Have you ever had a time in your life when you felt left out or picked on? I remember being in elementary school when it was time to pick teams for dodge ball. It wasn’t really my favorite game, but I thought I wasn’t horrible at it. Imagine the sorrow I felt when the team captains would pick their teammates and I was chosen second to last or even last! It sure makes a young child feel inadequate, broken or not good enough in some way when other children seem to rank your athletic abilities at rock bottom. Perhaps they just didn’t like me for some other reason or they just didn’t know me that well and chose friends they were comfortable with first. Regardless of their intent, I had my own perception of what they thought about me.

From the time we are born into this world, some of our most basic needs are to belong and be loved, to be part of something bigger than us. Most babies are tenderly cared for and all their needs are taken care of by doting parents. Then we start to grow up and face the challenges of life head on. Not everyone cares that our needs are met. Not everyone is nice, intentionally or unintentionally, and not everyone plays fairly by the rules.

When we are feeling distanced, hurt or even neglected from our spouse or other loved one because of their negative actions – or lack of action – we can think of them when they were a small baby. Take a moment to picture them as a helpless creature needing care and compassion. What hurts may be causing them to cry and act the way they do at times?

Imagine them as an infant so small and shrink them even smaller in your mind. Shrink them to an inch or even a half an inch in size – small enough for you to gently pick them up and place them in a special place in your heart where you give them warmth and love, where they can be safe. Don’t get weirded out by this way of thinking. We all want to receive the energy of love, light and kindness and hear words of comfort and cheer.

Now they are not babies, of course, but if you can conjure up that feeling in your heart that you are indeed a protector of sorts for them or in biblical terms “brother’s keeper,” you will want to try harder to understand their perspective and work at building them up, not tearing them down. When we send out compassion to those who may hurt us in some way, although not guaranteed, it is the one way to receive more love from others even if it’s not that person.

When my friend and her husband’s relationship was struggling, she started a simple habit of writing down one thing a day that she was grateful for about her husband. It was hard a first because she had noticed everything there was to complain about in her husband’s daily actions. Her focus had been on his weaknesses.

By switching her focus to see the good in him, her feelings and energy towards him changed. At first, it was silly to write, “He did the dishes tonight” because that was the only good she could see in him all day. However, as time went on, she could see he actually was more loving and helpful than she realized.

Over time, she was able to start verbalizing her gratitude for the things he did to help and serve each day or for his skills and talents. Their stressed marriage started to change bit by bit, and this one little trick was the start of great positive change for them. This one simple way to love your spouse is all about YOU taking a minute or two each day to praise and honor your spouse or other loved one rather than criticize and complain. Give it a try and see what it does to create more bliss and love in your relationships!