When I was managing a Christian radio station, I had a poster hanging in our main studio. It read, “Thou, that has given so much to me, give one more thing: a grateful heart.” I did this to remind our entire staff that whenever we are on the air, we need to have an “attitude of gratitude.” And that same principle, where we infuse gratitude, applies to our everyday life, and to our marriages.
During this season of Thanksgiving Cindy and I want to stress how important it is for you to infuse gratitude into your marriage. For me, it begins by remembering that God expects me to treat Cindy as a gift. I am to treasure her and treat her as such. Plus, I am to thank God every day for her and for all He does in our life together. I know that God expects me to take on the mission of being a loving husband to her. I have to confess that to my shame I didn’t always see Cindy as a gift.
That’s another reason I’m so grateful today—He gave me another chance to do things right. He may be giving you that chance too.
Infuse Gratitude and Thanksgiving
Over the years we have developed the habit of saying, “thank you,” a lot. Of course, that includes ordinary courtesies of saying thanks for the actions that one of us did for the other. Beyond that, I regularly thank her for meals she prepares and for keeping our home peaceful, clean and inviting. She thanks me for other things I do to make her, and our life together more comfortable. Sometimes it’s just for being faithful, honest, and for being a marriage partner that goes the extra mile.
Some of you may be thinking, “Those things are trivial.” Or it may be, “He/she SHOULD do those things, so why should I have to thank him/her for them?” We believe there is no action too small to show gratitude for. Everyone has the inner desire to be appreciated. No one wants to be taken for granted. On this issue Drs Les and Leslie Parrott wrote:
“Gratitude is one of the few things in a marriage that can instantly and measurably improve a couple’s relationship. The benefits of gratitude are calculable and act as a booster shot for romance. When you are in a romantic rut, try infusing your relationship with a little gratitude. When you do this, you’ll become more elevated, energized and inspired to love better.”
The Parrott’s go on to say:
“Research reveals that people who intentionally focus on gratitude are happier. After all, your life is never more filled with joy than when you are conscious of your blessings. People who focus on being intentionally grateful are happier than most. These people report positive overall feelings. They also have fewer negative complaints about life. They tend to be more grateful towards others, and simply put, enjoy a higher quality of life! All it takes is a conscious effort to be mindful of your blessings each and every day.” (From their article, How to Infuse Gratitude Into Your Relationship, which we recommend you read to learn more.)
Cindy and I are living proof of the truth of what Les and Leslie shared. There is absolutely no doubt that when we began infusing gratitude into our marriage on a regular basis the quality of our marriage escalated dramatically. It can be like a healing balm. And the beauty about this is, you can prove it too. All you have to do is infuse gratitude into your marriage consistently. Then wait to see what starts to happen.
Infuse Gratitude With a Thanksgiving List?
As I was researching for this Marriage Insight I came across this very practical application on the For Your Marriage website. It’s written by Troy and Kathleen Billingsly:
“A Thanksgiving tradition that Troy and I began the first year of our marriage and have continued ever since—is to write an actual list of things we are thankful for in each other. We share our lists with one another on Thanksgiving Day. It is an incredible blessing to not only reflect on what I am grateful for in my husband, but to also experience the joy of hearing him share the list he has written about me. Throughout the year, especially during challenging times, the lists are a perfect reminder for both of us to focus on the blessing of one another and not dwell on the hardship of the moment. Prayerfully consider beginning this tradition to honor your own marriage.
“Your expression of sincere gratitude can bless your spouse and fuel their desire to continue to develop those same endearing behaviors that you appreciate in them.” (From their article, What Are You Thankful For in Your Spouse?)
We’re told in the Bible, “Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” (1 Thessalonians 5:18) In light of this scripture, Troy and Kathleen write:
“There is always something to be thankful for in your spouse. Some days it might just be the fact that you have an opportunity to love them and practice patience despite how difficult it may be. And in doing so, you’re strengthening your character and growing your marriage.”
This is so true!
Being the First to Infuse Gratitude
But sometimes it’s difficult to find things to be thankful for. If that’s true for you, here’s an article we recommend you read:
Just keep in mind that even in the worst of circumstances, God can use them to eventually bring redemption and grow our character.
Now, Cindy and I are not naïve. We know that many of you are thinking. “It sounds good. But I doubt I could get my spouse to show gratitude.” If that’s the case, then YOU can start doing it. Sooner or later your spouse just may ask you, “What are you doing?” Then you can tell them you just want to infuse gratitude into your marriage and into your life.
