Living Gratitude: An Ingredient of Resilience for Every Expatriate Family (Part 3)

Couple relationships are richer when we express our gratitude to and for each other. Research done by Robert Emmons, Couple walking hand in hand(READ HERE), took three groups of volunteers and randomly assigned them to focus on different things each week over many months. The first group focused on everything that went wrong, like “This place is so irritating, I couldn’t get done half of my to-do list because it took 5 times longer than what I’m used to”. The second looked for situations they felt enhanced their lives, like “even though I didn’t get too far today, I’m so thankful I was able to get us hooked up with cell phones”. The third just recalled daily events, such as “I went to three different places, trying to find cell phones and it took all day.” The results: those who were grateful enjoyed a higher quality of life and a deeper connection with their partners. According to a study recently published in “The Journal of Personality and Social Psychology,” by Dr. Amie Gordon, couples who express gratitude reported being more committed and saw an improvement in their sex lives. Now that’s always a wonderful bonus!

Why is it so hard for us to practice an attitude of gratitude, especially in our marriages? One reason may be that scientists have found that the brain has a negativity bias, written about in Sticks and Stones and Broken Marriage Bones. We tend to have Velcro for negative experiences, but Teflon for positive ones – we dismiss the positive aspects of our marriages while vividly remembering the negative ones. That means we need intentionality when it comes to gratitude.

How can you count your blessings as a couple?

Part Three: 5 Ideas to Practice Gratitude as a Couple

1. Let go of grumbling. How much of your conversation is complaining? We all need to get out the frustrations. Set a timer for 3 minutes and do this, then move on to the positives. When I focus on the positives in my marriage or what’s happening around me, I feel more loving, happy and connected. My marriage isn’t perfect and I don’t ignore the negatives. I just choose to put more emphasis on all of the positive experiences that we have in our life together.

“If you concentrate on finding whatever is good in every situation,
you will discover that your life will be filled with gratitude,
a feeling that nurtures the soul.” Harold Kushner

2. Show gratitude toward and for your spouse. If you criticize, your marriage will slowly deteriorate. When you say nothing, it lends to feelings of being unappreciated or taken for granted. Instead, think of a reason you’re grateful for your spouse. Then share it. Your relationship will become stronger. It’s the little things that count the most. Don’t wait for some earth-shattering extravaganza move on the part of your spouse!

If you can’t do this in person, it’s fun to send a text or email message. If you do it in person, add texting. Another idea is to hide a gratitude note in your spouse’s drawer or jacket pocket and let them randomly find it!

I love the story of a gentleman who, when asked about the secret to his successful 50 year marriage, said that when he was Happy Older Couplemarried a week, his new wife asked him, “What are three things you love about me?”
He answered, “You’re beautiful, smart and a great cook.”
The next week, she asked the same question. He gave the same answer and she responded, “You already told me those three things. Tell me three new things.” So he did—week-after-week, year-after-year. Now that’s impressive! Did he have a thesaurus hidden somewhere?! What a great example of a husband and wife who practised gratitude in a committed way.

If this is hard for you, here’s some phrases to help you get started:
My eyes light up when I see you! I’m especially grateful for your…
You make me feel so special when you…
I love your sense of humour (or substitute). One thing you did recently to make me laugh (or substitute) is…
A character I love most about you is…. And I see it when you…
I love the way you…
See Sticks and Stones and Broken Marriage Bones for more ideas (READ HERE)

Sharing Journals3. Share your gratitude journal. Whether you’re at home or one is traveling, this is a great way to connect. Reading (or listening to) what your partner has written helps you go to a place of gratitude and sparks creativity.

4. Make a gratitude appointment. Set a specific time to share your gratefulness each week in person. You could start by telling each other one thing you’re grateful for each day. It takes all of 60 seconds. It’ll lead to some great conversation and may have you hooked on gratitude!

5. Appreciate challenges together. Choose to see challenges as growth journeys. Unconditional Love QuoteSpeak into each other’s lives as to what you see happening through those challenges.
Ie. “I see you wrestling through this and know that you’ll become more courageous as a result.” Or “This is a real challenge and I see you facing your grief and trying to establish some friendships here.” Bless each other like this and gratitude will shine.

And when you can’t do this, go to ‘radical gratitude’ – that place that says “What do we have? The two of us are alive. We have each other. Our children! A roof over our head. Clothes to wear and food to eat. Why, compared with the other 6.8 billion other souls on the planet, we’re really so much better off!”

Silouette of Couple

As a couple, which of these ideas would you like to try? How will you go about it?

If your spouse isn’t ready to take this on, it only takes one to change. Make that YOU. Be determined and consistent. The goal is to actively practice gratitude, not wait around to feel grateful.

Our lives are never more full than when we’re aware of our blessings. Our marriage is never more loving than when we’re both thankful. My husband and I have found this: when we’re in the place and practise of gratitude, we’re connected and strong. It’s not perfect yet… we’re still working on making it a daily happening!

Make miracles in your relationship wherever you are this week,

Becky Signature

 Express Your Gratitude





 “God, You have given us so much. Give us one thing more… a grateful heart.”

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