"I wish he would just..."
"If he would only be more like...."
Four of the most dangerous phrases to my marriage - whether I actually say them or not. It doesn't take much for any one of these phrases to creep into my mind and heart and wreak havoc on my most important earthly relationship. Even if I never verbally say these things to him, just thinking them - even for a second - can be damaging. How? What I allow to come into my mind seeps its way into my heart and affects my attitude towards my husband.
And wishing he was different or putting those absolutes on him makes me a grumpy, negative person.
Not exactly the epitome of that Proverbs 31 woman.
So when I was challenged by my Bible study leader this summer to find something to be thankful for about my husband every day for 30 days, I jumped on it. Because I wanted to be better. Because it sounded like a fun challenge.
And finding a NEW thing to be thankful for each day is a challenge! It wasn't always an easy challenge and I found myself being thankful for the same things every day. But the challenge was to find something new each day...
I started really thinking about what Jeff was doing each day. As a new mom I'm really thankful that he plays with our daughter when he gets home from work, giving me some much needed sleep. One day I realized that it's more than me gaining an hour of sleep - he's losing an hour. The longer he stays up in the morning is less sleep he gets himself, just so I can be rested (and not so crabby). He's helping me and sacrificing himself at the same time.
As the month went on I noticed so many things about this man that God gave me. More than noticed, I started appreciating little things about him or personality traits I hadn't taken time to recognize before. If you follow my Facebook page you saw everything I was thankful for during those 30 days. So, how exactly did thankfulness make my marriage better?
It changed my attitude.
Toward him and our marriage, and I didn't even notice. One day we were outside doing a tiny bit of landscaping that had gotten away from us last year, racing the rain that was heading our way. Somehow this challenge came up as we talked and Jeff told me that since I started it I seemed more content with my station in life. Huh. I wanted to fight that at first - this challenge was supposed to make him feel more loved - but he was right. A spirit and eye for thankfulness had shifted my attitude from discontent and doubt to joy, even when circumstances weren't the best.
It changed my perspective.
Things aren't always what they seem - in life, in marriage, in parenting. Was he really doing something to make me mad, or was I just tired? Did he say "yes" to overtime so fast because he was that anxious to get away from me, or did he know I've been anxious about one-income finances and he's doing his best to provide? A thankful heart makes us see issues in a whole new light. It changes our perspective on what's going on and opens our eyes to what negativity shields us from seeing clearly.
It changed my mindset.
Instead of jumping to those absolutes or comparisons, I started looking for new things to be thankful for about him. Not that those negative things never crossed my mind, but they definitely don't set up camp like they did before. I remember one time in particular. He was in the middle of a diaper change when he got a call about overtime that he jumped on (without asking me about). My instinct was to let the negative come on in - "Doesn't he want to spend time with us?" "Why didn't he talk to me before saying yes to this?" "Figures, he just wants to get away." He looked at me when he got off the phone and I took a really deep breath, willing those thoughts away and forcing myself to say, "It's a paycheck. Thank you for working hard for us." And I kid you not, by the time those words left my mouth I didn't feel angry or hurt, I felt loved and appreciative.
When we let the negative have its way with us, everything in our lives will suffer. But when God's Spirit fills us with thankfulness that negative stuff just runs out of room and can't hang out for long. Thankfulness turns into joy. Joy turns into a contagious attitude, perspective and mindset that our husbands and others around us can't ignore.
And that's getting us a little closer to the woman and wife God calls us to be!
I would love to hear your thoughts on this! How has a spirit of thankfulness changed your marriage? Do you need some encouragement in that area?