We love our spouses. But, let's be honest here, sometimes we don't like them. One of the keys to keeping marriages strong is to turn negativity around before it gets out of hand. For me, gratitude was the answer.
It wasn't him, it was me
One day, early in 2017, I realized certain things about my husband were annoying me more than they should, and I was focusing on those annoyances too much. Now, while I'm pretty sure I'm not the only one who's ever experienced this phenomenon, realizing my attitude needed to change more than my husband's habits did was a humbling epiphany. I knew I needed to focus on making some changes in myself, but I didn't want to, and it took me a while to figure out how to make that needed attitude adjustment. But I finally did.
Changing my attitude
I'd read a book a few years earlier about how gratitude helped people be happier and wondered if changing my complaining attitude into a grateful one could help. One night, when I was less than happy with my husband and was about to begin my nightly prayers, I decided to thank God for one thing he had done that day.
After a few minutes pondering, I realized I was thankful my husband had unclogged the toilet. I knew it was clogged for several hours, but the smell had bothered my pregnant nose, so I ignored it. Him stepping up and taking care of that dirty job made me grateful.
When I ended my prayer, I realized I was happier than I'd been in a while. I also found myself realizing other things my husband had done right that day I could have thanked God for, but hadn't.
Living the goal
That night I determined to either make my life better through this new-found power of gratitude or prove the happiness I had discovered was a one-time occurrence. I decided to begin all my future nightly prayers by thanking God for something my husband had done each day.
For many days that effort was easy; it was like I was on a gratitude roll and nothing could stop me. I was grateful for a husband who ignored my pregnant moodiness and offered to put our kids to bed while I read a book. I was grateful for a husband who fixed the sprinkler head, again, after I ran over it, again, with the van. Days like those were easy to find things to be thankful for. But being grateful for my less-than-perfect husband was sometimes hard.
Because neither my husband or myself are perfect, there were days when I wasn't grateful for him, or anything he did, at all. Instead I was upset with how wrong he was and how difficult it was to make him see how right I was. Usually those were the days we had argued, were tired or had just let life get to us. But still, I had a goal to complete, even though that goal was the last thing I wanted to do.
On nights when things were less than perfect, I sat stubbornly on my knees in silence, completely baffled about what I could possibly be thankful for about my husband. Eventually, because my knees were hurting, I found something my husband had done I was thankful for. Instead of my gleefully grateful prayers, those nightly prayers sounded more like, "Thank you, God, for a husband who went to work today. But sorry, that's the only nice thing I can say about him because he's not my favorite person right now." I hoped those prayers counted.
Fortunately, those negative nights became fewer and farther between as weeks became months of me focusing on thanking God for the positive things my husband had done. Because I was sincere about this little project of mine, I tried to find unique things about him to be grateful for that I hadn't mentioned previously. Little things like him making dinner or taking kids on errands became more magnified because I had formed a habit of looking and being grateful for them.
Personalize the gratitude goal for yourself
Try ending each day by deliberately being grateful for something your significant other has done. You can thank God, like I did, or you can physically list acts of kindness in a gratitude notebook. Whichever way you decide, see if purposefully being grateful can help you be a happier person and improve your relationship with the one who matters most.