Have you heard of gratitude journals? Wikipedia describes them as a diary of things for which one is grateful. Gratitude journals are used by individuals who wish to focus their attention on the positive things in their lives. Gratitude journals are recommended in different circles from psychologists “prescribing” them to combat depression and New Age gurus recommending them to attract the life of your dreams. Regardless, these journals have been shown to be of great benefit to those that use them. Wikipedia goes on to say: In a 2005 study concerning gratitude, participants were randomly assigned to one of six therapeutic intervention conditions designed to improve the participant’s overall quality of life (Seligman et al., 2005). Out of the six conditions, the longest lasting effects were caused by the act of writing “gratitude journals” where participants were asked to write down three things they were grateful for every day. These participants’ happiness scores also increased and continued to increase each time they were tested periodically after the experiment; the greatest benefits were usually found to occur around six months after treatment began. This exercise was so successful that although participants were only asked to continue the journal for a week, many participants continued to keep the journal long after the study was over.
As flawed human beings in general we tend to latch onto the negative and forget the positive. In relationships this is where we notice all that he is doing wrong and downplay if not completely ignore all that he is doing right. This, in a very real way, tricks us into thinking the negative far outweighs the positive and we start to think that things in our relationship are worse than they are because we have convinced ourselves he is worse than he is. “He never buys me anything nice!” “He always ignores me when I need him most!” “Why does he always do that annoying thing when he knows I don’t like it?!” and so on and so on. When we get caught up in this way of thinking not only does our view of our men change but our treatment of them until they begin to take notice. The Shrew rears her ugly head here (feeling justified in doing so because he is failing her, or so she has convinced herself) and our men are left feeling emotionally and mentally beaten from all the berating and overall poor treatment from us in our “righteous indignation” for perceived injustices. So they retreat. And why shouldn’t they? Who would want to continue to be around someone that only sees the negative in them and chooses to pick them apart for it at every turn while neglecting to acknowledge the good they do, the good they are?
Of course I am describing a severe case but make no mistake any relationship is capable of getting to this point and all
relationships are in need of a lot more positivity.
I am guilty of this. I am guilty of talking myself into being angry and disappointed by giving the negative more importance than its due. So I have issued myself a challenge: I am creating a gratitude journal for my husband. I will set it on his nightstand and everyday will write at least two things I am grateful for about him or that he did each day so that when he goes to bed at night he can flip to my latest entry and read what I have said about him. This will serve us in two ways: 1) I will be forced to view the positive instead of solely obsessing over the negative and 2) he will see how much I love and appreciate him and why every night. The “and why” is the important part here. Hopefully our men are made aware of how much we love and appreciate them everyday regardless of a gratitude journal but often we fail to articulate the why. In this I will have the opportunity to on a daily basis.
It doesn’t have to be elaborate or take more than a few moments but it should be descriptive and non-repetitive. It would be all too easy to fall into the trap of writing every night “the hard work you do and how you play with the kids” but then it loses all meaning for the both of you. Think about it throughout the day. Not in a forced way but in through observation of his actions and your feelings. This is very much like a never ending love letter to your husband. List things that he does and parts of who he is “watching you laugh with our daughter while you watched the game” “when I caught you watching me from across the room with all that love in your eyes” “knowing I had a bad day you brought me home that diet coke as a treat” “the way your arms feel wrapped around me in the middle of the night- warm and safe”… No need for questions, poetry, or novellas, just simple statements of gratitude.
At the time of this posting I have already started in my new little ritual. I hope you’ll join me!