A Child, A Dream or A Plan?

To have a child is to dream, to hope, to believe in a better world. Parents may be distressed and pessimistic about the future of so many things (the environment, the ability of people to care for and love one another, healthcare, etc.); but, when we fall in love and have children, we make an implicit statement of hope that the world can and will improve. Perhaps we have this hope because our children are born through our expression of love. They are a life created and nurtured by our love. Even more, like the Grinch’s heart, our love grows “three sizes” even before our children breath their first breath and “three sizes” more when they return our love.  With each infant giggle and toddler step, our hopes and dreams grow and rise on stronger wings of love.

But there is a danger in all this. Sometimes we begin to pin our hopes and dreams on a blueprint that we have secretly developed in our minds. We begin to focus on the perceived outcome of our dream, our blueprint, rather than our children’s dreams. We may even label our child as the athlete, the teacher, the little mother, the future lawyer, or the senator based on the blueprint we have in mind. Our label, rather than an admiring and jovial epitaph to hold lightly, becomes etched in stone for all eternity. We start to believe that raising our child is like following the blueprint—carefully follow the blueprint and you will create the end result you always dreamed of and planned for.

The problem, however, arises from the fact that our children are not “the end result” of our neatly designed blueprints and plans. They are not products and outcomes but living dynamic beings in their own right. They will not be confined by our dreams. They have dreams of their own to pursue.

Our children are not the product of our carefully designed plans, but seeds planted in the soil nourished by our love, attention, and vision. They are the tender shoot that grows under the protection of the loving structure we provide. They are the young plants flourishing in the gentle rains and sunlight of our loving discipline. We don’t really know exactly when the wildflower we call our children will bloom, what color it will be, or even what fruit it will produce. We only know that in the soil of our love and structure, they will grow strong and beautiful. They will reach for their own dreams…and we will support their branches.

Yes, Alison Gopnik is right. Parenting is much more like a gardener nourishing a wildflower garden than it is like a carpenter following blueprints. So, pick up your hoe and your fertilizer and start to nourish an environment in which your children can thrive. Then sit back and enjoy the beauty of who they become.

How Happy Couples Fight

Couples have disagreements. They argue. They get angry at one another. But many couples remain happily together in spite of this. How do they do it? How can a happy couple still have marital problems? That’s the question that a group of researchers (Rauer, Sabey, Proulx, & Volling) set out to answer. To answer the question, they looked at two groups of heterosexual married couples. One group was in their mid-to-late thirties and had been married an average of nine years. The other group was in their early seventies and had been married an average of 42 years. Researchers observed the couples discussing marital problems. This is what they discovered.

  1. Happy couples focused on issues with clear solutions first. This involved issues like distribution of household chores or how to spend their free time. The solutions to these problems were more concrete, measurable so to speak. Focusing on more solvable problems built up both partners’ sense of security in the relationship. It strengthened the sense of “we” in the relationship as they worked to successfully solve these “issues.” It helped to enhance intimacy.
  2. Happy couples rarely focused on those problems that involved more difficult solutions. They focused less on those perpetual problems. Perhaps more difficult-to-solve problems threatened each partners’ confidence in the relationship. By focusing on the more solvable problems, they built a solid base of security that allowed for the greater possibility of solving some of the more difficult problems through willing sacrifice and difficult compromise as well.
  3. Couples married longer reported fewer serious issues. They also reported arguing less overall. This, in combination with other research, suggests that happy couples learn to prioritize their marriage. Over time, they come to realize that some issues just aren’t worth the argument. They learn to choose their battles wisely.

So, how do happy couples fight? In the words of the Grail Knight in Indiana Jones, they “choose wisely.” They choose to focus first on those solvable problems in their marriage. Doing so builds a foundation of trust, a strong sense of security. It is a practical way of prioritizing the “we” of their marriage above the individual. This foundation allows them to solve some problems that remain more difficult to resolve. As they do this, they learn to prioritize their marriage above individual wants and desires, even those desires one partner may believe to be a need. Ironically, they even learn that some of those “difficult-to-solve” problems really aren’t as essential as they use to believe. They just aren’t worth the argument. The relationship is more important. And rather than watching their marriage decay in the pain of bad decisions (like the man who drank from the wrong cup in Indiana Jones), they focus on gaining the intimacy, wisdom, and joy of a happy marriage. They “choose wisely.”

