05-04-2008, 12:17 PM
Join Date: Jan 2007
Location: New Orleans, LA
| | Rejuvenate your relationship through the power of gratitude | by Richard Nicastro PhD
You have the power to change your mood at this very moment—to increase your optimism, elevate your energy and enthusiasm, and increase your motivation toward reaching your personal goals. How is this possible? By sowing the seeds of gratitude. Research shows that when you increase feelings of gratitude, a domino effect occurs and you begin to experience other positive changes as well, such as increased overall happiness. If you’ve ever been told to "count your blessings," you should have listened. What is gratitude and why is it important to your relationship? At some point in your relationship you will take your partner for granted. There’s really no way around this. Don’t panic—this doesn’t mean you love your partner any less or that your relationship is troubled. (After all, most of us take <i>life</i> for granted at one time or another, but that doesn’t mean we don’t love being alive!) Patterns develop in relationships that lead us to expect certain things from our partners. The joy and tenderness that was once stirred by a morning hug or warm greeting can get lost because of sheer repetition or busy lives that compete for attention. Gratitude is the antidote to taking your partner for granted. First and foremost, gratitude is a mindset. Gratitude is not a one-time event but rather a mindset that requires cultivation. A gratitude mindset can refocus your attention, pointing out all the small, easily over-looked things your partner does. It reminds you that your wife didn’t have to phone "just to say hello" or that your husband didn’t have to cook dinner after a long, exhausting day. The gratitude mindset silences anti-appreciative thoughts like, "She’s supposed to do that…" or "He’s just doing what any father should do…" When you embrace gratitude and make it part of your inner dialogue, you’ll hear yourself saying, "She’s such a thoughtful person" or "Our children are lucky to have him as a father." Adopting the mindset of gratitude takes commitment. But, if you decide to become more consistently grateful for your partner or spouse, look what you’ll get in return: you’ll feel better about yourself and your relationship; you’ll feel more positive and optimistic about the future of your relationship or marriage; your partner will sense this optimism and positive outlook and therefore will feel appreciated, and will become infected by the spread of gratitude. How to begin: ~ Begin to notice all the small things your partner does, especially all the things you typically expect him/her to do. The next time your partner gets the children fed and off to school before heading to work, notice the love, dedication and multi-tasking skills involved in this activity. ~ Be open to your partner’s uniqueness. Remind yourself of all the reasons you are drawn to your partner. What is it about this person that made you want to spend the rest of your life with him/her? ~ See things from a fresh perspective. He’s made you coffee every morning for the last three years; She’s stopped to pick up takeout each Friday after work for the last year; Rather than going the typical route of a bakery, he bakes your birthday cake each year (forget, for a moment, the fact that it tasted like soot)… It’s easy to get used to these repetitive, kind gestures and it’s even easier to rationalize them as something most people would do—take my word for it, not everyone would do all the special things your partner does. ~ Each evening, mentally revisit the time you spent with your partner that day. Notice the conversations you had, the things s/he did. Think of which unique traits that your partner possesses were on display that day (e.g., her sense of humor, the way she smiles, his tenderness). ~ Stop and smell the coffee (that perhaps your partner brewed). Allow yourself the time to feel grateful for what you’re noticing. Become absorbed in your appreciation and savor the experience. Since capturing things on paper can help you slow down and mindfully focus on things you’re grateful for, write down what you’re noticing and appreciating in your partner. The few minutes this will take is well worth the effort. ~ Communicate your gratitude to your partner in a way that feels meaningful to you. This can be direct (telling your partner how you feel) or indirect (doing something thoughtful for your partner). Remember: although it might feel like human nature to focus on what isn’t working, it’s most gratifying and rewarding to begin with an awareness and appreciation of the strengths that you and your partner already bring to the relationship. Adopting a gratitude mindset is one way to help you begin transforming your relationship. To discover others, sign up for Dr. Nicastro's free Relationship Toolbox Newsletter at Life Talk Coaching and immediately receive two FREE reports that will help you achieve your relationship potential. Richard Nicastro, Ph.D. is a psychologist and relationship coach who is passionate about helping couples protect the sanctuary of their relationship. Rich and his wife Lucia founded LifeTalk Coaching, an internet-based coaching business that helps couples strengthen their relationships.
Chris Hartwell, MSW