how to use gratitude to change your relationships

imageIt’s awesome that grateful people get more to be grateful for, but giving gratitude away is where real transformation happens.

After my daughter was born, my marriage fell completely apart. I had this precious amazing newborn, but after two surgeries in three weeks and postpartum depression, the last thing I needed was to face the fact that not only had my relationship with my best friend faltered, it was facing what felt like irreparable damage.

Long story very short, my marriage survived. While in the reconnecting process, I learned a lesson that would change the course of all of my relationships. I learned that to heal even a relationship as off-track as ours, all I needed to do was focus on what was instead of what wasn’t.

See when there’s a lot of water under the bridge of our relationships, sometimes we develop a catalog of the times our feelings were hurt or how he/she “never” does X and “always” does Y. When we crave connection and can’t get it, our guard goes up and we create a narrative to protect our hearts. That narrative becomes a list of flaws, faults and mistakes to explain our feelings of pure pain. Putting ourselves out there is a loving relationship is such a vulnerable thing. Letting someone love us so completely allows us to be hurt even more completely. We end up caught in a cycle of wanting to be open, but not wanting to hurt or be hurt.

So, there I was with a two-month old dream baby and a list of things my hubby hadn’t done and wasn’t doing. Worse yet, I had a list of ways he’d failed me and I wasn’t hesitant to remind him of it. I was trying so desperately to explain a painful feeling I didn’t even want to have and in the meantime, neither of us felt we could do anything right.

Then it all changed. And here’s how:

1. I forgave myself for hurting him.

2. I forgave him for hurting me.

3. I started focusing on the things he was doing instead of what he wasn’t. (Think “Thank you for picking up the take-out” instead of “Why are his shoes always in the middle of the floor??”)

I also started practicing a new way of expressing gratitude, because, let’s face it, “thank you” can be like a reflex, merely a platitude. It’s transformative power only comes from transferring the loving energy of authentic gratitude. So try these to get that extra connection:

1. Instead of saying “thank you,” say things like “I appreciate you” and “I love when you…”

2. Express your gratitude with eye contact and touch.

3. Find unique things to be grateful for each day, it will train you to look for less obviously things to appreciate, extending gratitude into more areas of your lives.

Now, each time I hear myself start griping, or I sense our connection breaking down, I realize I haven’t been focusing on what’s there or expressing authentic and unique gratitude. Each time I return to this process, I am amazed at how powerful it is. Try it & let me know what you think.

Hey, I think I’ll test it out on my relationship with myself and see how that improves too. 😉

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