After the Fight: Cold War or Intimate Harmony

Every family has conflict. It’s inevitable. Couples are going to disagree and argue. Siblings are going to clash, compete, and struggle with one another. Parental wisdom and desires are going to collide with their children’s push for independence. These skirmishes can create a cold war within the family; or, they can promote an intimate harmony within the family. What makes the difference?

Researchers from the University of Texas at Dallas asked the same question. To find an answer, they recruited 226 cohabiting couples to keep an online diary of their conflicts for two weeks. They also gave them a checklist of behaviors to indicate how they resolved their conflicts. The checklist had 18 possible post-conflict behaviors that fell into one of four categories. (The 18 post-conflict behaviors and the four related categories were determined from a previous study by the same group of researchers.) At the end of the two-week period, each couple came to the lab where they engaged in “discussions” centered on two of their conflict issues, one chosen by each partner. The researchers observed each couple’s arguments first-hand in this setting. They discovered that a cold war or a more intimate family resulted not from the argument itself, but from which of the four categories of behaviors their post-conflict actions fell into.

  1. Avoidance, one of the four categories of post-conflict behavior, was more likely to result in a cold war. Such practices might include “pretending” like everything is fine even though no resolution was reached, not talking about it, or just ignoring the issue. As you can imagine, avoiding the issue does not make it go away. It only makes it worse. At best, a cold war can ensue. At worst, Shut Up and Put Up can Ruin Your Marriage.
  2. Letting go, another strategy couples use following a conflict, had in mixed results.  Letting go can work wonders for small issues like whether the toilet paper goes over the top or the bottom (top, of course) or whether the toothpaste is squeezed from the middle or bottom (bottom, obviously). But letting go can prove much less effective in larger issues…and, in such cases can lead to a cold war. Gottman suggests that 69% of marital issues are “perpetual problems.” They are unsolvable. They may be the result of differences in personality (extraverted vs. introverted, for example) or lifestyle (desire to travel, level of  house clutter tolerated, etc.). When it comes to “perpetual problems,” we need to accept the ways in which our spouse is different than us. At the same time, these issues don’t go away. Couples will continually return to them in their disagreements and arguments. To keep them from destroying the relationship, couples must learn to approach the conflict of “perpetual problems” with gentleness, personal responsibility, and humor. They must learn to build an overall environment of gratitude and appreciation into their home. Letting go, in and of itself, is incomplete and not effective in the bigger, more perpetual problems.
  3. Gaining new perspective, another post-conflict behavior, sounds like a great option. We are often encouraged to take our spouse’s perspective. Taking perspective can help us gain understanding and build a willingness to compromise…maybe. But if the compromise is one-sided or given begrudgingly, it can lay a root of bitterness, lingering ill-feelings, or even anger at the lack of perceived reciprocation. The result? A potential cold war. So, quit taking your spouse’s perspective and become more like a fly on the wall instead.
  4. Active repair, the final category of post-conflict behaviors, stood out above all the others in effectively promoting an intimate harmony and happiness. Active repair builds harmony through intentional listening, expressions of affection, and learning to give it up to lift up your marriage.

Conflict, disagreement, arguments…they can lead to a cold war or they can promote a more intimate harmony. It all depends on what you do after the conflict. What will you do? Avoid? Let it go? Gain new perspective? Work toward actively repairing the relationship? The choice is clear. Actively repair will promote more intimate harmony…and that is well worth the effort.

Good News for Parents of Children with Asthma

Northwestern University conducted a study exploring the interaction between neighborhood environmental conditions, families, and asthma symptoms in children diagnosed with asthma. Using Google Street View, the researchers took a virtual walk through each neighborhood considered to look at evidence of graffiti, abandoned cars, bars on home windows and doors, and abandoned homes. Then they interviewed the children who lived in the various communities about their family relationships, especially regarding support, trust, and conflict present in the family. Finally, they measured asthma outcomes in the children. 

They discovered that children living in neighborhoods high in danger and disorder had fewer asthma symptoms and fewer activity limitations when they had better family relationships. The children with positive family relationships also had better pulmonary functioning.  (In neighborhoods lower in danger and disorder, family relationships did not impact their asthma.)

That’s great news. Positive family relationships helped to decrease children’s symptoms of asthma. It buffered them from the impact of other negative environmental factors that might increase those symptoms (like living in a dangerous neighborhood). So, if you have a child with asthma and you want to help them manage their asthma effectively, build positive family relationships in general and a positive relationship with your child, in particular. Here are some great ways to do it.

