Fix your thoughts on what is true and honorable and right. Think about things that are pure and lovely and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.
Philippians 4:8 (New Living Translation)
You cannot always change your environment, but you can change your attitude. The day after a heavy rain, you can look down and see puddles and mud, or look up and see a beautiful sky. It’s a change of perspective.
A key element to a healthy, strong marriage is the attitude you both have about your marriage. The attitude that you and your spouse choose to have, on a daily basis, will greatly influence the life you enjoy together. Negative attitudes can create a tremendous weight on your marriage, while a consistently positive attitude can help uplift your marriage – putting everything in its real perspective.
Your attitude – how you think about your spouse and what you think about your spouse – is powerful because it determines your feelings and actions. It’s easy to be negative in marriage, which makes it even more necessary that you focus on your spouse’s good qualities and express thanks with positive words.
If you are expecting and anticipating that your spouse is going to be complaining, that is what you are going to hear. Since you are expecting it, it will be what stands out most when your spouse speaks to you. If you expect your spouse to be dissatisfied with you, then you are going to prepare an appropriate (or inappropriate) response in advance, even when that might not have been your intention.
When you think negative thoughts or expect negative responses, you develop a negative attitude. Attitude is what you get after you develop a style of thinking (positive or negative) and then practice it so well that it seems like you don’t even have to think it out before you respond. Having an attitude is like pre-thinking your next response.
A positive attitude requires a clear action plan that addresses your thoughts and words. Here are three affirmations that you can use to build a better attitude about your marriage:
I will not be a complainer!
I will speak to myself with encouraging words! I will speak aloud things that God says are true, regardless of how I feel.
Every time I think of my spouse, I will pray, “Lord, thank you for giving my husband/wife as your awesome gift. Help me to see the great value of your gift to me!”
Let’s talk: How has your attitude about yourself and/or your spouse played either a positive or a negative role in your marriage? Please leave a comment below.
This is a guest post from Helena Madsen of Chronic Marriage (www.chronicmarriage.com), a website dedicated to helping couples with chronic illness build extraordinary marriages. I have followed her postings for about a year now and found them to be inspiring and practical. The original posting was titled, Stepping into My Husband’s Shoes.
Have you ever imagined what it would be like to step into your spouse’s shoes and view your marriage from his or her perspective?
I’ve often wondered just how patient and understanding I’d be if I were the healthy spouse and my husband lived with muscular dystrophy.
This week I bravely decided to interview Jeff to hear his take on what it’s been like being married to me for the last ten years. I also wanted to give him the opportunity to speak from the caregiver’s perspective on what works and what doesn’t work so well in a chronic marriage.
When we first met and I told you I had muscular dystrophy, what were your initial thoughts?
I was certainly familiar with the term muscular dystrophy but I didn’t understand what it meant to be honest. Because I was attracted to you, I had a curiosity to find out more. The disease definitely didn’t diminish my interest in you. I remember thinking that whatever this disease is, I’m not afraid of it. The way I’m going to tackle it is to find out more about it.
Once we married, what surprised you or caught you off guard about living with someone with chronic illness?
Well, early on in our marriage, your symptoms weren’t real obvious but after a couple of years, I started to see limitations e.g. you couldn’t run, climb stairs well, etc. We had to start monitoring what we did physically. As the disease has progressed, we’ve had to change the way we approach things. In some ways, it’s actually been a blessing. I’ve always been someone who rushes through life, always on the go, and moving on to the next thing quickly. Muscular dystrophy has made me slow down in a good way.
One of the things I’ve learned about the disease is that we have to be very intentional about the choices we make. For example, if we’re going out, I always call ahead to make sure the building is accessible and easy for you to get in and out of. I don’t want our experiences to be diminished because of accessibility issues. I’ve also signed up to the fact that we can’t be everything to everyone. We can’t live the jet set life and that’s fine with me because I like the simplicity and groundedness that a slower pace brings to our lives.
What have been the biggest challenges for you?
The biggest challenge for me has been seeing your disease progress and trying to stay one step ahead of it. For example, two years ago, I saw a clear need for you to start using a power wheelchair in order to increase your mobility. You and I didn’t see eye to eye on that and it was a struggle for me. I wasn’t necessarily factoring in your feelings or what kind of emotional decision it might have been for you at the time. For me, it was more of an objective decision about what was best for you. My attitude was if it will ensure your safety then why not do it? I know that caused some friction between us.
In your opinion, what has helped us weather some of the storms and challenges?
I think communication has been the biggest thing. I think we’re open and honest about what’s working and what’s not. I think you set good boundaries with me. I tend to be a very social person and I like to include you in a lot of activities. When you laid down a boundary at first, I viewed it as a threat. For example, if we were going out with friends and you didn’t want to go because you were tired or worried about accessibility issues, it was hard for me to understand. But now that we’ve opened up the communication channels and are honest with each other, I realize it’s not a personal rejection. I think giving each other permission to do things independently of each other is also helpful.
What advice would you give to a caretaker spouse like yourself?
First and foremost is to keep the lines of communication open. For the caregiver, it’s just as important for you to express what you’re feeling. Just because you’re the caregiver doesn’t mean you have to stuff your feelings deep down inside and not share them. You shouldn’t view them as unimportant or that you’d be burdening your spouse. You’re not being selfish if you share what’s bothering you.
The second thing is that as a caregiver, you’ve also got to take care of yourself. If you’re not in a place where you’re caring for yourself physically, emotionally or spiritually, you’re not going to be very good at caring for your spouse in any capacity. You can’t be there 24/7 and that doesn’t mean you’re bad, weak or a failure in any way. You just need to be honest with your spouse about your physical and emotional capacity.
And maybe a third point would be to seek out a community of people to provide physical, emotional or spiritual support for you as the caregiver so that you can remain healthy.
What advice would you give to a chronically ill person regarding their healthy spouse?
The big one would be to extend empathy which is not always easy. Empathy understandably ebbs and flows depending on the day and/or situation. The tendency is to focus on you, the ill spouse because you’re the one struggling with pain and limitations. You need to feel loved and cared for by your spouse as well as assured that you won’t be abandoned because of your illness.
At the same time, it’s important for you to put yourself in the caregiver’s shoes. The caregiver’s life has been turned upside down too. The world as they knew it has changed and it’s going to take weeks, months and most likely years to get a handle on it. My advice would be to show a great deal of empathy for your spouse and try to understand how your illness is impacting them as well. Affirm them, thank them and let them know you appreciate what they’re doing for you. Tell them if a specific act of service makes you feel well loved and express your gratitude. Lastly, give them permission to take care of themselves too.
Thank you Jeff for being open and transparent and for offering wisdom to other chronic couples like ourselves!
Are there questions you’d like to ask your spouse but are afraid to? What might some of those questions be? Please leave a comment!
Adjusting to each other does not mean you have to understand your spouse fully. I will never understand how Cindy, my wife, can adoringly hold a mouse in her hands, but let out the most horrific scream when she sees a spider on the other side of the room. She will never understand why I don’t enjoy swimming as much as she does.
A spouse’s willingness to adjust comes from a heart that is grateful for the strengths that exist, rather than frustrated by what is missing. It can be difficult at times to accept your spouse with all of his or her unique and individual traits. When you think about it, those are probably the very attributes that first attracted you to each other. Making adjustments in your attitude about your spouse will result in respect and thanksgiving.
Let’s talk: What is your secret to marital adjustments? (I appreciate your comments below.)