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Count Your Blessings

The arithmetic of a positive relationship.

by Rick Wilson
February 6, 2007

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Count Your Blessings
I believe human beings are instilled with an infinite capacity to love. We love each other, our pets, even inanimate objects. Talk to a man about his dog. Ask a sailor if he loved his ship. Ask a couple who, hand in hand, saw a great sunset. Love is boundless.

The problem with love is that it will always end in tragedy. Someone or something will meet death in some way, shape or form. Ships sink. Suns set. People die.

The grief caused by such a loss is sometimes barely tolerable. The emotions that churn within us come in waves of pain of an undetermined duration and intensity. Yet, we persevere and survive. We somehow manage to move on.

It is the human spirit that lives within us all that provides the fuel to drive us forward. It is the search for love that keeps us waking in the morning, hoping and praying that the new day will be better than the last. Love helps us to draw our next breath. It motivates us to place one foot in front of the other.

The human potential is amplified and accelerated through the power of our need and desire to love. It is the greatest stimulant in the world.

Yet, challenges to love come daily. Sometimes we win and sometimes we lose. The worst losses are those that we inflict upon ourselves. These are the stupid mistakes that can never be overcome no matter how hard we try. They are the self-inflicted, often pretentious errors in judgment that disappoint and offend those around us that have done nothing to deserve such hurt and pain.

If you have ever been tempted to harm a loved one, be it by word or deed, I have an exercise for you to try. You may be amazed at the results.

Send your significant other away for the day. Assume the scenario that produces the greatest emotional pain. You need to be in a state of flux, of deep disconcerting need in order to heighten all your senses to make this work best.

Get a pencil and paper and begin to listen to your senses - smell, touch, sight, taste and hearing. Think of only the positive things that you can associate with these senses and your spouse. Begin a list of the reasons why you love them. One caveat, leave out any references to sex because sex is too easy. Sex is available anywhere.

Here's a case in point to help you get started. Our sense of smell is a powerful reminder of times past and present. For example, I have my grandfather's old desk in our house. One of the drawers in his desk housed his pipe tobacco, a special blend he purchased out of town common only to him. While he died in 1985, the smell of his tobacco lingers still. When I want to have a moment with him, all I have to do is to open that drawer and smell that wonderful aroma, and there he is. Right there, through the simple act of opening a drawer, I'm reminded of a magnificent, loving man. That scent is still as intense as it was the first time he let me pack his pipe for him.

Immediately in my mind my list has been initiated. I can hear his deep, southern drawl offering up instructions and guidance as I grab small pinches of tobacco and fill the bowl of his pipe. I feel him behind me as I strike a golf ball, his keen eyes shaping a young teen's swing. I can sense his presence and feel his warmth. I still miss him even after all these years. These are the types of loving memories that you want to conjure during this process.

Now, as a suggestion, begin by resting on your spouse's pillow.  As you lay there, take in the scent of your significant other. My wife washes her hair every night before she comes to bed. She puts on her lotion. I can smell her hair and the scent of pears. I love the way she smells. I miss her terribly when she's not at home.

Before we married, she warned me that she liked to snuggle and that, if that was a problem, I'd have to get over it. For the younger generation we do what is called "spooning" when we sleep. We bend our bodies into one another as we lie on our sides and hold on tightly to each other. After all these years, I can't sleep without her touching me and I her.

Depression entered my life sometime during the end of my first marriage. The thing about depression is that, many times, you don't realize you are so depressed. Its manifestations are varied and harmful to you and those around you. It began to affect both my judgment and my second marriage. I needed help, but didn't know it. It took a selfless act by my wife to get me to realize that, without help, I would lose everything I cared about, especially her.

I finally agreed to seek help. We found a wonderful man named Dr. Ron Guy to guide me back to reality. The trip would not be easy. Looking introspectively at one's demons and retrospectively at all the people that have been hurt as a result is painful to say the least. But Ron Guy challenged me. He saw the potential that was within me and was determined to help me to improve myself, not only for those around me, but especially for my own self-worth and well being.

One day, as Dr. Guy sat across from my wife and me, he asked if I thought I could come up with 100 reasons why I loved my wife within two weeks. Without thinking I said I could, partly because I love a challenge but also because, as I said, my wife was sitting there with me. I got a legal pad, a pencil, and began to record and number my reasons.

