Day 5: Marriage & Thanksgiving

In light of this being the American week of Thanksgiving, I’ll be writing about the power of gratitude in marriage, and the encouragement it gives to relationships.
Day 1: The Gratitude Jar
Day 2: Gratitude Prayer
Day 3: Gratitude Letter
Day 4: A Touch of Gratitude

The Lifestyle of Gratitude

Step 12 in the Big Book of AA says this: “Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to alcoholics, and to practice these principles in all our affairs.”

Too often we look at marriage as the “thing” that will bring us the peace and happiness that we’ve always longed for. This need is not wrong, but our passivity and relationship to marriage as though it’s a vending machine is what gets us in trouble.

Great stuff starts happening when we move from looking at marriage as a transaction to a relationship we have to grow. 

The 12-step process is a lifestyle, not a short term event. 

It’s the same is true for gratitude and marriage. 

We must surrender and practice gratitude in order to grow even more gratitude. We must also give it away to others. I’ve seen a surrender to the gratitude process create a spiritual and relational awakening in a lot of people. They then carry that message to their children, friends, and communities. 

The gratitude jar, letter, prayer, and touch that I’ve written about this week are just a few ideas to begin of a gratitude lifestyle. Take these ideas and make them your own. Create new ones. Share them with me, and with others.

Who else in your life needs the blessing of gratitude?


Day 4: Marriage & Thanksgiving

In light of this being the American week of Thanksgiving, I’ll be writing about the power of gratitude in marriage, and the encouragement it gives to relationships. 
Day 1: The Gratitude Jar
Day 2: Gratitude Prayer
Day 3: Gratitude Letter

A Touch of Gratitude

Often the way our brain works can get in the way of receiving verbal thanks from someone we are close to. Our emotions aren’t processed with words, they are more closely processed with non-verbal intuitions. Something akin to describing the color “red” to a blind person. 

Sometimes the disconnect in our relationships is beyond what words can heal. We can say a hundred times what we’re thankful for about the other person, but they might not cognitively be able (from a brain functioning standpoint) to metabolize what those words mean. Enter touch. 

I’m not just talking about physical touch, I’m also talking about the touch of kindness. 

Yes, touch is primarily associated with our skin, but we most often touch people first with our eyes. Proverbs 30:17 says “The eyes are the window to the soul.” Our eyes tell the story before our bodies or words ever start following suit.

Think about it: What would your wife/husband say is the story of your first touch in the morning? Evening?

Touching with gratitude through our eyes involves delight, curiosity, kindness, warmth, openness, vulnerability, and invitation. The touch of invitation will break down the barriers of coldness, resentment, and hurt more so than any “I’m sorry” (or worse, “get over it”) will ever be able to do.

Offer gratitude to your wife/husband today with your eyes. And if it doesn’t “work,” stop trying to get it to work, and just offer the gift of gratitude with your eyes … and then watch what happens. 


Day 3: Marriage & Thanksgiving

In light of this being the American week of Thanksgiving, I’ll be writing about the power of gratitude in marriage, and the encouragement it gives to relationships. 
Day 1: The Gratitude Jar
Day 2: Gratitude Prayer

Gratitude Letter

John Gottman says that it takes five positive interactions to counteract every one negative interaction a couple has. Yes, you read that right. 5 to 1.

This five-to-one ration takes work! You actually have to intentionally pay attention to how you can make positive deposits, because the negative withdrawals are so easy and commonplace for us selfish humans. 

Your wife/husband needs to hear from you what you like about them. 
Without technology (cameras, mirrors, etc) it is impossible for us to accurately see two parts on our bodies: Our face, and our backside.

God created us in his image (our face), and our rebellion keeps us from seeing (or wanting to see) our backside. It’s too easy in marriage to point out “the backside” of our spouse. We need to offer a loving balance of what we see in them. (Use the 5:1 ratio as a “loving balance”).

When was the last time you put pen to paper to express gratitude and thanksgiving for your spouse? I find that this act rarely happens after a couple says “I do.” 

It doesn’t have to be a 4-page letter with hearts and roses attached to it. Grab a piece of paper, and write 5-7 sentences about your wife/husband.

Be specific.

Tell them what you admire about them. Tell them something glorious about themselves that they struggle to believe.

Shower them with praise. 

Tell them why you’re thankful for them.


