Last week, my mom had a seizure. It was a stressful experience for her. She has multiple health issues, and developing epilepsy after a stroke she suffered three years ago is one of them. Whenever she has a challenging day, it unfortunately turns into a challenging week and sometimes a challenging month.
It’s hard for me to watch because she is my mom, and I want the best for her. I want her to be happy. But with each passing day, I see that finding joy and experiencing gratitude is becoming increasingly difficult for her. She has been through so much that she is losing sight of what it means to be grateful. I know this is not what she wants for her life, but I also know that we can all become consumed with what we don’t want if we aren’t careful. Gratitude can escape us with such ease when we hit hard times.
My experiences with my mom often make me focus on my own life. When I watch her suffer and I see the condition of her spirit, I reflect on my marriage and my relationships with my children. I think about what I want for our lives and about what can happen if we are not very intentional about the choices we make. I fear what might happen if any of us lose our ability to be grateful.
I have a good marriage. It’s not perfect because no marriage is, but what we have works very well. We love each other, and we adore this life we have built together. I don’t think we arrived at this place by happenstance. I think we worked hard at focusing on gratitude and building our spiritual muscle for times of misfortune.
As we approach what many refer to as the most wonderful time of the year, our focus tends to shift to the importance of gratitude. But I think we all know that gratitude is something we need to focus on year-round.
Here are five ways you can create a marriage overflowing with gratitude, not just during the holidays but every day of the year.
Adjust your expectations
Unreasonable expectations are behind many marital problems. When you expect more from your spouse than you should, disappointment sets in and gratitude begins to fade. Ask yourself if you are expecting too much rather than being grateful for what you have. You shouldn’t settle, but if you married a good man, don’t spend your time focusing on the 20 percent he might be missing. Instead, give God thanks for the 80 percent he has.
Show appreciation for everything
We all want to be appreciated. I don’t care how old you are or how long you’ve been married, appreciation is critical. Do you appreciate your spouse? And if you do, do you show that appreciation consistently. Don’t just show appreciation for the big things. Let your spouse know that you are grateful for all the little things he does. From taking out the trash to picking up dinner, every gesture should be recognized and gratitude should be expressed.
Speak with kindness
Having a bad day? It’s okay because we all have bad days. But when your bad days become the norm and you start speaking to your spouse with a tone that’s less than kind, it’s a problem. Your words are powerful. When you speak with love and understanding, it helps you and your spouse focus on what you have to be grateful about. Bad days don’t give you the right to treat the people who love you poorly. Even when you just can’t bring yourself to express your feelings, let your spouse know that’s where you stand, and he will appreciate your honestly more than you know.
Acknowledge your spouse’s struggles
If you can learn how to show empathy, it will help your marriage grow stronger by the day. You have to be able to stop focusing on your problems and think about what your spouse is experiencing. What does it feel like to be in his shoes? When you think about what other people are going through, you become more grateful for what you have and you start to think of things you can do to help improve their lives. If empathy is the cornerstone of your relationship, gratitude will surely overflow.
Document the positive
So many of us keep a mental Rolodex of all the things our spouses do wrong or what’s wrong with our lives. But wouldn’t it be nice if instead we kept track of what they do right and what’s going right? No one is perfect, and focusing on someone’s flaws is no way to build a healthy relationship. Whether you write in a journal or you’re keeping track mentally, do your best to document what your spouse does right and what you love most about your life together. Unless the negative far outweighs the positive, you really can shift your mindset and focus on the positive.
BMWK family, what do you do to create gratitude in your marriage?
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