As we get ready for one of my favorite holiday, I’m reminded of the value of gratitude in your relationships.
According to Gottman research, the most successful way to turn around contempt in your relationship is with intentional appreciation. But if you’re having a stressful time with your partner, it can be hard to even know where to start. Here’s the secret: It starts with you. It starts with an inner practice of gratitude; it starts with building a sense of appreciation in your own heart for what your partner does. This doesn’t mean ignoring the things that frustrate you; acknowledge them fully. You’re allowed to be upset. But also, every time you’re frustrated, try to think of something you appreciate as well. A friend of mine has a husband who is incredibly friendly. When they were in college, she remembers how they would go to the cafeteria together and he would do something that would just drive her crazy: “I would get my food, find a table, and sit and eat. He, on the other hand, would have about a dozen conversations, hugs, and greetings before he ever made it to the food line, let alone our table. I’d be finished with my meal by the time he sat down! It frustrated me so much to sit alone like that, but the thing is: that’s part of the reason I love him. He is so loving and friendly, and he has so many close friends because he’s so generous; that’s one of my favorite things about him. So, in the end, I asked him to honor my time — but I also learned to accept this flaw, because I knew it was connected to one of his best qualities.”
You’re allowed to be frustrated. She asked him to work on that, to honor her time — but she also found something to appreciate, and they are still happily married. A culture of appreciation starts with your own inner practice.