Gratitude in marriage changes us, and it improves the state of our relationship. This is true because attitudes are contagious. One difference between happy couples and miserable ones is that happy couples practice gratitude while miserable couples focus on all that is wrong in their bond.
According to psychology, if you ask a happy couple to tell you a story about their relationship, they will inevitably share about a happy time. However, when this same question is asked to miserable couples they share stories about fights and all that is wrong in their union. So, which comes first, the miserable times, or the miserable attitude?
I don’t know, and I’m not sure it really matters. The bottom line is that happiness and gratitude go hand-in-hand, and so does miserableness and negativity. Which couple are you? If you were asked to list ten things you’re grateful for in your relationship, could you do it?
I love extreme sports. Having grown up in San Diego, I fell in love with running on the beach, hiking, snorkeling, mixed martial arts, rollerblading, mountain biking, and sky diving. One day, while flipping through the channels on T.V., I came across an extreme sports competition.
I was captivated by the speed, breathtaking aerial stunts, and technical skills that went well beyond what I imagined possible. Watching human beings push themselves to the limits was awe-inspiring! As someone who enjoys seeing limits stretched, it’s no surprise that in college, I purchased a book entitled 14,000 Things to be Happy About. As you might imagine, this isn’t a book one reads straight through. Instead, it is a list of 14,000 reasons for joy. The author, Barbara Kipfer, begins with a brief introduction–sharing how she started her list in the sixth grade, in a spiral notebook. Barbra reports her gratitude habit has long continued.
Today, Barbra’s list extends to well over 145,000 things—both small and big—to be happy about! Like an extreme mountain biker, skier, or skater, who performs breathtaking stunts with ease, Barbara has taken gratitude to new heights. Dieter Uchtorf said, “We can choose to be grateful no matter what,” and according to Dietrich Bonhoeffer, “It is only with gratitude that life becomes rich.” In examining the lives of successful men and women, it appears uncommon gratitude is common among great human beings. Of course, this makes sense. No special skills are required for a bad attitude. Anyone can complain, and most people do.
Extraordinary Gratitude in Marriage
Gratitude requires effort. Two years ago, I set out to compile my own gratitude list on my blog. I thought it would be fun to challenge myself to identify 101 reasons for joy. This task was more difficult than I anticipated. Sure, it started off easy, but around the midway point, I lost steam. By the time I reached number 101, I had thought I had my bases well covered. In other words, coming up with additional items I was thankful for was difficult.
Barbra’s list of 145,000 reasons for happiness proves I had not even scratched the surface. It has been said that most people are about as happy as they make up their minds to be. I believe this is true. What surprised me most about Barbra’s list is how ordinary it is. Very few lines blow me away. Instead, I find myself thinking, Yes, I’m thankful for that, and that, and that, too. Barbra, writes, “Paying attention to life—to its beauty, oddity, wonder—is what happiness is all about. Thus, the genius of her book is its simplicity. Barbra’s persistence, coupled with her ability to notice simple joys, has helped her uncover so many things to be happy about.
The Gratitude Challenge for Couples
You and your loved one probably have much more to be happy about than you realize. In relationships, the little things are a big deal. Often it’s the small acts of kindness that matter most. Joy is a common theme in this blog, and creating a happy marriage is possible. But ordinary joy is not enough. I want to challenge you to take your gratitude and joy to a whole new level. I won’t ask you to compile a list of 145,000 reasons for joy, nor even 14,000. Similar to a muscle, building joy requires time, exertion, and repetition.
But what about adding ten new reasons for happiness to your list? After all, the two of you came together out of joy, right? You can write your answers in the comments, or print off The Gratitude Challenge worksheet to get started!
Can you list ten things you’re grateful for in your relationship? And what are you doing to develop an attitude of gratitude in marriage? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below. Your relationship matters and is bigger than you alone. So how are you nurturing this amazing bond?
Daily Gratitude in Marriage
For a daily dose of marriage gratitude, be sure to check out our I Thrive Facebook Group. This group is different because it is filled with couples who long to take a positive approach to their marriage. Sure, there will always be problems to fix. This is what happens when two imperfect people wed. We, however, believe in finding reasons for joy amid both the good seasons and the challenging ones. Our tribe would love to cheer you on, and we would love to have you celebrate your marriage with us.
For a quick boost, you may also want to check out my latest book, Joyfully Married. You’ll find additional strategies for boosting your gratitude in marriage. Joyfully Married is packed with thirty-days of simple relationship wisdom and challenges to help you connect like never before. If you and your loved one took one small step to improve your marriage, every day, for the next thirty days, just imagine how much your relationship would grow!