  • Spend time in positive activities with your child. Read to them. Play games with them. Go for a walk with them. Talk with them. Develop a bedtime routine that includes time together before bed. Be creative in how you do it but spend time with your children. (Here are some Mundane Opportunities for Quality Time with your children.)
  • Keep your promises. Follow through on your word. Doing so will increase their trust in you. It will also increase their self-control (Teach Your Child the Art of Waiting).
  • Become knowledgeable of their lives. Learn about their interests. Meet their friends. Help them with schoolwork. Show interest in their hobbies. Acknowledge their strengths. Remember Parents are Students…and Guess Who the Teacher Is!
  • Acknowledge the “positives” in their life. Show gratitude for their positive actions. Thank them for doing chores (even if they’re supposed to do them). Acknowledge their efforts. Recognize their beauty. Thank them for dressing appropriately.

These four actions can help you build a positive relationship with your child. If you live in a neighborhood that presents some dangers and disorder, that relationship with help your child manage their asthma symptoms more effectively…and this treatment is free!

Two Tips For Better Marital Communication

“That’s all you did today?” With those words the marital conflict began. Heart rates quickened. Pulses started to race. “You never appreciate anything I do around here!” Now both partners started talking over one another. Winning (and thus gaining of sense of safety and control) became the goal of this “heated discussion.” Criticism increased. Defensiveness turned to accusation. Both people jumped to conclusions and both said things they never really wanted to say. Why? Because one statement, perhaps poorly phrased, was misunderstood and triggered the fight or flight response. Their rational brains were no longer running the show. Instead, their “fight-or-flight-to-save-your-butt-brains” were running things. But what could they have done differently? It’s hard to do things differently in the moment of defensiveness and anger. However, there are skills you can practice in the daily life of your marriage that will prime you to make a better response in such a moment. Practicing these two tips with your spouse when you encounter minor disagreements or during everyday conversation can prepare you for a better response in the “heat of the moment.”

First, practice thinking about the words you use when talking to your spouse. Some words come across as privileged, patronizing, or moralizing. For instance, “I need you to…” can come across as though my need is more important than your need, especially in a moment of conflict. It sounds entitled, as though “I” am entitled to having “my” needs met even at “your” expense.

“You should…” is a moralizing statement. It sounds as though the listener is wrong if they do otherwise. It induces guilt. In the words of Albert Ellis, “Don’t ‘should on people.”

“I encourage you to…” sounds patronizing, especially during the heat of an argument. It sounds like a way of saying, “I’m really right and ‘I encourage you’ to take the time to recognize that.”

So, what can you say instead?

  • Try “It would really help me if you could….” Or, “I would like it if you….” These statements offer invitations to possible solutions.
  • You might even try switching the “I” to “we.” “We might need to….” Or, “maybe we could….” These statements recognize that the marital partners form a team with no single partner more important than the other.
  • An even bolder approach is to take ownership for our own part in the conflict and the solution. “I need to….” Or, “tell me again so I can better understand what you mean” are statements that help with this. 

Second, practice recognizing the difference between the content of what your partner says and the relationship message underlying the content. The content merely refers to the topic of discussion or disagreement. The relationship message speaks to the connection between you and your spouse. Many times, a statement about content becomes a misunderstood relationship message because of tone of voice (which may be impacted by mood, tiredness, other people), the context, or the emphasis placed on certain words.

  • For instance, “That’s all you did today?” can easily be misunderstood to mean “You should have done more.” When it might simply mean “I didn’t realize it was such a big job and would take so long.”
  • “You’re home late” can be misunderstood as “You don’t care enough about me to get home earlier.” It might mean “I didn’t realize you would be so late. What happened?”

The only way to know is to check your initial reaction of defensiveness and anger so you can ask for or offer clarification. “Yes, it turned out to be a bigger job than I thought.” “Can I show you how much I did? It’s surprising.” “Sorry, traffic was heavy. I wanted to get home earlier.” “Yeah, I got a last-minute phone call at the office. Did my late arrival mess up any of your dinner plans?”

Think about the words you use and what they might mean during conflict. Recognize the difference between the content of the message and the relationship message inherent in a statement. These are subtle practices. However, paying attention and practicing these two tips can bring reduce conflict and bring greater intimacy to your marriage.

Rather Than Building a Bully, Try This…

None of us want our children to become a bully. That’s why I really like the study published in the Journal of Youth and Adolescence. The researchers of that study followed 1,409 children from 7th through 9th grade to explore how parenting style impacts a teen’s ability to manage emotions such as anger. This study revealed the negative impact of a parenting style that expressed criticism, sarcasm, put-downs, and hostility toward children while using emotional and physical coercion to gain compliance from children. They called this a “derisive parenting style.”

