This week, my The article this week celebrates thanksgiving in marriage. Dr.
John Gottman, author of "The Relationship Cure," has a special exercise for couples called "The Thanksgiving Exercise."
It's a wonderful exercise for everyone in a relationship to remember to do, and not just on Thanksgiving.
Here is how it's done. For one week, try to be aware of your tendency to look at the holes in your relationship rather than the substance. In other words, as negative-minded individuals, we tend to focus on what's missing rather than what is there.
When we see what is missing, we feel free to criticize, as if the wonderful, perfect person we are knows the right way for all things to be.
Furthermore, everyone is just waiting around to hear us pronounce our fabulous insights about what is wrong with them.
Of course, when we tell them what is wrong, they should respond, "Oh, thank you, you are so perceptive. I will run right out and fix that right away. Can we meet again next week and you can tell me more about what is wrong with me?"
So, rather than looking for what is wrong, look for what is right. Search for things to praise, even if they seem very small and insignificant. Begin with the simplest things, such as giving thanks for being alive. Focus on what is around you in the moment, the cool air outdoors, and a beautiful sunset. Then, focus on things about your loved ones that you admire, the cute smile, the way your wife tucks your children in to bed at night or the way he brings you coffee in the morning.
Dr. Gottman says, "Utter some silent words of thanksgiving for these small wonders in your day. This will begin to change your focus on the negative," Mr. Gottman writes.
The second part of the exercise is to give your spouse some praise each day for an entire week. Give details of what your spouse is doing that makes you happy or that you admire.
Look for what is special and unique about your spouse. Certainly, if we focus on the shortcomings, we can entertain ourselves for eternity picking them out.
Shift your focus away from this negative perspective and create a culture of appreciation and love.
Carry this thanksgiving on every day, and see what happens. Try this, as best you can.
Janet Hibel has a diplomate in counseling psychology from the American Board of Professional Psychology. E-mail your questions to firstname.lastname@example.org or call (561) 694- 6703.