January 2007: Issue #003

Welcome to Marriage Matters, an ezine devoted to helping individuals and couples prepare for, enhance or revitalize their marriage.

In this Issue:

Feature Article
Creating a Positive Vision

Healthy Marriage Tip
Appreciation: A Key to Unlocking the Door to a Healthy and Happy Marriage

Relationship Reps
Clarifying Your Vision, Goals, and Action Steps

Feature Article

Creating a Positive Vision

by Nathan Cobb, Ph.D.

Last year one of my clients gave me a piece of wisdom that I’ve never forgotten. She told me about kayaking on heavy rapids. In rough water it is very important to focus your attention on where you want to go instead of where you don’t want to go. If you keep looking at that patch of rough water that you want to avoid, that’s exactly where you’ll end up.

You can see how this principle works for yourself now, not with a kayak, but with a home-made pendulum. Find a metal washer and tie it to a three-foot long piece of string. Now, with your dominant hand, hold the string at a comfortable distance out in front of you. Let the washer hang just off of the floor. Wait until the washer stops moving. Then close your eyes, relax, and visualize the washer swinging clockwise in a circle. Keep your eyes closed and visualize this for a full minute. Then open your eyes. Notice what is happening to the washer at the end of your string. Try it now before you read any further.

For many people, micro movements in the muscles of their hand and arm begin to correspond with the visual image they create in their mind. The visualization becomes reality.

Reflect on this powerful principle. Your body—your reactions—tend to follow where you focus your vision. What you see is what becomes real to you.

So what does this have to do with marriage? It has everything to do with it. Ask yourself the following questions.

  • What are you focusing on right now in your marriage?
  • What are you seeing in your spouse on a daily basis?
  • What are you imagining will happen in your future?
  • Are you focusing on things that make you grateful or things that make you hateful?
  • Are you illuminating solutions or ruminating on problems?
  • Are you fixing your eyes and your ears and your thoughts on what you want and how to create it or on what you don’t want and what bugs you?
  • Do you have a concrete, positive, specific vision in mind of the kind of marriage and relationship you hope to achieve? Do you have a plan for getting there?
  • Are you like the kayaker whose gaze stays transfixed on the whirlpool or are you looking forward to the path through the hazards?
  • Are you getting more of what you want or more of what you don’t want in your relationship?

Take time to reflect on these questions. Without a positive and powerful vision of the outcome you are trying to achieve, you may find that your thoughts and your attention drift aimlessly without direction, or, worse, get sucked into negative patterns.

If you want to have a strong and vibrant marriage, start today by focusing on a positive, hopeful, and meaningful vision. What do you want for you? What do you want for your spouse? What do you want for your marriage? How will you know when you have accomplished your vision? What will be different in your life? It is helpful to write this vision down and review it on a daily basis.

Try sitting down with your spouse and discussing with each other what an ideal marriage looks like to each of you. What do you yearn for? What does each of you need to change within yourselves to begin actively creating the kind of marriage you want? What do you need to focus on?

Imagine how it will feel to you when you are living the marriage of your dreams. What excites you about that? What do you find yourself looking forward to? Let this vision work in you every day until it begins to become a reality.

This is essentially the law of attraction in action. The law of attraction says that you are attracting into your life whatever it is that you give your energy, focus, and attention to, whether desired or undesired. Just like the kayaker. Just like the pendulum exercise.

If you focus only on the parts of your marriage that upset you and the behaviors of your spouse that annoy you, if you firmly believe that your spouse would rather have a root canal than spend time with you, if you think only about being hurt or used again and again, then you are creating negative energy. You’ll find yourself saying things that feel accusing or critical. You’ll act in ways that seem defensive or cold. This will inexorably lead to more of the same undesired events and negativity emerging in your marriage.

On the other hand if you focus your attention on positives and the strengths in your marriage and in your spouse, if you keep your vision fixed on finding solutions, if you reflect on principles of forgiveness and love and commitment, if you learn to see the good in your spouse right now and the good that your spouse can be, and if you have a clear vision of where you want to go and who you want to be, then your vibes, your energy, your words, and your actions will start to correspond with this vision. Not only that, but doors and windows will start to open, hearts will soften, vision will expand, eyes that were blind will see more clearly. Eventually, you will begin to see more of what you want.

I hope this doesn’t sound like pie-in-the-sky fantasy thinking to you. Nothing could be more down-to-earth than this principle. Call it the kayak principle or the law of attraction or the power of setting goals. It is working in every area of your life today whether you are aware of it or not, bringing you more of what you want or more of what you don’t want into your life.

This article seemed appropriate for this time of year. The New Year is a time for renewal, re-commitment, and second-chances. You and your spouse can accomplish great things together if you will take the time to create a positive vision for your marriage, set specific goals for making that vision a reality, formulate a plan for accomplishing those goals, learn to see the goodness in each other and in yourselves, and above all, enjoy the journey together. Happy kayaking!

