My Goal: Gratitude
"Are all married people like this?" my friend asked. She had recently returned from a business trip where a married man made advances toward her, and she had witnessed a married woman making suggestive moves on another man. These were not sleezy people she bumped into on the street, but professionals with put-together lives. As a single person, she was starting to have her doubts about marriage. "Do you ever worry about your husband …" she started asking but trailed off, not wanting to imply that my husband would be anything but upright.
"No, of course not!" I answered immediately. "But," I added slowly, "I don't take him for granted." I've passed that age where every summer consists of a flurry of wedding invitations. The honeymoon period has long gone for me and most of my friends, and divorce and affairs are not just the stuff of tabloids anymore. I've painfully watched as some of my friends I witnessed vow to spend the rest of their lives together have ended up in broken marriages.
But although I don't take my husband for granted, I often find myself acting as if I do. The stresses of life with two young children often lead me to react negatively. I snap at my husband when he doesn't do things exactly the way I think they should be done. I get angry when he doesn't respond immediately to my requests. I nag him. I have a world of patience for my children but nothing left for him.
I made a true statement when I told my friend I didn't take my husband for granted, but why did my actions not match my words? No matter how many times I told myself, "I'm going to be nicer to him tomorrow," I kept failing.
I realized my interactions with my husband consisted mainly of reactions. By definition, reactions happen in an instant, before you have time to think. But while I couldn't change the way I reacted on a daily basis, I could change the way I intentionally acted. I usually spend time planning what I will do each day and scheduling my kids' activities, but I don't spend any time planning how I will interact with my husband. I needed to change this.
To help myself interact more intentionally with my husband, I implemented some common guidelines often used for setting business goals and New Year's resolutions: I set a daily goal that would be both measurable and attainable.
A measurable goal is something that can be quantified, as opposed to a qualitative goal. For example, I originally made it a goal to "be nicer" to my husband, but that was not something measurable or concrete to work toward. Whether or not I accomplished the goal was completely subjective based on who was evaluating my performance. Instead, an example of a measurable goal would be to compliment him once a day. At the end of the day, I could say that I either did it or didn't do it.