According to Dictionary.com, gratitude is a feeling of thankfulness or appreciation, as for gifts or favors. Gratitude has also been defined as “an estimate of gain coupled with the judgment that someone else is responsible for that gain” by Robert C. Solomon in his book The Passions.
Now if your marriage isn’t exactly blissful and you’re wondering if you can or even want to save it, feeling thankful for it isn’t an easy thing to do. BUT it may be exactly what you need to do.
According to Robert Emmons, Ph.D., gratitude has some serious, science-proven benefits that will change the way you look at the world (which, btw, includes your marriage). In one of his studies, participants who kept gratitude lists were more likely to make progress toward important personal goal.
Yes, “I want to save my marriage” is definitely an important personal goal that could be more easily gained by practicing gratitude.
This doesn’t mean that you need to feel grateful for every argument you have with your spouse. (Although you could be grateful for the learning opportunity the argument gives you, but that’s a topic for another time.)
It does mean being grateful for other things. But to do that you have to step back from the immediate emotions of anger and hurt and disappointment and whatever other unpleasant emotion you’re bathed in.
And how do you do that? By choosing to become curious about what triggered the latest situation and/or becoming empathetic to both you and your spouse.
This idea isn’t the easiest for me to put into words. But luckily there’s an amazing sculpture by Ukrainian sculptor Alexander Milov that beautifully illustrates the love that still exists between a couple even in the midst of argument and hurt.
Since the first time I viewed this sculpture, I think of it when my husband and I have a blowout. It inspires me to become curious and empathetic despite how much I just want to turn my back, walk away, and wonder privately if I can or even want to save my marriage or not.
Once I move past the immediate pain, I can start (slowly) becoming grateful. I’ll usually start with what my husband and I have created together – our home including everyone and everything we share it with.
And then, as my emotions shift, I start becoming more resourceful. I’ll ask for what I want instead of expecting or demanding it. I’ll encourage him to do the same. I’ll surf the web for helpful ideas and implement them. I’ll also kindly challenge him to do the same.
As I learn to live more in gratitude instead of reaction, my marriage is changing – for the better. The age-old wisdom that Wayne Dyer so eloquently stated “If you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change” is absolutely true and is the cornerstone for me knowing that I can and continue to do my part to save my marriage through gratefulness.
Look, I get that you’re skeptical about this. I was too when I first heard the concept that gratitude can change your relationship. And I need to let you know that gratitude won’t help everyone save their marriage. It’s not a panacea.
Some marriages can’t be fixed.
If your spouse is abusive to either you or your children, if your spouse is an addict who isn’t getting treatment, or your marriage is an abysmal example for your children, then I want you to stop reading right now and call an attorney. You can’t fix that stuff with gratitude. You and your family will have a better shot at a good life if you end the marriage now and divorce.
But for the rest of us (and, yes, I do still include me here) who have either fleeting wonders or persistent agony about answering the question “Can I save my marriage?”, then gratitude could indeed be the answer you’re looking for. And if it’s not THE answer, it will be a terrific first step to take.
This article originally appeared at http://drkarenfinn.com/divorce-blog/unhappy-marriage/341-can-i-save-my-marriage-with-gratitude.
Dr. Karen Finn is a divorce coach. She works with clients who are confused about whether their marriage can be saved or not. You can join her anonymous newsletter group for free advice or schedule a FREE 30-minute conversation with Karen directly in her Time Trade calendar.