Day 2: Marriage & Thanksgiving

In light of this being the American week of Thanksgiving, I’ll be writing about the power of gratitude in marriage, and the encouragement it gives to relationships.
Day 1: The Gratitude Jar

Gratitude Prayer & Meditation

Sometimes gratitude in marriage is impossible to find. In these times we need more help than a blog post, counselor, or friend can give us. 

Here is a prayer for couples who are struggling to find thanksgiving in their relationship. If this doesn’t fit your situation, write your own.  

Humble God,
We lack gratitude for one another, and we withhold from each other
the abundance of good things you have given us. 

This is not the way we remember being together, in happier times past. 

How is it that we have gotten so far away from each other? 
Why is it so hard for us to be open and honest? 
Why is this pain we feel with each other so intense? 

We’re sure someone told us this might happen, but we didn’t listen. 
“Not to us!” we would say. 
Our love felt different than what we saw in others. We were so grateful for each other.

It felt special, and perhaps so unique that we didn’t even need you. 
As long as we had this intoxicating love, we were ok. 

Now, we are without this love. 
In it’s place is coldness, hurt, resentment, and fear.
We feel without each other, and without you. We need help.

Where do we go from here? 
Are we able to go back to that land of special love with each other? 

We are looking too hard for a way back into the Garden. To what once was, but now isn’t. 
The place we did not responsibly take care of. The place we blamed each other and you.

Please give us the courage and compassion with each other to tend to this new place we find ourselves.
We need a new vision how to be together, and who it is you want us to become. 

We cannot do this without your help. 


Day 1: Marriage & Thanksgiving

In light of this being the American week of Thanksgiving, I’ll be writing about the power of gratitude in marriage, and the encouragement it gives to relationships. 

Gratitude Jar

“Love keeps no record of wrongs” is way easier to say, than to do. Keeping a rolodex of what has gone wrong in the past is like a warm blanket that has never been washed. Sure it’ll keep you warm and cozy, but over time it’ll get crusty, and you’ll end up wearing a foul stench.

A record of wrongs is a predictable perspective to keep. We can always find something that is wrong, or hurtful about the relationship with our spouse. But, the flip side of that is true, too: We can always find something beautiful and loving. Always. 

When we’re struggling to stay a float, we can’t let go of the bar we’re holding onto until we have something else to grab a hold of. Some of us need to grab hold onto the bar of gratitude so we can let go of the bar of resentment. 

Today, start keeping a record of what’s right about your relationship. Get a jar, vase, bowl, or some other container. Put it on your kitchen counter, and start writing down what you’re thankful for about your spouse. About your marriage. About your life together. 

Fill the jar with things you need to remember when you’re hurt, feeling discouraged, or hopeless in your marriage. 

Tomorrow: Gratitude Prayer


Are you Hopeless in Marriage?

Most people who have not done significant spiritual or relational work do not know how to do conflict well. Invariably, we will unconsciously adapt our conflict styles to what we were exposed to in our childhood homes. The saying “the apple doesn’t fall too far from the tree” is true here, how are we to know a different way of being without the help of someone else to show us another way or to another place? A hopeless marriage doesn’t have to mean the end of the relationship.

Marriage provides the divine context for taking another person to another place. It offers hope that I can live alongside someone who will help me to become a better person, and I can do the same for them. The reality is that once the newness wears off (which happens at different rates of time for different people), couples often lose sight of the purpose of marriage.

I often hear, “I just want to be happy and live in peace” when asking people what they desire in their marriages. Generally this is in reaction to the growing disconnect and conflict that exists between husband and wife. However, when you don’t do the necessary maintenance and work, It decays and begins to break down. This is true of the material world just as it is for relationships.

Cleaning up and fixing something that has been neglected for a long time takes more energy and effort than the time it would have taken to maintain. In relationships, if you do not spend the time proactively working and engaging the faulty issues in your marriage, when it comes time to “fix it” or “buy a new one”, it’s going to feel overwhelming.

This overwhelming feeling coupled with the already everyday needs and demands of life make it even more difficult to find the courage, energy, and hope to dig out of the mess. If you’re at this place of hopelessness in your marriage, seek out a counselor. If you’re afraid you’re on the road to hopelessness, here are some suggestions to work on:

  • Do go on regular dates with your spouse.
  • Do monthly budget meetings to review and plan financial concerns and needs
  • Do yearly/bi-yearly marriage enrichment activities (counseling, retreats, books, etc)
  • Do not turn on the ’screen’ (tv, phone, computer/tablet) at least 2 nights per week
  • Do not blame your spouse for anything, ever. Take responsibility for your actions.
  • Do not use the word divorce unless you are in the process of filing.
  • Do not have an affair with work, alcohol, Facebook, video games, food, or the TV.
  • Do practice non-sexual touch without it leading to sex.
  • Do not hide behind your kids activities to avoid conflict.
  • Do not use your kids to fulfill your loneliness.

