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I’ve written this before, but we all know some people who can brighten up any room just by entering it — and we all know people who can brighten up any room just by leaving it. Though I only recently met today’s guest columnist, I would put her solidly in the former category.

Jannelle C. Hanni is about to realize a long-held dream when her first book, "Happy Within," comes out in a few weeks. So often it seems we live in an age of blaming others for whatever our lot in life. I appreciate the sentiment that Jannelle espouses that you can find true happiness "within yourself." She believes "the quality of our relationships with others is directly related to how we feel about our ourselves, and we only need to be concerned with the way we are because we cannot change other people — or many situations we find ourselves in."

Please don’t read a hint of self-centeredness in that last sentence. When you read her book and today’s column, you’ll realize Jannelle is deeply concerned about others in her life.

Jannelle expects her book to be available at Amazon and Barnes and Noble in early March. She anticipates "Happy Within" will be available in local bookstores, but that may take a little longer. You can also get a copy at her website, jannellechanni.com.

Learning to accept and embrace the challenges of marriage

I believe that attitude is everything, in the workplace, with our friends, our children and most importantly our marriage. It still surprises me when I hear young people say, "Well if it doesn’t work out, I can always get divorced." Really? I’m sure you would agree, that’s definitely not the attitude we should go into a marriage with.

When I got married, I was absolutely sure that I would spend the rest of my life with my husband, although I had no idea how hard that would be. I married a man who had two children, and I had not been a mother, so it was a package deal that soon presented a whole new set of challenges for them and for me.

The first year was full of glee and happiness, but by the second year, the difficulties seemed to pour in one by one.  The arguments over the children, our own differences, which quite frankly we had no idea of when we got married, and our unwillingness to agree to disagree.

I remember telling the kids that "whether you think you can or think you can’t, you will always be right." Of course, Henry Ford said that first, but it was something I believed wholeheartedly. I worked full-time, picked the kids up from school, helped with homework, dropped them off at practice and of course did all the usual household chores, shopping, cooking, laundry. By the end of the day, I was truly exhausted! My husband often worked late, so our time together was sparse.

I felt, at times, like my husband married me because he needed a caretaker and maid. My resentment built and my attitude became increasingly negative. The fights about the kids only made me feel like it was three against one, me being the one.

Somehow, we made it through the difficult times. Eventually, the kids were grown and on their own. It felt like the first time my husband and I had a chance to be that married couple we vowed to be years earlier. The problem was that we had already established bad habits and negative attitudes in our willingness to find common ground.

We are both strong willed, and I believe we spent more time trying to make each other change than we did trying to accept each other as we are. What I’ve learned about acceptance after almost 18 years of marriage is that no matter how flawed your spouse may be, so are you. That is a humbling reality.

The attitudes that have turned my marriage and many other marriages into a good one are the simple things. Look for opportunities to build up your spouse. Stop focusing on the things your spouse doesn’t do, and count your blessing for the things your he or she does do.

When your spouse feels appreciated, they will usually bend over backward to keep pleasing you! I make a point to tell my husband I appreciate how hard he works for us, and he tells me the same thing.

Let’s face it, anyone we spend a lot of time with will eventually annoy us. Learn to laugh at the things that could annoy you and trade that in for enjoyment and acceptance.

Have an attitude of forgiveness, and your spouse will reciprocate.

Accept that you cannot change your spouse, but you can change your attitude and behavior, creating peace and respect that is dually appreciated.

It’s easy to be habitually critical of your spouse, which only tears your marriage down, so have an attitude of gratitude and look for the good in your spouse. Choose to find things to compliment, build up and appreciate. This one shift in attitude can work wonders in a marriage.

I don’t know about you, but I can easily become selfish, if there’s one thing that we can change, this is a good one. Learn to put your spouse’s needs before your own with a sincere heart and care about the things that concern him or her. God blessed you with your spouse; they are a gift that should be appreciated and accepted in an honoring way.

Today I enjoy a loving and fun relationship with my husband, but it wasn’t until I learned how to accept and embrace the challenges that I have come to enjoy life with my spouse.

Acceptance is the key to a good marriage and a happy life together.

Ron Price is the co-founder and executive director of the Four Corners Coalition for Marriage & Family, a nonprofit organization dedicated to strengthening and equipping marriages and families in the Four Corners. He can be reached at 505-327-7870 and ronp@fccmf.org.

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