Approaching Your Relationship from a Place of Gratitude

I often start sessions with couples by encouraging them to share with each other one thing that they have done for the relationship that they are proud of, and one thing their partner has done for them that they are grateful for.  As they sit quietly, getting in touch with their own sense of gratitude, I sometimes find myself asking myself, “well, what about you?  What have you done for your relationship recently?”  What have you done for Steve that that you are proud of, and what has he done for you that you are grateful for? ”

Last week I realized that I wasn’t sure what my answer would be if someone were to ask me that question.  So that evening I decided to practice what I preach and suggested to Steve that we do a brief gratitude dialogue every evening.  He agreed, and already I felt grateful – grateful that my partner is willing to take time and energy to nurture our relationship when I know that his life is busy and stressful.

The wonderful thing about gratitude is that it’s both contagious and self-reinforcing.  When someone tells me that they are grateful for something I have done or said, I find myself getting in touch with the things I am grateful for.  And once I start thinking about what I am grateful for, and sharing it with others, I become even more aware of my many blessings.  It is as though, once pointed in the right direction my brain takes off – you could even say it has a mind of its own!

So why don’t we tell each other what we appreciate more often?  Part of the answer is that the human brain has a negativity bias – we are formatted to look for trouble so that we can avoid it, and we have to be conscious of looking for all of the good things that are in our lives as well.  I also suspect that in our cynical world we may feel silly thanking each other for the small things in life.  After all, so much of what we have to be grateful for are the little things of life; the ways we take care of each other, the everyday chores, the quiet pleasures that are part of our daily existence.  And yet, when we say it out loud it has the power to change the energy of the way in which we connect with each other.

If you don’t want to do a formal dialogue you can express gratitude as a “sneak attack,” a text or phone call saying, “I just want to let you know how much I appreciate….”   Or set aside time each day to sit or walk together, smiling, holding hands and taking turns sharing:

“One thing I’ve done for our relationship (or you) recently that I’m proud of is…”

“One thing you’ve done for our relationship (or me) recently that I’m grateful for is…”

“And what I’m really appreciating right now in this moment is…”

You may find that your sense of gratitude and joy will grow and blossom, and your connection with each other will feel warmer and deeper.  As you get in touch with your gratitude in your relationship you may find your gratitude in other areas of your life manifesting as well, and with gratitude comes a sense of peace and a contentment of heart.

Posted by Laura

Laura Marshall, LCSW, is the founder and director of the Sagebrush Center for Relationship Therapy. Her experience spans thirty years of supporting couples and individuals to create healthy and meaningful lives and relationships. She is also adjunct faculty for the New Mexico Highlands School of Social Work. She lives with her husband Steve and five sons in Farmington, New Mexico.

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