Thus began an odyssey that continues to this day. Before I started this list, I was looking at the few reasons she irritated me. That's what depression does. The glass is always half empty. Now, when I looked at her, I was looking only for things to love. Every time she did something that made me feel good, I wrote it down. Number 95 through 100 were:

95. Didn't think less of me when I did.

96. Worried about me when she was in the most pain.

97. She came back.

98. Likes good French food.

99. Likes for me to cook for her.

100. Gave me Jake (our dog).

The first 25 or so reasons were easy. The next 25 were hard. Then, as my all senses sharpened and opened up, I saw and felt things that I had forgotten about or gotten used to over the course of our relationship. I was transformed.

Two weeks later I gave Dr. Guy my list. He was visibly stunned. No one had ever reached one hundred on the list. Yet, in his hands he held five hundred and fifty reasons why I loved my wife (with only one duplication). It was 23 pages in length.

Ron Guy's simple act had challenged me to forget about the few negatives and focus only on the constructive parts of our relationship. This task had made me realize what I had. It brought all of the positive aspects of our relationship to the forefront.

Now, through this straightforward exercise, I was taken back to a time when we first met. Back then in its infancy, as in most people's relationships, I only saw the good. The little things that might have irritated me mattered little because of the massive number of reasons that I loved her. And because I only wanted to love her, I cast aside any thoughts that were converse to my intentions. My focus was always of an optimistic nature.

As a relationship matures, I'm convinced that we become used to our environment. If your spouse is a wonderful person, as mine was and is, wonderful becomes the norm. Because we become accustomed to this behavior, we begin to take it for granted. Once that happens, we then begin to notice the little things that bother us because they are out of the norm. They stick out. For example, you may now notice dishes left out of the dishwasher, clothes on the floor, or an unmade bed, whereas before you simply went behind them and cleaned up.

I'm willing to bet any young couple that they would never believe a divorce could happen because of one of these things. I can tell you with all certainty that divorces happen every day that began with something just as meaningless and pathetic as clothes left on the floor.

Somewhere I read that in order to love completely, we have to dismiss our disparaging thoughts and concentrate on the good. That's not to say that we shouldn't correct problems within the relationship; but, we can't allow the bad points to become the focus of that relationship. If that is all we see, then our love is as doomed as life itself. But, just as believers have faith in life after death, a bad relationship can be resurrected if we choose to see and experience the good points over the bad.

As I focused on the good, I found myself treating people better in general. More importantly, I was treating my wife better... much better. I saw her as my guardian angel. She alone saw I had a problem and needed help. She alone forced me to seek help. Her infinite love for me made me a better person, a nicer person. I also became the individual she fell in love with eleven years previous.

It's now been over eleven years since her selfless act of love and our relationship is stronger than ever. In fact we just celebrated twenty-two years of marriage. Through the simple process of counting my blessings and the methods of one man I still find new reasons every day to love my wife and life itself.

And guess what? You don't have to limit this exercise to your spouse. It works on everything. Try it on your job, your child, or your life. By looking at things in a positive manner, you will see a change in your attitude and even in your existence.

The amazing thing is that you don't have to be the subject of a list to enjoy its benefits. A compliment given to your wife or husband, will release positive energy that will carry you for the day. Seeing a smile on the person you love that you caused is gratifying beyond words. Conveying different compliments over time demonstrates this love even further as well as your observance of it. And, here is the great part, they will respond in kind. Remember, give and you shall receive.

Dr. Guy moved from his Pensacola, Florida office many years ago. He chose to close his practice for reasons that were his own. What a shame. He is a gifted person of keen insight who somehow managed to put Humpty Dumpty back together again. I will always be grateful for his caring and understanding. He not only saved a marriage, but he probably saved a life as well.

Now, as I look at my wonderful wife, I see her once again for the great person she is and always was. I'm able to realize how truly fortunate and lucky I am to have her in my life. But more importantly, every minute of every hour of every day, I fall in love with her all over again.

Comments (2)

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Rita from Fairhope writes:
February 6, 2007
Wow! What an incredible tribute, not only to your wife and to Dr. Guy, but to you as well for your willingness to reveal your inner struggles in a way that will benefit all of us. I know for me, it was an eye-opener and will be an inspiration throughout this difficult week in front of me. Thanks for a great story, Rick.

Dawn from Jacksonville writes:
June 5, 2007
Thanks for making me read this...I really can appreciate it, more than you will ever know. Love ya Dad.....

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