This “derisive style” of parenting contributed to children who had poorly regulated or poorly controlled anger. In the peer interactions, poorly controlled anger led to more negative emotions, greater verbal and physical aggression, and hostility. The poorly controlled anger put teens at greater risk for bullying AND victimization AND for becoming a bully who is also victimized by other bullies.

I don’t know any parent who wants their child to becomes a bully, a victim, or a bully-victim. So, rather than using “derisive parenting style” let me suggest a kinder, more loving kind style.

  • Rather than criticism offer sincere appreciation for what’s done well, constructive appraisals around areas of potential improvement, and acceptance for differing ideas.
  • Rather than sarcasm offer playful banter, respectful limits, and loving boundaries.
  • Rather than put-downs offer much needed encouragement, admiration of positive effort, and compliments on personal growth.
  • Rather than verbal hostility offer verbal affection, loving and firm boundaries, and light-hearted opportunities for laughter.
  • Rather than physical coercion offer healthy physical affection, physical assistance, and gentle guidance.
  • Rather than emotional coercion like shame and guilt offer the emotional support, acceptance of different ideas and methods, and assurance of love.

Ironically, replacing a “derisive parenting style” with a more loving, supportive parenting style results in greater compliance as well as a more independent, confident, and self-controlled child. Step away from building a bully with “derisive parenting;” build a strong, confident child by using a kinder, more loving parenting style instead.

Pathways to a Critical Spouse…& Back Again

Intimacy has several building blocks. Unfortunately, we can topple these building blocks in response to personal issues. When we do, we often find ourselves on the pathway to becoming a critical spouse.  Let me give a few examples as way of explanation.  

Pathway 1: Intimacy requires that we accept our spouse and ourselves. Unfortunately, many people do not accept themselves. Instead, they think all sorts of self-critical remarks. They criticize their abilities, their appearance, their accomplishments, or any number of other things. They may believe their self-criticism motivates them toward improvement and success. But, how many of us would like a teacher or mentor who constantly criticized our efforts and abilities. Rather than motivate, criticism holds us back. We also grow accustomed to criticism when we engage in constant self-criticism. We become hardened to its hurt. We may even lose our ability to recognize it. Eventually, what’s in our mind comes out toward ourselves and others. We become critical not just of ourselves, but of our spouses as well. And, we probably don’t even recognize it when we criticize our spouse…but our spouse recognizes the criticism and it hurt them.

Pathway 2: Some people fear becoming too dependent on their spouse; so, they don’t acknowledge how much their spouse helps them. They don’t show their gratitude and appreciation. Other people don’t believe it necessary to show gratitude to another person for doing “what they’re supposed to do anyway.” So, they don’t acknowledge their appreciation for tasks done. (In case you’re wondering, here’s the reason Why We Thank Our Spouse for Doing Chores even though they’re supposed to do them anyway.) However, in both cases, the ungrateful person feels free to criticize their spouse. Why? Because criticism reinforces their independence from their spouse. Criticism also points out what the other person needs to do to improve so they too can become more independent. Unfortunately, reinforcing my independence and pointing out how my spouse needs to improve only comes across as a critical spouse, especially when I don’t acknowledge any gratitude.

Pathway 3: Many people fear the vulnerability inherent in an intimate relationship. It opens us up for potential hurt. Perhaps we’ve experienced hurt at the hands of loved ones in the past; or, we’ve lost relationships in the past either through “break-ups” or death. Either way, we fear losing the relationship now. In response to that fear, we protect ourselves by keeping some distance between us and the other person. We protect ourselves by limiting access to our deeper emotions. We avoid the vulnerability of intimacy by keeping our spouse at “arm’s length…” and criticism is a one way in which people do this. It’s a very effective way to keep a loved one at “arm’s length” and so protect one’s self from the vulnerability of deepening intimacy.

How can you step off the pathway to a critical spouse and turn back into a loving spouse?

