the marriage you have.
5 Aspects of Marriage You Can Be Grateful For
- You have a partner that has strengths you don’t have.
- You aren’t alone, even when it feels like it.
- Your spouse chose you.
- You are being shaped into a better person every day.
- You always have someone to pick up the slack when you are down.
You have a partner that has strengths you don’t have.
Your marriage is unique. Most likely your spouse has strengths you don’t have. Maybe they’re quieter than you or calmer. May they are more direct and a get things done kind of person. Whatever it is that they bring to the table, they have something you don’t. Just by being married, you have added value to your life. I know that sometimes it doesn’t seem that way. A fight can make you wonder why you even got married.
However, when you focus on the fact that when you are not in fights, your spouse is someone you would miss in some form if they weren’t there, you would start to find ways to be grateful. Sometimes it’s how we are looking at it. Are you only looking at how they make you mad or annoyed? Yes, they should stop that annoying habit but don’t throw out the baby with the bath water.
Exercise: List 5 ways your spouse is different from you. How many can you think of that are helpful for you?
You aren’t alone even when it feels like it.
Conflict leads to couples who have broken trust and frustration toward one another. However, it doesn’t have to be all bad. Conflict can reveal where you need to work. It can reveal holes in your relationship. You may think that it means you aren’t compatible or shouldn’t be together. From my work with couples, these thoughts aren’t accurate. Conflict usually means that you are just misunderstanding one another.
What if I said that if you will sit down and focus on the fact you have someone with you and aren’t alone that would help? Be thankful you have someone to fight with and do life with. How does that help? I believe if you focus on the fact that they are sticking around, you will find that to be comforting. Then, I would think about how you can resolve conflict and focus on how to love one another through a disagreement to get to where you have affection for each other again.
Exercise: Write down where you agree and disagree. Don’t get mad, just observe. I bet you agree more than you think. If not, just admire that ya’ll bring different things to the table. That’s okay!
Your spouse chose you!
This one seems obvious, but we forget it all too quickly! How often do you consider the fact that your spouse chose you? That should make you feel good, let alone cause you to be thankful. Focus on how wonderful it is to be chosen. It’s better than being rejected. You may feel rejected in your relationship right now. Again, usually, that is due to misunderstandings and differences in your personalities. Don’t let that get in the way. Be grateful for being chosen and your mood will shift.
Someone likes you for you. You are important to your spouse. They may not show it all the time, but they want you there. Maybe they don’t know how to connect or talk to you. That does not mean they don’t want you. Most of the couples who come to see me want their husband or wife. Unfortunately, they do not know how to please them or stop hurting them. You are wanted! Do not forget that! In fact, be thankful every day for that. It will change you.
Exercise: Say to yourself every hour that your spouse chose you. Do this for 5 days. Set an alarm on your phone. Don’t do this just Willie Nillie. Do it genuinely and intentionally.
You are being shaped into a better person every day!
When you are married, you can’t help but become a better person if you stay in the marriage. It forces you to change. You may not be doing a very good job at it, but you are changing. I believe you are being shaped and molded by each other. Can you be molded into a more negative version of yourself? Yes! However, this is more of a choice based on your focus. Have you ever heard that laughing is contagious? How are you being contagious to your spouse?
Again, by being grateful you are a more pleasant person. Being thankful in your marriage takes work. It’s not just going to happen. Yet, as you do that you will grow. Whether you know it or not, you are growing every day. You are learning about what not to do. You are finding ways to keep each other happy. Mainly you are seeking to keep the peace. As much as that can be a negative thing, it is also a positive thing. You are searching for ways to make life better, even if they are the wrong ways.
Exercise: Look for ways you have changed. How have you grown? What have you learned about yourself and your spouse? Focus on the positive things. Be thankful for your positive growth.
The Couple Increases Self-awareness Within the Relationship
Communication and sharing information naturally increase our knowledge of one another. When spouses come to marriage counseling they are encouraged to talk about things they would not typically discuss. Due to the mediation of the counselor and the boundaries of the counseling session, a couple usually feels more safe to open up. Thus, they share deeper thoughts and meaning than they normally would. Because of this dynamic, spouses explore more of their own beliefs, thoughts, emotions, and concerns with each other.
Through this process, they not only learn about their spouse but also discover more about their own personal struggles and strengths. Many couples that come into our office are unaware of themselves and find this process enlightening. Being in an emotionally safe environment that allows for the exploration of deeper meaning and concerns allows both partners to understand their relationship and their own motives and actions at a much deeper level than before.
A Correct Understanding of Respect and Love Is Received
Many couples come into counseling expressing a concern about their spouse not loving them or they have the feeling of “falling out of love” or they even express that they are not “in love” anymore. Many times, these understandings of the connection between a couple are not helpful. As the counseling process continues, your marriage counselor will help you understand what true love really is. They will also help you understand how these ideas of “in love” or “falling out of love” may be just assumptions that cause you to be negative about the relationship.
Knowing what love is and what it looks like is so important. Also, understanding what each other needs and how we receive and give love can be helpful too. Don’t believe the hype of being “in love.” Marriage is work and love is not just a feeling. It’s an action that you have to work at. Your therapist will help you define love and what you are feeling that makes you think you are falling out of love at this time. The idea is to explore and seek understanding so you can figure out how to heal the relationship and make it as healthy as possible.
You always have someone to pick up the slack when you are down.
When you are married, you rarely don’t get help when you ask for it or need it. I know there are exceptions to some of these statements. However, the majority can lean on these words. What happens when you get sick? Does the laundry get done? Do the kids get to school? Do people get fed? Most of you would say things still get done.
What a great thing to be thankful for! Everything doesn’t just fall on me. There may be times I feel that way, but it’s an assumption if we think it’s “always.” Only sometimes do we get let down. You would not believe how many of my clients focus on the few times they have been let down and have no idea about how many times they have been supported. Focus on that! Are you supported more than you think you are?
Exercise: Write down ways your spouse has picked up the slack when you couldn’t. Thank them for it. Thank God for it!
Gratitude is so important. It’s all over the Bible. God wants us to be grateful. We have so much to be thankful for. The Israelites won battles by being led with praise (Gratitude) towards God. They worshipped and sang praise regularly. Paul sang and gave thanks in prison. God answers their praise with a release. How much more will your gratitude in your marriage have an impact? I want you to be looking for things you can be thankful for this Thanksgiving. Measure it. Then, if you see your mood rise, make gratitude a habit. God Bless You! Happy Thanksgiving!