At a Thanksgiving dinner in our home, I encouraged friends and family to pick someone at the table and then say one thing they were thankful for about that person. When it was my 10-year-old son's turn, Garrison said, "My dad makes plenty of mistakes." I think he was trying to be funny, but the group's awkward laughter tipped him off that his comment wasn't quite as positive as the other remarks. So he quickly added, "and he sometimes feeds me."
Sure enough, we can't force true gratitude.
But in marriage, our expressions of sincere thankfulness can bless our spouse and strengthen our relationship. One study found that gratitude is a significant predictor of "marital quality." I think this is part of what King Solomon meant when he encouraged husbands, "Rejoice in the wife of your youth" (Proverbs 5:18). We are to rejoice in our spouse. How can we bless our spouse by rejoicing in him or her? Here are some suggestions:
Thankfulness means expressing gratitude for what your spouse does. The words thank you are two of the most powerful words you can say to your spouse. But for thankfulness to be effective, it must be specific and it must be verbalized. So don't simply say, "Thank you for being a great spouse." Instead, say something like, "Thank you for doing the grocery shopping this week."
While gratitude is about recognizing what your spouse does, affirmation is about appreciating who your spouse is. Your words of affirmation can acknowledge your spouse's character qualities: courage, faithfulness, humility, kindness, creativity, integrity, joyfulness, honesty. Pick one character quality that your spouse displays and tell him or her why this matters so much to you.
When you highly value your spouse, you cherish him or her. It's important to acknowledge some of your favorite things about your spouse — especially when you face busy times or difficult seasons. What do you value about your spouse? It might be a personality trait or a personal accomplishment. Consider making a list of your favorite things about your spouse and giving it to him or her for Thanksgiving.Dr. Greg Smalley is the vice president of Marriage and Family Formation at Focus on the Family and the co-author of several books, including Crazy Little Thing Called Marriage.
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