Jesus, Divorce and a Study on Gratitude

 

What do Jesus, a country song about divorce, and a research study on gratitude have in common? More than you might think.
The study came to my attention when I read Ashley Crouch’s reflection on the benefits of gratitude over at the Verily magazine blog. Crouch stated that "a report from the Harvard Medical Association found that gratitude helps us refocus on what we have instead of what we lack. Those who count their blessings have less likelihood for depression, anxiety, or envy, while possessing stronger social connections, greater relationship satisfaction, and a real leg up in the workplace."
Then, since she is the Relationships Editor for Verily, Crouch highlighted some facts about how that applies to couples. She cited a study by psychologist Dr. John Gottman who, after researching thousands of couples, discovered that those who practiced a high ratio of positive compliments and behaviors to negative ones "reported the highest satisfaction…Conflict will happen in any relationship, but major research on emotional psychology discovered that it can be easier to offer criticism when both parties rest secure in their affection towards one another." Dr. Gottman noted that couples who rarely compliment each other often wind up with serious marital problems or even divorced.
Here’s where the country song comes in: specifically, a tune from the 90s called Love Goes Without Saying by Suzy Bogguss. As with many country songs, the title is a clever turn of phrase in relation to the story it tells. Part of the lyrics are sung from the point of view of a husband who works hard to support his wife. But he never actually tells her he loves her. He assumes his love goes without saying. From the wife’s perspective, that assumption is way off base. Since she’s never heard her husband say the words "I love you," her love for him has disappeared. In other words, her love has gone because he never said anything.
Based on the study Crouch cited, this is a major problem for couples today. It’s also one that’s easy to fix once you acknowledge it. All it requires is sincere words that have more power than you think.
It’s also an idea we can apply to our spiritual lives. As we prepare for Lent, we have the opportunity to show God how much we love Him by doing things which move us closer to Him: daily prayer and Scripture reading, extra visits to church for quiet reflection, Mass or Eucharistic adoration.
God’s love for us will never go away, regardless of whether we engage in a relationship with Him or not. He’s good that way, much more patient and understanding than we are. But to reiterate a point in the aforementioned gratitude study, couples who practiced a high ratio of positive compliments and behaviors to negative ones "reported the highest satisfaction."
If your relationship with God is feeling lackluster lately, take the opportunity to return His love on a more regular basis. Offer words of praise, not just petition. And take time out to just "be" with each other. You may come to experience God’s love in a new, more satisfying way.
And since this is also the season for Valentine’s Day, remember to offer words and gestures of appreciation to your husband, wife, boyfriend or girlfriend. Those positive behaviors can play a vital part in keeping your love alive.
For a free copy of the Christopher News Note, GRATITUDE, write: The Christophers, 5 Hanover Square, New York, NY 10004; or e-mail: mail@christophers.org

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