I met a grateful husband the other day…and for you cynics out there, let me add that Ted has been married for 29 years, and his gratitude is as strong today (if not stronger) than when he first met his wife. The thing that really drew me to Ted is his realism—he’s the first to acknowledge that long-term, committed relationships challenge us on many different levels. Ted isn’t a Pollyanna.
What Ted shared about his marriage and the role that gratitude plays in strengthening relationships is information we should all come back to again and again. Here are some of the highlights from my conversation with this grateful husband:
Marriage and Gratefulness: 5 Tips from a Grateful Husband
1. It’s easy to be ungrateful….
There is much pain and suffering in the world, and even those closest to us hurt and disappoint us from time to time. At some point, however, we must all make the decision to move toward gratitude; not by ignoring the pain in our life, but by acknowledging and accepting the myriad of good that exists (no matter how small it might seem).
2. Gratitude is much more than an isolated act…
First and foremost, gratitude is a mindset, a way of being in the world that opens your eyes to the moment-to-moment grace that exists. This way of being in the world and in your marriage/relationship will naturally lead you to act compassionately toward your spouse/partner (and others). These compassionate acts (and words of gratitude) will invite others to act in kind, creating a ripple effect of loving action.
3. It’s not about fairness…
The grateful person doesn’t measure life in terms of fairness/unfairness. To do so leads you down a path of judgment and comparison—other people’s lives (and their ongoing life-conditions) become the barometer of whether or not your life is OK. This fairness/unfairness way of being makes you a victim to the life conditions of others (which is something that is beyond your control). This is a recipe for criticalness (self-directed and other-directed), anger, and feeling resentful, rather than peaceful.
4. Denial isn’t gratitude…
The grateful spouse/partner sees and acknowledges the entire spectrum of events and experiences in his/her life (the good, the bad and the ugly). You can practice gratitude and also face the challenges and struggles of life head-on. In addition to dealing with marriage/relationship problems as they arise, a grateful spouse/partner is able to refocus his/her attention back to what is valued and appreciated.
5. Gratitude is contagious (and good for your marriage/relationship)…
Gratitude is an energy that cannot be easily contained, nor should it. The grateful person’s energy is continuously fed and replenished by an appreciative and compassionate mindset. This energy grows and can become a driving life-force that shapes one’s reality in profound ways, including your marriage or relationship.
In short, the grateful spouse/partner is continuously making conscious decisions that nurture a mindset of gratitude. Small, negligible experiences that are overlooked by so many show up on the mental radar of the grateful spouse/partner—feeding his/her experiences and the relationship with positivity. Nothing is too small or trivial to be acknowledged and appreciated when you exist in the mindset of gratitude. And it is this fact that has made Ted’s marriage so rewarding and meaningful.
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Forgiveness and gratitude go hand-in-hand. I’ve created a resource for couples to help make forgiveness a regular part of their marriage/relationship. For more information about how forgiveness can strengthen your marriage/relationship, check out my Forgiveness Workbook.
Dr. Rich Nicastro