Thanksgiving comes this week in the United States. Many research studies demonstrate how intentional gratitude can improve your mental and physical wellbeing, and it’s certainly a vital spiritual practice. But we don’t often consider the ways in which gratitude transforms your marriage.
You married a sinner, and when communication challenges, unmet expectations, or the daily busyness of life come along it’s easy to focus on the things your marriage does not provide. Minor irritations or more serious challenges can become walls keeping you apart.
Gratitude can change that. You’ve often heard that marriage takes work, and it does. But if you never stop to notice the good things, you’re missing out on the joy – not to mention the transformation – that gratitude can provide to your marriage and your life.
I’m not talking about sweeping major problems under the proverbial rug, or putting up with abuse, addiction, or infidelity. This is not a cure-all for every problem. But choosing gratitude is powerful in transforming you, your spouse, and the relationship between you.
Gratitude Changes YOU
If you purchase a new Toyota Highlander, you suddenly notice every other Highlander on the road (or whatever vehicle you purchased). It’s the same with your marriage. You will find more of whatever you look for. If you focus on your spouse’s failure to communicate well, you’ll feel slighted and miserable constantly. But if you focus on the aspects of your spouse and your marriage that are fulfilling and healthy you’ll experience significantly more joy and satisfaction.
Gratitude is the polarizing lens highlighting the ways in which your spouse is God’s blessing to you. Your brain can’t pay attention to everything at once, and your intentional decision to find things to be grateful for rewires your own brain. It makes you easier to live with and more appealing to be around. It’s one of the best antidotes to disappointment and irritation.
Be intentional about looking for good things in your marriage and in your spouse. There’s actual research showing that if you keep a gratitude journal, recording things you’re grateful for about your spouse, it leads to a stronger more satisfying relationship.
Pause and thank God for the person He blessed you with. Look into your spouse’s eyes and say, “Thank you for loving me!” Without waiting for special occasions find creative ways to express your sincere appreciation for who your spouse is to you “just because.”
Gratitude Changes Your Spouse
If you do something for your child, your boss, or your friend and they notice and express real gratitude, don’t you tend to want to do that again? Gratitude sweetens the relationship and invites you to invest more of yourself with that person. Your spouse responds the same.
Your spouse’s neurobiology is actually changed when you express sincere gratitude. The feel-good chemicals released in their brain when they feel appreciated bond them closer to you. They will naturally desire to do more of what you notice and intentionally express appreciation for. Unless your spouse has an evil heart they will almost unconsciously want to do more of what brought that good feeling. It’s just human nature.
If you want to “train” your spouse, look for even small ways in which they do something you value, or that meets your needs in some way. Then express authentic gratitude. Notice what it took for your spouse to do that, and let them know what it meant to you.
Perhaps your spouse struggles to listen well or connect emotionally. Watch for a moment when you can invite them into a loving conversation even if briefly, and then let them know how important that moment was to you and how it made you feel closer to them.
Perhaps your spouse doesn’t desire sex as often as you wish. Next time you engage sexually together, let your spouse know how that encounter nourished your soul and strengthened your sense of connection with them.
Wouldn’t you want to do more of what made you look like a hero or a queen to your spouse? Your spouse will want to do the same.
Thanksgiving at Home
If you’re celebrating Thanksgiving this week, take some extra time to let your spouse know how special they are to you. Before the food and the football games begin, take your spouse in your arms, look them in the eyes, and tell them “Thank you!”
And even better, make this the start of a habit you keep up all year.
Your Turn: What are you grateful for about your spouse? When will you tell them? Leave a comment below.
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