Every Thursday I meet with a group of men who all encourage each other to be better. Better husbands, fathers and people in general. Last February, one of the guys came to the group with a challenge for himself and the rest of us. The challenge was to buy a journal and then every day for a year write one thing that you love or admire about your wife or children or other significant person in your life. I accepted this challenge and the end product will be given to my wife on Valentine’s Day 2017.
I know this endeavor sounds pretty mushy and corny. And I am not entirely sure but there’s a good chance that the idea was stolen from a romantic comedy. However, I am so glad that I did this. I recently celebrated my 21st wedding anniversary and for all intents and purposes have a good and fulfilling marriage. It is easy, however to become complacent and even unaware of how amazing my wife truly is. This simple practice of intentionally looking for the positive in my wife every day has reminded me of what I have and how rich I am in my marriage. The negative seems to be all too easy find, as if it is looking for you where the positive seems to be the opposite, elusive and hidden at times. To be honest, there were a few times over the past year that I struggled to even want to look for the positive. Because I knew I would find it. How backwards and bizarre is that? I, in the moment, would choose my anger or hurt over forgiveness and healing. Thankfully, in those moments, the negative would give away to the positive and I would see my wife for who she was.
When I do couples counseling, I ask the couple to share what attracted them to their partner when they first met. Almost without exception the things that were initially attractive are the current complaints or problems. A husband will remember how his wife helped bring him out of his shell and be more social and then in the next breath complain that she is always planning something. And a wife who was attracted to how “relaxed and laid back” her husband was, will vent that he now lacks passion. It all boils down to perspective. Is this quality a strength or a weakness, a positive or a negative?
We all do it. We make decisions every day to look at the positive or the negative. To highlight the good or the bad. The scary thing is that when we are unaware that we are making a decision, we find ourselves stuck in our problems without a desire to look for solutions. We hold resentment towards other people who do not agree with us. We become problem-focused and negative as opposed to solution focused and positive. The only hope for each of us to escape the negative is to become mindful of the decision; make a choice to look for the positive and good.
So on Valentine’s Day this year, I will hopefully give my wife a gift that that will communicate to her how special she truly is and get some husband brownie points along the way. Truth is, the journal will ultimately be a gift to myself more than to my wife. It has been an exercise that has made me more positive in all aspects of my life, and as result a happier and more content person. Imagine what things would be like if we all chose to focus on the positive and solutions?