Recently I was on the phone with a gentleman from another state, and he asked me the question, “Dan, why is it so hard to meet the basic needs of my wife?” The first thing I thought was that this gentleman is not alone! We all have a tendency to skip the basic things we should do to keep our spouse feeling loved and cherished. Why? That’s easy to answer but not always easy to solve. Over a period of time, spouses take each other for granted.
If you don’t think so, just ask someone who recently lost their spouse. I know someone whose spouse died a few years ago and she is still reeling from it. She has said many times, “I never realized all the things he provided for me that I just took for granted.”
That phrase will come up again and again in our lives. It doesn’t just apply to spouses either. We take children, co-workers, extended family members, and friends for granted too. But today I want to focus on spouses.
I want to start by asking you to make a list of all the things you don’t like about your spouse and a list of things you do like. I’m hoping, for the majority of you, the list of things you don’t like is shorter than the list of likes. Just acknowledging that can be a huge step toward changing your attitude to one of gratitude. Besides, I imagine the list of don’t likes would be filled with annoying habits like not putting the cap on the toothpaste, or driving from the passenger seat, instead of issues of character or personality traits. But if you are struggling with those types of deeper problems, I would suggest seeking professional counseling.
My challenge to you is to take the list of don’t likes and throw it away. Nine times out of ten, for every one of your spouse’s habits that gets on your nerves, there are probably two things you do that exasperate your spouse. It’s part of being married, of living with someone who is a little different than you. Sure, you can try to discuss them with your spouse to see if they’ll change, but be prepared to do some changing of your own.
The list of likes is the one I want you to concentrate on daily. It will help drive you to think about the more positive aspects of your spouse. Then the next time you find yourself mentally traveling down the road of negativity toward your spouse, I want you to pause, make a mental U-turn and go the other way toward those positives.
I’m reminded of a note my daughter sent to my wife after moving away to college. Within the first week, she wrote a note to her mom that said, “Mom, I can’t believe how much I just took meals for granted.” It made me stop and say, “That’s true. I take that for granted every day.” Even though I sometimes help with the meal preparation, the majority of the time Jane thinks about what we should eat, shops for the food, and then adds her special touch of seasoning and love with every dish.
Just like a little dash of salt or pepper adds that extra oomph to a casserole, it’s paying attention to the little things in your relationship that will bring you closer to your spouse and spice up your love. Live with an attitude of gratitude!