“Thank You,” not “I Want”

By Greg Baer M.D.

January 2, 2012

Bill told me that Joan was always spending time with everybody but him. They were both retired, and Bill said, "I feel like I'm by myself all the time."

I asked a number of questions, and it turned out that Joan spent about half her waking day with Bill. We could have argued all day—as Bill had on many occasions—about which times he wanted her with him, and which times it was all right for her to make her own decisions.

"Let me suggest a principle that might help you," I said, "and then I'll ask a question. First, the Law of Choice. If you don't let Joan make her own decisions, and you try to force her with guilt to do what you want, she'll hate it, and you won't feel loved even when she does spend time with you."

"Okay, what's the question?" Bill asked.

"When Joan does spend time with you, do you thank her? Even if you don't do it out loud, do you feel grateful, or do you just expect that she should be with you?"

Bill looked guilty. "Well . . ."

"So no, you don't really feel grateful, and I'm guessing you almost never express your gratitude. That's not uncommon. Don't feel bad about it, just recognize it. Try an experiment. Just notice whether you tend to be grateful for what you have, or do you tend to complain about what you don't have. Do you tend to say, 'Thank you," or do you tend to say, "I want"? Then take action. Every time she chooses to spend time with you, thank her for being thoughtful and loving. You'll discover that two things will happen. First, YOU will enjoy the time you spend with her much more. Gratitude makes every gift far more fulfilling. Second, when you're grateful and happy around her, guess where she'll want to be?"

"With me?"

"Of course. Now, be careful that you're not grateful so that she'll spend more time with you, or you'll just be manipulating her, and she'll sense that."

It is not possible to be grateful and unhappy at the same time. Try your own gratitude experiment, and see what happens.

Real Love in Marriage

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About the author 

Greg Baer, M.D.

I am the founder of The Real Love® Company, Inc, a non-profit organization. Following the sale of my successful ophthalmology practice I have dedicated the past 25 years to teaching people a remarkable process that replaces all of life's "crazy" with peace, confidence and meaning in various aspects of their personal lives, including parenting, marriages, the workplace and more.

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