RX For Couples: Radical Gratitude
For couples: Getting back to good feelings after a fight.
Posted May 1, 2010
A married couple seeing me for counseling a while back asked, "What do we do when things have been going great, and then we have a fight and suddenly everything looks bleak again? How do we get back to the good feeling?" The answer I gave them was not what they expected.
"When you find yourselves losing all perspective," I said, "stop and take a look at all you've got: The two of you are alive. You have your health! You have each other. Plus a beautiful child who's also healthy! A roof over your head. Clothes to wear and plenty of food to eat. You happen to be living in the most abundantly blessed nation the world has ever known. Why, compared with the other 6.8 billion other souls on the planet, you're both sitting on top of the world!
"So next to all this, how important was that thing you were arguing about?"
The following session they came in reporting how useful this had been for them that week.
I call this approach Radical Gratitude.
Merriam-Webster's Online Dictionary defines "radical" as: "...designed to remove the root of a disease... Marked by a considerable departure from the usual or traditional."
So what makes this kind of gratitude radical is: It can grab you down at the root of your joylessness and pull you up out of it. You depart from "the usual or traditional" way of being, which for most of us is based on getting or fearing, instead of giving something, like thanks. The result is your perception can suddently shift from the problems you have to the blessings you have.
Gratitude is radical when you place it up front and give thanks first and often.
When you thank your mate, even -- or especially! -- for the little things, you not only make them feel appreciated, you keep them from feeling taken for granted. (Feeling taken for granted is a common way partners build resentment towards each other). A "thank you for taking out the garbage this morning"; or "thank you for doing the dishes" or "I appreciate you buying the groceries" can go a long way towards building a reservoir of good feeling between two people.
"But I always do the grocery shopping!"
"I know, and I want you to know I always appreciate it."
To take this idea further into you life, if you pray, you can turn your prayers into a series of "Thank you's", as in, "Thank you for this day! Thank you for my life! Thank you for my health! Thank you for my friends and familiy! Thank you for my health! My home and my community! And for all the opportunities to be of service to the people around me!"
My wife Shelley, a beautiful soul who's given me so much love and delight (and joy!) for almost 10 years now, once handed me a little stone, and said, "This is a Gratitude Rock. Every day, hold it and think of all the things you're grateful for". So I do. Every morning, after sitting up in bed and revving up my mental gears with countless thoughts of all I have to do that day, I get up and reach for the rock. I hold it only for about 5- 10 seconds or so. And my perspective gently shifts from: All-I-gotta-do, to: Look-at-all-I-got!
Then I'm more awake.
You can try it yourself. Go to your park or back yard and pick out a stone. (Or better - one for you, and one for your partner or a friend). And place your Gratitude Rock where you can see it when you get out of bed in the morning. Pick it up, remember your blessings, and it will alter your perspective on your day for the better..
In our relationships and in our lives, we feel joy when we give it, so each day the first thing we can give is: Thanks.