  • Acceptance: In order to have a healthy relationship with another person, we need to know and accept ourselves. Then we must accept our spouse. We can accept our spouse in spite of differences, mistakes, and hurts because we love our spouse and we know they have the best interest of our relationship in mind. (Read Accepting Family Members Unconditionally and Six Tips for Practical Acceptance to learn more on acceptance.)
  • Appreciation: One way to grow in acceptance of one another is to develop a habit of mind that looks for and then verbally acknowledges those things you appreciate about your spouse. Make it a habit to thank them for what they do throughout the day. Voice your admiration for their character and their love. Verbalize your adoration for them as often as you can ever day. A Lack of Gratitude Can Sink Your Marital Ship but building an environment of appreciation will keep it afloat through any storm.
  • Courage: Growing more intimate puts us in a vulnerable position. We are entrusting our lives, our security, and our joys into the hands of another. Doing this takes courage. Yes, you develop this trust over time. Both partners reveal themselves as trustworthy through their words and actions. Still, it takes courage to let down your guard and allow yourself to stand naked (emotionally, mentally, and spiritually as well as physically) and unafraid before your spouse. Be courageous. Show yourself trustworthy to encourage your spouse’s courage.

Practice acceptance, appreciation, and courage to find yourself on the pathway to a loving intimate relationship.  

Savoring X 3 Equals a Stronger Marriage

Traditional marriage vows included the phrases “to have and to hold” and “to love and to cherish.”  After reading the abstract and a short review of a study on cherishing, I think we need to add another phrase, “to have and to savor” (To Have and to Savor: Examining the Associations Between Savoring and Relationship Satisfaction). The authors of this study defined savoring as the “tendency to attend to and enjoy previous, current, and future positive events.” They also noted that savoring consisted of three facets: savoring in anticipation of an event (future), savoring in the present moment (present), and savoring in reminiscence of an event (past). Based on the results of this study of 122 undergraduate students in monogamous dating relationships, all three facets of savoring were associated with relationship satisfaction. Anticipatory savoring, however, had the strongest association to relationship satisfaction. In other words, attending to and enjoying (savoring) positive events and activities with your spouse leads to a happier marriage. No surprise there, right?

How can you savor times with your spouse in the moment, in reminiscing, and most importantly, in anticipation?  Here’s a few ideas.

Savoring your marriage in the moment:

  • Get a babysitter to watch your children and go on a date with your spouse.
  • Put the cell phone away and focus solely on your spouse. (For sure, Do NOT Text and Date.) Enjoy conversation with your spouse.  Flirt. Stare into one another’s eyes. Enjoy the romance.
  • While enjoying a date with your spouse, leave the planning, disagreements, and heated discussions for another time. Focus on those things you enjoy together and the moment of being in one another’s presence. (This will help you Make Date Night Spectacular!)
  • Hold hands. Sit arm in arm. Cuddle. Physical contact can help you remain focused in the present and savor the moment.
  • Take some pictures during your event. These can be used when you “savor your marriage by reminiscing.”

Savoring your marriage by reminiscing:

  • Open the photo album or pull up the pics you took while on previous outings (remember the pictures you took while savoring the moment?) or during previous times in your life as a couple. Look at the pictures of the past events and activities you shared with your spouse and enjoy retelling the stories of those events.
  • Even without pictures, talk about your favorite vacations, your favorite dates, your times of joy and pleasure. Retell the stories of obstacles you have overcome and joys you have experienced together.
  • Enjoy reminiscing about the beautiful story of your life together with all the ups and downs that have brought you closer together. (And enjoy sharing that story with your family…it’s The Story That Will Change Your Family Life.)

Savoring in anticipation (the savoring with the greatest impact on marital satisfaction):

  • Plan an outing for you and your spouse several days in advance. Let it be a surprise. Do not tell them what it is but give daily hints as the event approaches.
  • Plan an outing with your spouse. Talk about your anticipation for the outing.
  • Plan a vacation with your spouse. As a couple, learn some about the history and culture of the place you plan to visit on your vacation. Look up some restaurants and points of interest to visit. Talk about various activities you would like to engage in as a couple during the vacation. 
  • Talk about where you’d like to be in 5 or 10 years. What do you want to be like as a couple? Where would you like to visit as a couple? What would you like to do together…as a couple?
  • All in all, Put the Zing of Anticipation in Your Marriage.

Practice these 3 ways to savor your relationship and grow a stronger marriage. You’ll love the results!

Turn Sibling Fights Into Life-Long Skills

Siblings fight. It’s true. They argue. They disagree. They bicker. They have spats. No matter how you choose to say it, siblings fight. And it’s a good thing they do. Disagreeing and arguing helps our children learn important life-long skills like listening, negotiating, compromising, problem-solving, and conflict resolution. (Read Sibling Rivalry-The Good, The Bad, & The Ugly to learn more.) How you respond to their arguments can help or hinder those skills from developing.  For the sake our children, here is a four-step process you can use to help your children learn some important life-long skills.

