As the story goes, a Cherokee elder was sitting with his grandchildren. He told them, "In every life there is a terrible fight-a fight between two wolves. One is evil: he is fear, anger, envy, greed, arrogance, self-pity, resentment, and deceit. The other is good: joy, serenity, humility, confidence, generosity, truth, gentleness, and compassion."
One of his grandchildren asked, "Grandfather, which wolf will win?" The elder looked him in the eye and replied, "The one you feed."
This brief story contains a far-reaching truth. You choose which traits, attitudes, beliefs, and values you will give attention to. And what you focus on will grow and expand. For example, if you value honesty, this value will affect all of your dealings and interactions with others. If you nurture and "feed" resentment, it will eventually take over your life.
Continually focusing on marriage problems makes the relationship seem even worse than it actually is. If you continually talk about how you've been done wrong and how angry you are at your spouse, your anger will grow and blot out your memories of more positive times. When that happens, you are unable to see a balanced picture.
The more energy you devote to focusing on the negatives in your relationship, the worse and more hopeless everything seems. And when you're feeding your negativity, your creative energy is frozen. Thus, you don't have the ability to generate helpful options or a fresh perspective.
You influence your perception of reality by the thoughts you think, the beliefs you hold, and the attitudes you cultivate. According to Katherine Mansfield, "Could we change our attitude, we should not only see life differently, but life itself would come to be different. Life would undergo a change of appearance because we ourselves had undergone a change of attitude."
In each moment, you decide whether to make negative or positive interpretations about the events and people in your life. These interpretations shape your experience of reality and impact your capacity to be all you can possibly be. They also affect your expectations about what is possible.
Choosing to develop qualities such as compassion, honesty, serenity, and joy can transform your marriage and your life. And choosing to reduce the resentment, anger, deceit, and fear in your life can lighten your emotional load and leave you will more energy to generate creative solutions to your marriage problems.
As you become more positive, you bring more positive energy into your interactions with your spouse. When this happens, surprising things can happen in your marriage. The sharp, prickly edge of anger can start to soften between you and your partner. New insights and understandings about a situation can occur, and you can be more likely to find the middle ground of compromise.
The following tips can assist you in training yourself to focus more on what's right with your marriage and your life:
1.Take the time each day to list the things that you are grateful for in your life. Remember to include the things people often take for granted, such as three meals a day, a hot shower, heat, a stove and refrigerator, running water, medical care, and friends.
2.Each day, remind yourself of your spouse's positive qualities and contributions to your life. Think back to what attracted you to your partner initially. Reflect on how your spouse has caused you to stretch and grow and on how much you've learned from the experience.
3.Write in your journal about what positive qualities in yourself you want to cultivate and develop. These are the attitudes, beliefs, and values that you want to focus on and encourage to take root, grow, and thrive in your life.
4.Visit a library or bookstore and select some inspirational reading material and inspirational tapes or CD's. Find the time each day to read or listen to something that is positive, encouraging, and inspiring. It's important to refill at the well of inspiration daily.
5.Spend less time with friends and family members who are negative and leave you feeling depressed and fatigued. There's a name for those individuals who drain your positive energy-"energy vampires." Instead, cultivate new friends who are positive, supportive, and encouraging and who bring out the best in you.
Nancy J. Wasson, Ph.D., is co-author of Keep Your Marriage: What to Do When Your Spouse Says "I don't love you anymore!" This is available as an e-book at http://www.KeepYourMarriage.com ,where you can also sign up for the free Keep Your Marriage Internet Magazine to get weekly ideas and support to help you improve your marriage. Nancy can be contacted at Nancy@KeepYourMarriage.com.