In the United States, it is around Thanksgiving, a time set aside to be thankful. For far too many people, it really becomes an opportunity to eat a big meal, watch a little football, and take a few days off work. Too bad!

What an opportunity to set aside a time to do what we should always do: focus on that for which we are thankful. In fact, the latest research on our health and our ability to thrive shows that those who are thankful and express gratitude live longer, have more meaningful lives, and report higher levels of happiness.

Trouble is, when we have problems, we tend to forget to be thankful. This often has very detrimental effects on our lives and our relationships.

One place this is particularly true is in marriage. Usually, we start relationships being so thankful for the person we met. In fact, when I am talking with pre-marital couples, this is a common theme. It never fails that each is thankful for having found the other. And they can even tell me what they are thankful for.

Then, somewhere along the line, as arguments and conflicts take their tolls on the relationship, we begin to lose track of that for which we are thankful. Suddenly, we are much more aware of what the other person does that bothers us (or doesn't do that bothers us). We lose track of what the other brings to us and to the relationship. And that is when the relationship hits the wall.

In fact, I believe that this process is what creates the real crisis. When we fall out of touch with being thankful for our spouse, our spouse begins to feel unwanted, unloved, unappreciated, and "wrong." That is when people start asking "what did I do wrong?" with no answer. You see, our minds either operate on gratitude and thanksgiving or fear/hurt and protection. There is not much in-between.

Soon, neither can tell someone what they were thankful for, and then, neither can even tell what he or she likes about the other person. At that point, contempt and anger begin to set the emotional tone of the relationship. We begin to focus on what we are not getting, completely ignoring what we are getting.

Sound familiar? If you are in that situation, it is one all-too-common, and one that is entirely avoidable! But the time to turn the tide is now. In order to make the shift, you have to take the relationship off automatic, which is where gratitude turns to resentment and thankfulness turns to insufficiency.

Our minds work in predictable ways, when we don't intervene. But we can easily intervene. We just have to quit allowing the process to run on automatically.

Here are some steps to return to thankfulness and gratitude:

1) Remember that no spouse is as bad as we paint them in our down moments. Our perceptions are skewed when we are upset, angry, or resentful.
2) Remember that people really do the best they can, where they are. This does not mean someone couldn't do better, only that they are doing the best they can now.
3) Remember what you loved and appreciated in the beginning. In fact:
4) List what you would have said at the beginning of the relationship to this: I am thankful for my spouse because. . .
5) Ask yourself whether those items are still true. If so, focus on being thankful for those items. If not:
6) Ask yourself whether they are really not true, or if you just refuse to see and acknowledge them. Often, we lose track with our spouse's true nature, and create an image that is not true, then keep looking for facts to support that image.
7) Work to accept your spouse. In fact, this is the greatest, most important point of all. We all deserve to be accepted for who we are (not the same as how we act). We all want that from our spouse, but few want to extend that to our spouse. This has the power to transform your relationship with your spouse.

Thanksgiving always begins with acceptance: "Thanks for getting us this far. We can go further, but we are glad to be here." Isn't that the real message of Thanksgiving Day? Be thankful for where you are, wherever that is, because it is not where you were before. Look forward to bigger things, better days, by starting with acceptance of where you are and who your spouse is. Then move from there!

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Author's Bio: 

Dr. Baucom has revolutionized saving marriages through his approach. Acceptance is so important in marriage, and Dr. Baucom can show you how at SaveTheMarriage.