When we think about the holidays, we tend to dread the busyness and added stress that can frustrate intimacy in marriage. Most couples argue about bills, relatives and crazy calendars once mid-November hits. Instead of allowing this to happen in your marriage, I’d like to suggest that the holidays (Thanksgiving in particular) might be an opportunity to strengthen your marriage.

One of the most powerful choices in the human psyche is the choice to be thankful. My mom once told me, “Juli, I think it’s impossible to sin if you are grateful.” I’ve thought about her words many times. How can I be jealous, angry, selfish, bitter or arrogant if my heart is truly thankful?

Dr. Caroline Leaf has become a prominent voice in the application of neuroscience to everyday behavior. She teaches how our choices and attitudes actually rewire our neuropathways. We become what we chose to focus on.

If I spent the next thirty minutes concentrating on everything I don’t like about my husband, I would be in a pretty miserable mood. If I did that for thirty minutes every day, I’d become a miserable wife (and would likely have a miserable husband.) The same is true, however, if I take time each day to be thankful for the things I love about Mike. Unfortunately, it’s more natural to think about the negative, particularly if you’ve trained your brain over time to be unhappy in your marriage. It takes effort to focus on the things you are grateful for. The good news is that you can retrain your brain to be positive instead of negative towards the ones you love.

I’ve personally experienced this in my own marriage. I remember a season several years ago when things were very challenging in my relationship with my husband. I was harboring disappointments that I never told anyone except for God.. About that time, I read Linda Dillow’s book What’s it Like to Be Married to Me (a book I highly recommend, by the way!) One of the challenges in that book was to make a list of everything positive about my husband. Linda quoted Phillipians 4:8, “ Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” She pulled out the phrase if there is anything worthy of praise.  Linda pointed out that Paul said if there is anything, not everything. So, I began to make the list of anything that is praiseworthy about my husband. I filled two sheets of paper with all of Mike’s positive qualities. This exercise helped me realize all the things I’d been taking for granted about my husband. Over the next few weeks, Mike didn’t change, but my perspective of him did. I began to genuinely appreciate him and my love for him flourished.

Every man or woman has something praiseworthy about them. For some reason, we don’t praise unless we see a person as 100% praiseworthy. A woman can go decades without ever saying something nice about her husband because of his imperfections. Some even feel that they would lack integrity to praise a man they don’t 100% respect.

You may be living with a husband that has amazing praiseworthy qualities. People all around you see his sense of humor, his work ethic, his kindness or his sincerity, but you are too weighed down with disappointment to appreciate him.

This Thanksgiving, would you do more than cook a turkey and say a quick prayer of thankfulness? Would you get out some paper and write down every positive quality you can think of about your husband? You just might find yourself falling in love all over again.