My husband, John, likes to make poached eggs for breakfast and have steamed broccoli for a midmorning snack. Both foods have a pungent smell that wafts through the house. Does that make me grateful for my spouse?
Well, if I choose to focus on how I have to find ways to freshen the air in the house, I could get really annoyed. Instead, I choose to be thankful. I am grateful I have a husband who cooks his own breakfast and enjoys eating healthy. And that switch in perspective helps me feel thankful for my spouse—and my marriage.
For me, that’s the secret to having a good marriage. It isn’t about trying to make your marriage great. It’s about being thankful for my spouse and the marriage I have.
A different perspective
The problem with trying to make a marriage great is that the focus is on looking at what’s wrong. Then we try to “fix” it. We don’t like a certain habit, such as our spouse being perpetually late. So we set our sights on changing our spouse. But we should work on changing ourselves so we respond differently, even when we find ourselves late through no fault of our own. Once we get a handle on how to do that, we may believe our marriage will get better—at least until the next annoying habit invades our facade of contentment.
My “good marriage” approach, on the other hand, starts by adopting a different tactic. It starts by acknowledging that wee all have small, but annoying, habits. So my attitude changes and I focus on being grateful for my spouse, the person I already have in my life. Being thankful encourages me to look at what’s good and right in the marriage. So if you can find a reason to be thankful, then do it.
Of course, you can’t be thankful for every fault your spouse has. Just as your spouse won’t be thankful for some of yours. The point isn’t to avoid a root issue (infidelity, pornography, etc.) and pretend you have a “good” marriage because you’re not willing to confront problems. But when faced with personality differences, if you are actively looking for things to be thankful for in your marriage, you might be surprised at how many you find.
Many years ago, a woman in a Bible study I attended said something that has stuck with me all these years. She said her car was in the shop, so all they had to rely on was her husband’s nice car and her teenage son’s old car. She explained that her husband loved his car, so she assumed she’d drive her son’s car to work. But her husband gave her his car. She said, “In giving me his car and being willing to drive the old, rusty one, my husband died to his pride, desire for convenience and comfort so I would have something good.” That act helped her be thankful for her spouse.
I came home from the study with a new perspective. I began to see all the ways my husband “dies” daily for me. Throughout the years, he has offered me the only remaining portion of dessert, let me choose the Friday night movie or chose to visit my parents instead of his for the holidays. Basically, any of his efforts to put me first.
Thinking of these filled me with thankfulness, and I started to be even more grateful for my spouse. There’s just not much room in my heart for criticism or complaint if I’m actively looking for ways I am thankful for my spouse.
Fall is here, and my thoughts turn to Thanksgiving, that holiday when we focus on all we have to be grateful for. I offer one more reason to learn to be thankful: Marriages grow stronger and life gets sweeter when we start exercising gratitude for our spouse. •