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Cherishing our marriage partner is a powerful way to increase the happiness and well-being in a marriage. It makes couples more resilient during hard times, and it's a powerful way to increase our own happiness!

What does it mean to cherish? To cherish is to actively value a spouse. It means recognizing and appreciating all the many good things they bring into our lives.

We cherish when we openly express gratitude, letting them know what they mean to us. But we also cherish as a way of living. Cherishing is a way of viewing the person who has chosen to spend their life with us. To cherish is to see the world not through entitled eyes but by practicing our recognition of the miraculousness of life and the precious people we share it with. 

As human beings, we are so practiced at taking one another for granted. Falling in love is marked by appreciation for the specialness of our beloved.

But, we can quickly move from appreciation to assuming we are owed the good things that our loved one offers us. We then shift our focus to what our spouse is NOT providing for us. While this human inclination to focus on lack may help us forage for our next meal, it doesn’t help us find joy in our love relationships. When we take a spouse for granted, when we stop paying attention to one another, we deprive the relationship of its life source. We deprive it of joy. 

So why is cherishing difficult? Given that cherishing is so central to relational happiness, why are we so bad at it? 

Well, not only are we creatures that have survived by scanning for what we lack, we are also afraid of the perceived vulnerability of actively and openly valuing another.

If we appreciate a spouse’s efforts, will we forfeit our ability to ask for better in the relationship? If we thank a spouse for cleaning up the kitchen, will we be less able to address the larger conflicts around household tasks, for example? While many of us fear this, the truth is that the opposite is true. When we fill our partnership with appreciation, we make the relationship MORE able to address its challenges and divisions. When a person feels acknowledged and valued, they usually desire to do more for the benefit of our spouse and relationship, not less. 

Cherishing can be difficult because it requires acknowledging our vulnerability. If we let another person truly matter to us and we let them know that they matter, maybe our deepened exposure will open us up to more loss. We intuit that remaining critical or withholding gives us some level of control. While being entitled or ungrateful attempts to mask the fear of our unworthiness, it keeps the partnership from its source of joy. And not acknowledging and cherishing the one you are with makes you more vulnerable to disappointment, not less. To cherish, we must tolerate the exposure of saying you make a difference to me. But learning to do this will make the relationship much richer, happier and will make the marriage far more resilient. 

How can we do better? 

Make a list of all the things you would miss if your partner were to die suddenly. What are the things big and small that you would long for? Even if there are lots of grievances in your marriage—stay focused on the good. Write at least seven things. 

Now commit to taking one thing each day and expressing in some form your gratitude to your spouse for what they offer. While it may feel awkward at first, it will get easier. And not only will this practice be good for your spouse and your marriage, it will be very, very good for you. Seeing the beauty and good around us increases our happiness and fills our souls.

Happy Valentine's Day!


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