Elul, the Hebrew month before Rosh Hashanah, is here. It’s that time of year when we say to ourselves, “I can’t believe Rosh Hashanah is around the corner!” It’s so hard to switch gears from the “lazy days of summer” mentality to a getting ready for the Day of Judgment.

Despite our reluctance, despite the call of the beach, it’s time to get serious about making a spiritual accounting. When I start, I have a tendency to get a little overwhelmed. There is just so much work to do – character traits to enhance and character traits to eliminate, relationships to deepen and relationships to let slide, trying to connect to God and be more spiritual.

I need a place to start. So I asked myself: What is a good in my life that I take for granted, that I don’t work hard enough at, an area where my growth could make a real difference? Surprisingly (or perhaps not so surprisingly) I decided to focus on my marriage. For the very reasons stated. Because I didn’t think I needed to. Because I am guilty of taking it for granted. Because I just assume it’s okay and ignore it to work on other things. And that’s a dangerous path.

#I am keeping a list of all the things he has done for me and thanking him for it.

One area where I found myself lacking is in my appreciation. Instead of constantly keeping a list in my head of all the things my husband hasn’t done yet – and instead of sometimes expressing my frustration about those things to him (!) – I decided to keep a list of all the things he has done for me and constantly does. And to thank him for it.

At first he was a little surprised (which is not to my credit) but then he was gratified. Everyone wants to be appreciated and our spouse most of all. It doesn’t matter that initially it wasn’t spontaneous. What matters is that I said it.

During this reflective process, I realize that I have a bad habit (one among many) of deflecting the good he does for me. If he would say, “I bought you this big beautiful home in Toms River”, I would respond “You didn’t do it for me; you did it for us.” If he would say, “I just treated us to a nice vacation”, I would reply in similar fashion, “That wasn’t just for me; you enjoyed it too.” It’s not that I’m wrong but it’s not the full credit response – which is a simple and enthusiastic thank you. Am I benefitting? Obviously. Is part of my husband’s goal to give me pleasure? Clearly. So I should just say thank you.

Sometimes we forget to notice our spouse’s good. Sometimes it gets buried beneath an avalanche of mortgage payments and carpools and other stresses. But it’s still there. All those wonderful qualities we saw when we first got married are still there. We’ve just stopped noticing; we’ve stopped appreciating.

So, as Elul approaches, I am recommitting to focus more on growth and I’m starting with my marriage – potentially the easiest and/or the hardest area of all! And within my marriage I’m starting with appreciation. I’m working on changing my instinctive responses. I’m focusing on expressing my appreciation to my husband.

And since changing even one small aspect of our character requires so much effort and determination, I am asking the Almighty to help me. I know He wants to; He was just waiting for me to ask.