At a time in my marriage when everything seemed to be colliding—family differences, work pressures, stressful finances, hectic schedules, health problems—I found myself rolling my eyes, grumbling, or snapping at my husband far too often. I felt stretched thin, kept at my maximum stress threshold, and any tipping of the scales sent everything crashing down on the both of us.
While I was terrified watching how stress transformed my normally easy going, positive outlook, my husband had to deal with the brunt of my negativity and complaints, and that just added guilt to my plate of seething emotions.
At one of the times when I needed my husband most, I found we were becoming a little more mentally and emotionally detached. Both of us were acting unlike ourselves, and the teasing, laughter, and spontaneity took a back seat to survival.
It wasn't a drastic change. Both of us still loved each other. Both of us still enjoyed our lives and marriage. But there was this sharp edge to everything that kept grating at me. And any pet peeve, forgotten dirty dishes, or deviation from how I thought our marriage should be working irritated me.
Until I started a little experiment and discovered one phrase that transformed my marriage. I started playing a little game with myself, and anytime I started feeling agitated or frustrated with my husband, I would tell myself one thing that I appreciated about him. It was clumsy going at first, and not always successful, but soon I got in the habit of fixating on all the good he brings into my life, not just the extra dirty dishes or laundry.
But I quickly felt this experiment didn't go far enough. I needed to tell my husband the reasons I love him and choose to love him every day. That's when I stumbled upon the phrase that changed everything for me: "Do you know one of the reasons I love you? It's because . . ." in its infinite varieties. My husband isn't the most sentimental person on the planet—another reason I love him—so I worried about his reaction to this new habit of mine. But amazingly, this phrase never felt awkward or forced. Throughout the day and week, I began reflecting on good memories, noticing selfless acts, and recognizing previously unseen qualities in my husband. Whether it was a small quirk that made me smile or something spiritual and deep, I now consciously recognized these traits and my husband understood why I loved him—day in and day out, during the bumps and the smooth, when we laughed and even when we cried together.
With this deeper understanding of this remarkable person I married and an even better understanding of all I probably overlook or miss on a day-to-day basis, the little annoyances of living with another person don't annoy me. Expectations about who we should be or what our marriage should be don't register anymore. Instead of expectations, I find myself now focused on moments, clinging to those simple ones and the unexpected ones that make our marriage an adventure.
From the big perspective, nothing has changed in our marriage. There's still the differences, pressures, finances, etc. But from my perspective, everything has changed. For months I made a conscious effort to use this phrase every day, but now I focus on sharing the good whenever it pops into my head. And I have to say, there is so much good. My husband is unbelievable, my marriage is unbelievable and challenging and fun and wonderful and unexpected. I'm just glad now I have the perspective to recognize it and the beauty of every moment while it lasts.