So, where do we start? How about here:
“Find things about your spouse to be thankful for—that, which you can give appreciation. Even if your relationship has been going bad lately, one of you has to begin the path back to good. And this is one way you can do that. At least once a day authentically thank your spouse for something and give recognition, particularly personal praise. Pay attention for opportunities to speak when you feel them.” (Frank Gunzburg)
It may be difficult to find these “opportunities” at first. But ask God to join you in this treasure hunt.
Here are a few more practical suggestions to implement. I’ll give you an example from our lives. My primary Love Language is Words of Affirmation. (This comes from Gary Chapman’s book, The 5 Love Languages.) Cindy will often infuse gratitude in our relationship when she affirms or compliments me. She will frequently tell me how proud she is of me. I must confess that when she does this it’s hard for me to stay humble. But I sure try.
Strengthening Your Marriage
Poppy Smith adds to this:
“Both husbands and wives need admiration. We want compliments and appreciation for serving a great dinner, and caring for a sick relative. We want accolades for getting a promotion at work, losing weight, looking amazing, hard work, intelligence, ability to provide for the family, etc. To strengthen your marriage, watch for what you can admire [and affirm] in your spouse.” (From the Marriagetrac.com article, “Emotional Needs”)
It can start when we begin to practice random acts of thankfulness. A grateful heart is one that focuses on the good instead of the garbage. When we mine for the ‘gold’ in our spouse, even little ‘praiseworthy’ things we can find, God’s peace has the opportunity to grow. That’s what we’re told in Philippians 4:8-9. So let’s think about whatever is ‘true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable.’“
Using Spouse’s Love Language
Now, Cindy’s primary Love Language is Acts of Service. So, I infuse gratitude into our marriage when I take her car, and wash it. Many times I put gas in the tank (without being asked). This could also be considered a “random act of thankfulness.”
We can’t emphasize enough the difference these simple acts have made in the quality of our marriage. It’s difficult to focus on the negatives when we focus on the positive and that, which is admirable.
When I first started doing this I admit I was intimidated. But I discovered that as I started taking small steps forward, things began to flow more easily. Then I became hungry to learn and implement more. I say this primarily for the benefit of the men who may feel the same way.
On our web site alone, you can find very simple/practical ways to expand your ability to make changes you desire. For example, read the article Small Steps Can Lead to Big Changes.
And the most meaningful ways to infuse gratitude into your marriage doesn’t have to cost you one penny. Robert Emmons, a leading scientific expert on gratitude, says:
“Gratitude is an affirmation of goodness. We affirm that there are good things in the world, gifts and benefits we’ve received.”
I’d like to modify his definition to fit our topic: “Gratitude is an affirmation of the goodness our spouse brings to the marriage. We should affirm the gifts and benefits we’ve received from our relationship.”
The Biblical Approach
Do you want a practical/Biblical approach to giving these kinds of “gifts”? Start in 1 Corinthians 13:4-8:
“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, is not self-seeking, is not easily angered, and keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, and always perseveres. Love never fails.”
Here’s how we have used/applied these verses in our marriage. Once a week we’d sit across each other and ask each other:
– This past week have I been patient or impatient with you?
– Have I been kind or unkind to you?
– Have I shown envy?
– Have I acted boastful or proud?
– Do you feel I have protected you? And so on…
If Cindy told me that she thought I’d been impatient, unkind, etc. with her, then I would ask for her to explain. I would then try not to be defensive and instead ask for forgiveness. And likewise, when she would answer and humbly respond to those questions. It isn’t easy; but it DOES reflect the heart of Christ. And isn’t that what we are supposed to do… reflect God’s heart to each other?
Loving As God Loves
What it comes down to is… we can never do too much to infuse gratitude into our marriage. Think of it this way, Christ gave His everything for us. How can we give any less to our spouse? When I stand before Him one day, I don’t want to hear Him say, “Why didn’t you love Cindy the way I loved you?” And the same goes for Cindy. We hope this applies to your desire and goal for your interactions within your marriage.
Our Thanksgiving Prayer for you this year is that you will take what we have shared here and find ways to infuse gratitude into your heart, actions and marriage.
Steve and Cindy Wright
— ADDITIONALLY —
To help you, we give a lot of personal stories, humor, giving you “smiles” and more practical tips in our book, 7 ESSENTIALS to Grow Your Marriage. We hope you will pick up a copy for yourself. (It’s available both electronically and in print form.) Plus, it can make a great gift for someone else. It gives you the opportunity to help them grow their marriage. And who doesn’t need that? Just click on the linked title or the picture below to do so:
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