The sixth of the Six Intimacy Skills™ is refocusing your view with gratitude.
Gratitude is defined as:
the quality of being thankful; readiness to show appreciation for and to return kindness.
Gratitude is an indispensable skill for relationships of all kinds, and especially for long-term intimate ones. Sadly, even in relatively healthy relationships, gratitude can become a rare commodity after years or decades of living together and weathering life’s challenges.
Gratitude is an act of courage and vulnerability, especially in relationships impacted by infidelity or a spouse’s addiction.
For example, if your spouse comes home from a recovery meeting and shows you his 9-month sobriety chip, you have at least two options for responding. The first might sound like, “Why should I praise you for getting a chip? You’re just doing what you should have been doing all along.”
A more vulnerable response — and one that includes gratitude — might sound something like, “Thank you for all the work you’re doing on yourself. When I see this chip I feel more confidence and trust in you.”
Of course, there is truth in the first response — your spouse promised to be faithful.
But is the response helpful? Does it create the connection and intimacy you want, or does it drive another wedge between the two of you? And is the response — no matter how true — focused on what you want more of or what you want less of? Unfortunately, humans have a tendency to hyper-focus on what isn’t working or how we want things to be different, rather than on progress, improvement, or getting at least some of what we want.
Making a conscious, daily effort to practice gratitude — even if it happens only in your thoughts during quiet moments — re-trains your attention on what is going well and where you’re already getting at least some of what you want.
And the more you practice gratitude, the more natural it becomes and the more grateful you will feel.
Here are 3 actions you can take beginning today to increase gratitude:
- Begin saying “thank you” or “I appreciate . . . ” when anyone in your life does something you like or appreciate, especially your spouse.
- Write down 3 things every day your spouse does (or is) for which you are grateful. These can be as simple as walking the dog, to more significant gratitudes like providing abundance for your family through his hard work.
- When you notice that you’re focused on what you don’t like or what you’re not getting enough of — whether it’s your spouse’s time, attention, or physical affection — make a conscious effort to search for evidence that you are in fact receiving some of what you want more of, even if it’s not to the level you would like.
It is extremely common to hear a partner say, “he is never affectionate with me,” and then mention a few moments later that her spouse hugs her every day when he gets home from work. The hug is evidence that he is affectionate, and this is an opportunity for her to notice that she is getting some of what she wants, and to express gratitude. She could say to him, “I love getting hugs from you.”
Expressing gratitude takes courage and vulnerability. You may fear that if you appreciate your spouse for something he does he will take your appreciation as a sign that he can slack off and do less. But it’s usually the opposite. Most of us are starving for appreciation. In fact, I’ve never known even one person who said they were appreciated too much.
For the next week I invite you to experiment with practicing gratitude using the 3 suggested actions above. If you don’t see results for yourself or in your relationships, you can go back to what you were doing!
Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend.
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© Vicki Tidwell Palmer, LCSW (2019)