How to make your marriage work

The Foundational Principles for Creating Spectacular Relationships Series

Developing an Attitude of Gratitude


Having an attitude of gratitude is a basic fundamental principle for good mental health. It is not only important in your relationships, but in every area of your life.

If you think about it, there is an opportunity to complain about almost anything in life. If you work outside of your home you can complain about the commute to work, the traffic, the crowds. If you watch a lot of television you can complain about the economy, the crime rate, the government. You don’t have to TRY to see the negative that is out there.  In much of our society, we are already well practiced.  The opportunities to see what is wrong with the world are everywhere. Yet, what may not be so apparent is that interestingly enough, so are the opportunities to see what is right with the world.

In every moment that there is sadness and disappointment in people’s lives, somewhere in the world there is also joy and magic occurring. For every moment that someone passes away, there is a new baby being born. In every moment when someone is doing something wrong there are people who are doing what is right. There are parents cheering on their children at a local sporting event, there are people walking to raise money for cancer research, or a friend is reaching out to support someone right now who is struggling. Right now someone is experiencing their first kiss. Right now a child is seeing a puppy for the very first time. Magic is happening all around us, and yet often times we are so focused on the problems we have that completely miss it.

It is so easy in our world today to notice what is wrong instead of what is right. Yet, it is not possible to be critical of something and live in a spirit of gratitude at the same time. I have not discovered yet anyone who can be truly grateful for all that they have in this life and at the same time, feel like they are missing out. This is why we must make it one of our daily habits to develop an attitude of gratitude. We must make a point and a HABIT of noticing what is going right.

In our 46 Days to a Spectacular Relationship program, we talk about the fact that whatever we want to have good results in, in our lives, we need to give time, energy and attention to.  Similar to the concept that if you want to have a strong body, you need to eat healthy and go to the gym each day.  You can’t just work out once and expect to always have great results.  This principle is also true in our relationships.  In order for us to get great results, we need to dedicate time, energy and attention each day.  In our relationship program, we refer to this concept as “taking your relationship to the gym each day”.

When I was first starting this initial concept of “going to the gym,” one of the very first things I started on was developing an attitude of gratitude.  Although I had no idea how to make a relationship great at that point in my life, I knew that I needed to start somewhere.  I also could tell that I had been so blinded to what I used to appreciate about my wife because I had been so obsessed with what I believed were her faults.  So I began by deciding that one day I would take out a piece of paper and making a list of all the things that I thought were good about my wife. The very first time that I attempted this exercise about 30 minutes into it I found that I had only written down a total of three things (and since I am a guy, two of them had to do with sex). The very fact that I couldn’t come up with hardly anything positive about my wife told me that I had been spending entirely too much time focusing on what she had been doing wrong and not enough time noticing what she does that is right.

This discovery alone made me realize that I really had some work to do. So from that day forward, I committed to begin noticing all of the many things that I was grateful for about my wife. From when she made our bed in the morning to the way that she took such good care of our daughter, I began to notice and appreciate what she was doing.

What was interesting is that as I pushed myself each day to look for and appreciate all that she did that was good, I was able to better see all that I had been taking for granted, and was able to once again become grateful for this woman.

The truth is that each and every one of us have great qualities, talents and attributes, and we also have what people could consider as “perceived” flaws.  However, over time, if we do not develop the HABIT of looking and staying FOCUSED on APPRECIATING the value that our spouses bring into our lives, by default we will begin to see what we perceive as “wrong” with them.  This method of our own thinking can BLIND us to all that we could otherwise and SHOULD otherwise be appreciating about them.  Which is a habit, that none of us can afford to create.

To have any level of happiness in life, we simply MUST develop the HABIT of having an ATTITUDE of GRATITUDE.  We must TRAIN ourselves to LOOK for and see what is good in our world, in our spouses, our kids and in ourselves.  The reason that I say that we must train ourselves to develop this habit is because for most of us, doing this is not something we do naturally meaning that we need to set an intention do to this and make it a habit in our lives.

Fortunately, this is something that you can do starting immediately.  And if you are one of those who wants to make their lives and their marriage spectacular, you have the ability to start making things better by incorporating this one small but IMPACTFUL principle today.

If you want to change your relationship and your life, today is your opportunity to make a shift and start to develop your own attitude of gratitude.  If you choose to play along, and do the following exercise for 30 days, I promise you that this one habit will change your relationship and your life.

Foundational Principle for Creating Spectacular Relationships – Exercise One

Start a gratitude journal.

Start today by going to the store and buying a journal (or use a regular notebook from home if you would like). Take some time (about 30 minutes or so) and make an initial list of all of the things that you can think of that you are grateful for about your spouse. Do not do this casually. Take the time to stop and listen for your answers. Keep in mind that if this list is not long in the beginning, don’t be discouraged. It just means that you have been spending more time noticing what is wrong in your relationship instead of what is right. However, do not let this stop you either. Keep pushing each day to see more than the day before. The good news is that just like any muscle, the more you begin to use your gratitude muscle, the stronger it becomes and the better you will at noticing what is right.

After you have finished your journaling exercise today, commit to journaling in it each and every day, taking notice again of all the things you appreciate about your spouse and are grateful for. Do this at minimum for your spouse and your relationship, and then if you want to take your level of gratitude and happiness to the next level, do this also for your life.

* For those of you who are looking to take an already good relationship and making it even better, you may want to consider sharing this journal with your spouse as a gift after this process is complete. We have had several clients start a gratitude journal and then give to it their spouse after a year, with all of the things that they have appreciated about them each day in it.   It is a fantastic way of letting them know all of the various ways they have made a difference in your life.