We know that God tells us to be thankful. In fact, in Romans 1:21, lack of thankfulness to God is the beginning of a long downhill process ultimately resulting in futile thinking and a darkened heart. I Thessalonians tells us that giving thanks in all circumstances is God’s will for us. Philippians 4:6 reinforces that instruction, telling us to address every situation by prayer and petition to God with thanksgiving.
Why does God give us this instruction? While this is a good rule to apply to every aspect of life, it is especially relevant in marriage.
Dr. David Lieberman in Never Get Angry Again observes the psychological benefits of a grateful heart: People who are more grateful are less sick. They feel better about life. They are more optimistic. They have more energy and more confidence. They have better connection with other people. An attitude of gratitude reduces the frequency, duration, and intensity of depression.
What can you do to become more grateful?
- Making a list of your blessings. Write them in a journal and keep adding to it. Try for five a day. In addition to being consciously thankful for what went well, make sure you are thankful for what didn’t go wrong.
- Read your list regularly.
- Take a walk and focus on being grateful for God’s creation.
- Start writing notes of gratitude to people you want to thank. Be specific.
- Focus on people’s positive qualities.
- Create a board with photos and quotes about things you are thankful for.
Our minds can only focus on one thought at a time. If you are consciously focusing on the positive, you cannot dwell on the negative. You make a choice: Which one will you concentrate on?
Now, let’s apply this to your marriage.
When you think about your spouse, what’s the first thing that comes to mind? That they promised to have the den cleared out by Friday because that’s when the painters were coming and then didn’t do it? That you had something on your heart that you wanted to share last night and they weren’t paying attention? Instead, count your blessings. What is it that they are so good about doing? There’s a time for raising concerns and agreeing on solutions—but that time is not right now! If you’re having trouble with this, ask God to bring the good things to mind.
Or, do you have pleasurable memories when you think of your spouse? Start writing them down. Take a picture of something that reminds you of enjoyable experiences together and put it on your Gratitude Board for both of you to see. Write a note and tell them specifically what you appreciate about them.
Can you see how this will improve any relationship—especially your relationship with your spouse? Stop dwelling on their faults. Focus on their good traits. You’ll start liking them better. And I’m pretty sure they’ll start liking you better too.