  1. Set up the game rules ahead of time. Good disagreements involve rules that promote good communication. Set these rules up ahead of time. The rules will include things like no interrupting, no shouting, no name-calling, no insulting and listen, speak kindly, use a calm tone of voice, and be respectful. Your job as a parent is to help your children stick to the rules while disagreeing. Having simple, clear rules will help you do this. You might even write them on a piece of paper and label them “The Good Fight Rules.”
  2. Say your piece…one at a time. Let each child explain what he or she sees as the problem. They will have to take turns to do this and abide by the rules determined earlier.  You will hear two different perspectives in which your children differ about the main issue. You may discover various triggers for the disagreement as well. The children will learn how their behavior impacts others. They will learn that each person may see the world in a different way. As a parent, don’t get caught up in what sounds like irrational reasons for arguments. The goal is to help each child voice their perspective and hear their sibling’s perspective. 
  3. Consider each perspective. Help your children consider not only their own but the other person’s feelings. Label those feelings. Encourage each child to consider how their words and actions impacted their sibling’s feelings. This can help them build empathy. Let them repeat what their sibling described in step number 2. This will help them learn to listen accurately.
  4. Come up with a solution. In the first three steps your children learned to share, listen, respect, and show empathy. Now they can begin to problem-solve. You can help mediate their discussion. But, let them come up with the solution. You’ll be surprised at their creativity and insight in problem-solving.

Children can start learning this process at a surprising young age, as early as 4 or 5-years-old. So, start young. As you practice this process with your children, they will gain life-long skills by arguing with their sibling, skills that will help them in all their relationships and life situations, even as adults. So follow these tips and you can Count It All Joy When Siblings Fight….

A Gift Couples Must Share to Enjoy

Some gifts are meant for couples to share. They just aren’t as good when your spouse doesn’t share them with you.  For instance, it’s hard to celebrate a victory when your partner is down in the dumps or a “kill-joy.” Researchers at Florida State University uncovered another gift that is meant for couples to share. Not sharing this gift is a subtle but powerful “kill-joy” for a marriage. The gift meant to be shared is gratitude; and gratitude left unshared, a lack of gratitude, is a powerful “kill-joy” that hinders marriage.

This finding comes from a study of 120 newlywed couple who filled out surveys reporting their happiness and satisfaction in their marriage as well as how much gratitude they felt and expressed. The couples were followed for three years. After the first year, they retook the gratitude survey. And, every four months they retook the survey of happiness and satisfaction in their marriage. 

The results revealed that each individual’s level of gratitude impacted the relationship. Specifically, if both partners express gratitude on a regular basis, the couple was more satisfied with their marriage in three years. However, if one partner was grateful and the other ungrateful, marital satisfaction declined steeply over the three-year period. In fact, their marital satisfaction declined more than it did for couples in which both partners were ungrateful!

Individually, those individuals married to a grateful partner tended to be more satisfied after three years but ONLY IF they were grateful people themselves.  If they were not grateful themselves, they became less satisfied with their marriage to a grateful person.

In other words, when it comes to marriage, it takes two grateful people to benefit from the joys of gratitude. If one partner is ungrateful, it pulls both people and their marriage down. Gratitude is meant to be shared within a couple. So, why not decide, as a couple, to increase the level of gratitude in your home? Sit down as a couple and agree to nurture gratitude in your relationship. Commit to sharing gratitude with one another every day. Here’s a simple plan for doing it.

  • Talk with your spouse about all the work that gets done in your home and for your family—everything from laundry, cleaning, repair work, employment to support the family, shopping, transporting children, etc. The list goes on. Write it all down as you go. Take time to thank your partner for the work he or she does in the home and for the family. Keep the list. Look at it each week and add to it as ideas come to mind. When you do think of another contribution your spouse makes to the family, verbally thank them. 
  • Commit to taking 10 seconds three times a day to write down three things you can thank your spouse for today. At the end of the day, tell your spouse at least one of the things you wrote down. (This is actually part of a Math Equation To Save Your Marriage.)
  • Every day take time to review the day and consider what your spouse has done to contribute to the family and the home. Write it down. Then verbally thank them for that contribution.

It takes a little work, but these practices can build an environment of gratitude in your marriage. Sharing mutual gratitude with your spouse will strengthen your marriage. It will also model gratitude for your children who will naturally begin participating in this environment of gratitude by adding their own thanks to the mix. Give it a 30-day trial and let us know how it goes.

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