I woke up this Sunday morning with several things on my mind. Andrea, my wife, had already been awake for a few hours and was watching her new retro TV favorite, M*A*S*H. As soon as I walked into the living room, she hit pause on the remote and looked up at me. She was ready to listen to whatever it was I had to yammer about. As I went into the kitchen to start preparing my breakfast, it occurred to me. She always does that! Whether I’m struggling with a serious matter at work, or just had a random ridiculous thought I felt compelled to share — Andrea always pauses the TV and listens to me instead! And that’s one of the little things I’m truly grateful for, and absolutely love about her.
Topics 24 and 41 in 50 Things to Do Before Seeing a Psychiatrist speak about filling ourselves with positivity, and developing our sense of gratitude. Writing down three little things you love about your significant other is an excellent way to put this into practice. It’s easy for us to focus on the things our wives, husbands, or partners do that annoy us. People in happy, healthy relationships make a habit of doing the opposite. They focus on what they like.
In the book Alcoholics Anonymous, on p. 450, a sober alcoholic offers what I consider to be some excellent advice for anyone:
Acceptance has been the answer to my marital problems. It’s as though A.A. had given me a new pair of glasses. Max and I have been married now for thirty-five years. Prior to our marriage, when she was a shy, scrawny adolescent, I was able to see things in her that others couldn’t necessarily see-things like beauty, charm, gaiety, a gift for being easy to talk to, a sense of humor, and many other fine qualities. It was as if I had, rather than a Midas touch which turned everything to gold, a magnifying mind that magnified whatever it focused on. Over the years, as I thought about Max, her good qualities grew and grew, and we married, and all these qualities became more and more apparent to me, and we were happier and happier.
But then, as I drank more and more, the alcohol seemed to affect my vision: Instead of continuing to see what was good about my wife, I began to see her defects. And the more I focused my mind on her defects, the more they grew and multiplied. Every defect I pointed out to her became greater and greater. Each time I told her she was a nothing, she receded a little more into nowhere. The more I drank, the more she wilted.
Then, one day in A.A., I was told that I had the lenses in my glasses backwards; “the courage to change” in the Serenity Prayer meant, not that I should change my marriage, but rather that I should change myself and learn to accept my spouse as she was. A.A. has given me a new pair of glasses. I can again focus on my wife’s good qualities and watch them grow and grow and grow.
Remembering that story, I quickly thought of 3 things my wife does that I cherish about her.
- She always shuts the TV and listens to me.
- She always sets up the coffee maker in the morning.
- She cares about other people more than anyone else I’ve ever known.
I got an additional bonus by just sharing those three things with her after I wrote this.
Try doing this for a week straight and see what effect it has your relationship. I promise you won’t regret it.
Nor will your partner!