Couples who are having challenges tend to focus a lot on what’s not working in their romance. It’s easy to become critical or angry or judgmental when the person who’s supposed to be the love of your life is suddenly less than loving to you.
Somehow though, the big moments of life – like death – help put smaller things like relationship conflict into perspective.
While it’s certainly important to honor what matters to you in a relationship (which is where conflict comes from), it’s equally important to remember that the person you’re disconnected from still has several wonderful qualities. Often those qualities get overlooked or brushed aside during a fight or an extended period of disharmony. The reason is that your brain is naturally trained to pay attention to what’s perceived as a threat to the things that matter most to you, and in the moment of conflict that perceived threat looms large.
No one is more capable of causing you harm than the person who is closest to your heart. Which is why when they do or say something that you find contrary to your values you become even more defensive than if some random person said or did the same things. Their words and actions are magnified by your brain and by your heart.
At the same time…
No one is more capable of bringing you absolute joy than the person who is closest to your heart. And since you can’t achieve one without risking the other, I suggest you work on building the joy through love, appreciation, and understanding.
One of the best ways to find true marital joy is to intentionally express appreciation for the gifts that your spouse brings into your life.
Not the physical presents – I mean the qualities and characteristics that make them unique as a person. After all – who they are is why you’re with them. It’s why you chose them; why you continue to choose them.
What are some of the things that attracted you to them? What are some things that they do that you like and enjoy? What are some positive things they do now that if it were gone you’d miss? Unless you take the time to explore questions like this, you may not even realize just how much your spouse means to you until they’re gone.
Here’s another way to think about it: If your partner were to start dating someone new – someone who cherished the little things that make your partner who they are – what kind of positive things would that new lover say about your spouse?
Note: Appreciation and gratitude are not exercises of the mind. If all you do is make a list of the things you like about your spouse and keep it to yourself they will never ever know how wonderful you really think they are. Be willing to directly share the things you love about your partner. Tell them. Leave them notes. Write them a letter. Be 100% clear. This can be very scary for some people – it’s raw and juicy and alive and real. But it can lead to some of the greatest and most fulfilling love of your life.
Remember: Don’t wait until your beloved has passed away – or until they’ve left you – to show your appreciation and gratitude for all of the wonderful ways they enrich your life.
Take a moment to reflect on the positive traits and characteristics of your spouse or partner. Share 3 – 5 of them below. When you do, you’ll begin to notice those more and more in your relationship.