Regardless of how hopeless it might feel, no relationship is beyond repair. I have seen couples dealing with multiple layers of betrayal, lies, and brokenness work diligently on repairing their relationship.

When you married your spouse, they became the right one, don’t buy into the lie that there is someone better out there for you. If you’re willing to do the hard work, hope can be restored.


Making Peace: Drop Your Weapons

You don’t walk into a peace treaty meeting with a machine gun. And if you do, the meeting quickly changes from a peace treaty to a tense stand off. One wrong move, and there will be a mess.

We all have weapons that we have access to use when we are threatened. After all, these weapons have long served us as faithful tools to bring about feelings of safety, control, and power.

What are the weapons you use in marriage?

  • Contempt?
  • Stonewalling?
  • Name calling?
  • “Calling it like you see it”?
  • Avoidance?
  • Manipulation?
  • Withholding?
  • Rage?
  • Silence?

Regardless of the weapon you can easily brandish, leave it at the door. It has no use in your marriage. None of these will get you what you’re looking for.

What weapon do you need to leave at the door?


Sacrifice What’s Easy

A millionaire who gives away $100 does not experience the same sacrifice as a factory worker who gives the same amount. It’s easy for someone wealthy to give away a few bucks, it’s not that significant of a cost to them. 

There is not much sacrifice when we give what is easy to give. Sacrifice is the surrender of myself for the sake of someone else. This how we know someone loves and cares about us. 

Gary Chapmans concept of The Five Love Languages is a great example of how this might show up in a relationship. For instance, one of my love languages is words of affirmation. It is relatively easy for me to show others that I love or care about them with words of affirmation. This comes naturally to me. 

My wife’s love language is acts of service. Words of affirmation might be the last one on her list. Acts of service is probably the last one on my list. If I only choose to love her out of what comes naturally to me, I am going to miss opportunities to love her. 

A great rule of thumb on this principle for Marriage: Work on growing your capacity to do what isn’t easy. This could be how you engage in conflict, your habits in talking and listening (Men speak about 10,000 words per day, Women speak around 25,000), or how you express love.

What do you need to sacrifice today?


Marriage Assets

We tend to think about assets in terms of financial perspectives. How do we spend, invest, or save our money? Do we launder our money? How do I/we increase our financial assets? 

These, among others, are financial questions that every marriage deals with. Even if you’re not asking those questions, you’re still dealing with those questions. 

There’s a different kind of asset that needs just as much, if not more, attention: Emotional assets. 

Every relationship has an emotional bank account. Couples make deposits and withdrawals from that account, often not knowing how much is in the account. As is the case with money, when you run a negative balance, life gets really stressful. 

Some marriages live emotionally paycheck to paycheck. Every day there is a desperate need for some kind of positive experience in order to keep going. Others have invested well, and can go for a period of time through emotional debts and be ok. 

It takes a radical change to get out of financial debt. The same is true for emotional debt. 

Consider the emotional ledger of your relationship. Are you over spending your emotional deposits? What feels like a deposit for you, for your spouse? How about a withdrawal? Ask your spouse what their emotional bank account is with you. 


Pressure Treated Relationships

Pressure shows up two ways in relationships: Couples who put pressure on each other, and couples who have been have been pressure treated together. It’s the difference between an insecure relationship and a secure one.

Insecure relationships put a lot of pressure to “say or get it right” because the individuals aren’t yet good at taking care of each other. If one fails to “get it right” it’s known there won’t be much grace available. So they have to get it right, or bad things will happen. These relationships are marked by actions like tiptoeing around each other, avoidance of conflict, and a feeling of fear and shame. This is kind of like building a deck with untreated lumber. It’ll be fine until the fair weather is replaced with foul weather.

Secure relationships don’t have as much pressure to get it right, because they have gone through the “pressure treating process” from another source other than each other. This process is different for everyone. It could be the death of a loved one, therapy, mentoring, a common enemy, shared goal, mutually beneficial purpose together, or a surrender to marriage and God. Being pressure treated produces grace, mercy, patience, forgiveness, fighting for (not against), and most importantly: Belief in each other. When foul weather comes, pressure treated relationships stay strong and true. 

What type of relationship do you have?