It’s Thanksgiving again. Time to take notice of things we are truly grateful for. But while it is easy to be grateful in the abstract—for sun and rain and good food—often the place where it is the most difficult to practice is in our most intimate relationships. So many of us are (rightfully) grateful to the stranger that helps us pull our car out of the ditch—but take for granted the daily gift our loved one is.
It’s easy to spend most of our time cataloging our mate’s most irritating foibles and lacks. It’s much harder to recognize the beauty that is right before our eyes. When you practice gratitude in your relationship, you can’t help but feel more connected and loving. It’s an inevitable consequence of what you appreciate about the other person. That’s because in reminding yourself about what’s so great about your mate, you want to draw closer to this marvelous creature that has miraculously chosen you above all others.
How do you accomplish such a task? Begin to look at what is positive about your relationship and the person you are sharing it with. Here’s a daily practice: at dinner (or bedtime, or first thing in the morning) take turns saying a half dozen things you are thankful for about the other person that day.
In addition, consciously go out of your way to explicitly thank your partner for what s/he does for you. There’s an art to giving appreciation. Sometimes a simple “thank you” will suffice (and it is certainly better than nothing). But what truly creates the circle of abundant lovingness is specific, believable and true praise.
For instance, there is a world of difference between “Thanks for taking out the garbage” and “You’re so steadfast in taking out the garbage every week. I really appreciate it.” The first, while nice, compliments the action. The second reveals to your sweetheart a facet of his/her character that you are thankful for. In this way, our thanks itself becomes a gift.
Somewhere in our memory banks is a laundry list entitled “Every Bad Thing My Partner Has Done.” It sits there, waiting for us to call it up in times of perceived need. But do you have an equivalent Gratitude Laundry List just sitting there waiting to be accessed? Why not? The more you remember what’s wonderful, the more loving you feel and the more openhearted you are.
What is it that allows us to think that the rules of etiquette don’t apply to the ones who are closest to us? Is it because we see one another’s contribution as their “job,” their family obligation that isn’t deserving of appreciation? Imagine the impact if your father thanked your mother for cooking dinner every evening of their married life, or if your mother found ways to thank your father for going to work every day.
Keep track of your manners toward your spouse. Too often we forget to say “please” and “thank you” to the very human being that does more for us than anyone on the face of the earth. Practice this for a week and see if your relationship changes for the better.
Source: Attitudes of Gratitude in Love by M. J. Ryan (Conari)