It can be hard to remember gratitude in relationships. Things we previously found endearing, were easily willing to do for, or would put up with from the other person can become frustrating annoyances. Small irritations are easily brushed off in the beginning phase of a relationship. Soon, though, repeatedly picking up towels from the floor is not so pleasant!
Relationships truly take consistent work and effort. In the beginning relationships are so gratifying because they are the reward after the long day. How great it is, after a long day of work, to see that person you have come to admire! The longer we are together, though, the more accustomed to each other we become, and the more the stress of life simply gets in the way. Now, it takes effort to feel the rewards of that relationship.
Gratitude in relationships can go a long way for the health of the relationship itself, the health and wellbeing of your partner, and the health and wellbeing of you! It is much less exhausting to find a different way of thinking of things, to be grateful for the good things, than to continue to hold anger for those little annoyances – and to repetitively fight about the same things. Even when we fight or are mad, there is something we can find to appreciate. Appreciate their point of view. Something they did. Things they have done in the past. Who they are as a person. What they do for others.
Consider a new way – just try it and see…
When you are frustrated about picking up those towels for the thousandth time, remember that it is you who created the situation! You created a nice habit in which he/she did not have to pick up towels anymore. Imagine the frustration of breaking this habit they did not know was bothering you so – have empathy for this!
Now, remember all the good things this person does. How amazing he/she is at work, how great with the kids, cooking for you, planning vacations, rubbing your feet, watching movies you enjoy, being an amazing lover, putting up with your family, etc. When you cannot fight the desire to complain at, try to state something you are grateful for instead. And if you cannot muster the energy to say anything nice, don’t say anything at all! Work to gain the mental energy to say nothing, walk away, and work on calming down and creating thoughts of gratitude in private. Exercise to burn off some frustration before you react! Later, or tomorrow, try to tell your partner something you are grateful for about them. And, you try to act toward them in the way you want them to act toward you! You become the thoughtful, grateful amazing lover, cooker, taking care of the kids, massaging, planning dates, etc!
For those things you find yourself continually frustrated with and ungrateful because your partner just does not do this one thing you want him/her to do, think of whether or not that thing may be important to him/her. Just because you want the recycling out every week does not mean your partner cares at all about recycling! Just be grateful he/she cares about clearing the snow for the garbage truck! Then, take out the recycling yourself. Not having the fight will make you feel better, not being mad at your partner will make you feel better, saving the planet will be its own reward for you, and you can smile and be happier today – and grateful for your partner for something else! Just reading about this action may make you feel lighter and more positive – imagine putting it in place!
Remember, when you find yourself continually frustrated with or fighting over the same things, something needs to change. Complaining is not making the change. Rather than telling your partner what to do, tell them how frustrating it is for you and ask try to work together to compromise. Then, when your inevitably partner fails at the agreed upon compromise, remind yourself habits take time to change, and be grateful he/she is trying. Give a gentle reminder and a great big thank you for the effort!
Janice Kaplan has a nice chapter on gratitude in relationships in her book The Gratitude Diaries. It is worth a read for more advice on the power of gratitude in your relationship. She also has a chapter on gratitude for your kids worth checking out!
Freeing up these frustrations from your mental energy truly provides health benefits. It gives you the space to think of yourself and your goals, and to focus on things that are truly more important – like your personal health and wellbeing and that of the relationship. Your personal health will be so much better when you let go of anger and begin to feel more grateful. Your energy will soar, and you can put that energy into your healthy goals! This is particularly true if you let that negative energy lead to unhealthy coping behaviors like overeating or not exercising.
The work of putting gratitude and positivity back into your relationship pays off in ways that are well worth the benefit!