Healthy Marriage Tip


A Key to Unlocking the Door to a Healthy and Happy Marriage

Think back to the last time you felt unappreciated. How did you feel towards the person who didn't appreciate your efforts? Were you more or less likely to continue doing the behavior that wasn't appreciated?

Think back to the last time you felt appreciated. Ask yourself the same set of questions as above. Obviously, you are happier and much more likely to repeat a behavior when you feel appreciated.

Learning how to express sincere appreciation is a critical skill in forming and sustaining a healthy marriage. The first step in developing this skill is to become aware of the many things your spouse does for you.

It's impossible to express your sincere appreciation for something you are unaware of. One area that is easy to overlook is 'invisible work'. Invisible work is anything your spouse does that you only notice when it is not done.

A good example is the laundry. If you always have clean clothes, then it is easy to take for granted the efforts of your spouse who is doing the laundry. You may not notice which day the laundry gets done, but you do notice when you don't have clean clothes. You might even say something unkind about it.

It's easy to take for granted everything your spouse does for you. You may even think, "I've told him or her before how much I appreciated ___." or "He or she doesn't need to be told thank you every time, and if I did the words would start to lose their value."

The vast majority of us are not in danger of expressing too much sincere appreciation. In fact, we are guilty of expressing too little.

Once you recognize what your spouse does for you, the next step is to express your sincere appreciation for his or her help. This can be as simple as saying "Thank you" or "I really appreciated that". Another option is to let your spouse know how it made you feel and why you appreciated the behavior.

If you are feeling under appreciated, then ask for appreciation. This lets your spouse know you would like to feel more appreciated. Keep giving specific reminders of things you want to be thanked for until your spouse develops the habit of expressing appreciation.

Feeling appreciated is a basic human need. When you fulfill that need for your spouse, the joy and happiness in your marriage will increase and the pain and misery will decrease.

Action Plan

Write down four things you normally forget to thank your spouse for.

1. ____________________________________________________________

2. ____________________________________________________________

3. ____________________________________________________________

4. ____________________________________________________________

Make a list of three different ways you can express sincere appreciation for what your spouse has done.

1. ____________________________________________________________

2. ____________________________________________________________

3. ____________________________________________________________

Repeat these activities several times a week until you have developed the habit of frequently expressing sincere appreciation.

Visit healthymarriage.org to read the other topics in this pamphlet series.

© 2005 The National Healthy Marriage Institute

Relationship Reps

This section of Marriage Matters offers easy-to-do and practical exercises each month to help couples strengthen their relationship. Just like repetition and strength training at the gym builds your body and your muscles, conscious repetition of positive behaviors and actions over time will build and strengthen your marriage.

This Month: Clarifying Your Vision and Goals

Create your Vision.

Your vision is an overall picture of your life the way you want it to be. It's like standing on the edge of a great valley spread out before you with an emerald green lake in the centre, and a river and trees. You take in everything you see. Your vision is the grand, overall view, one that fills you with excitement and passion.

For this exercise, focus on whatever gives you energy and passion. Allow yourself to dream. Don't evaluate your vision or talk yourself out of it. Approach this exercise as though your vision was attainable. Stay focused by asking yourself, "If my life and marriage were absolutely ideal, what would it look like? What would we be doing?"

Now write out a paragraph in the space below describing in detail what your life and marriage would look like in terms of your dreams and goals together, your family, career, togetherness, children, lifestyle, and romance, etc.. These are suggested categories. You might think of others.























Now that you have a vision to work with, what goals will help you accomplish your vision? For example, compare it to looking out across that valley I mentioned earlier. If you want to dip your feet in that emerald green lake, how will you get there? What routes will you take? There could be several different routes.

In terms of your marriage, select one or several goals that you want to work on that will help you make this vision a reality. For example, "I want to go on a date with my spouse once a week," or "I want to create more feelings of unity and we-ness in our marriage." Make your goals specific, positive, reasonable, and measurable.




Action Plan

Your action plan consists of specific, concrete, and positive steps you will take in order to accomplish your goals. For example, "On a daily basis I will express my appreciation for my spouse’s efforts," or "Each day I will greet my spouse at the door with a warm kiss and embrace."

In the space below, write down at least three specific and positive action steps that you will take this month to bring you closer to accomplishing you defined in the second step above.




Make a commitment to working on these actions steps regularly. Remember to be persistent and keep trying. It takes conscious effort over several weeks to begin to establish a new pattern. Review your vision daily and re-commit to your action plan. As you do, it will become easier and easier to follow over time.

Forward to a Friend

If you have found the articles in this issue useful to you, please consider forwarding this newsletter to a friend.



Nathan Cobb, Ph.D. in MFT, RMFT, R.Psych
200C Haddon Road SW
Calgary, AB T2V 2Y6
Tel: (403) 255-8577
Fax: (403) 255-8570

For more information please visit www.nathancobb.com

Nathan Cobb, Ph.D in MFT, RMFT, R.Psych

Nathan Cobb, Ph.D.
Registered Marriage
& Family Therapist
Registered Psychologist


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