For me, 2011 could have easily been a depressing year. Like many of you, I weathered lots of storms. The economy is rough and there’s just a general sense of despair with all that’s going on here and around the world.

Funny though, it didn’t feel like a rough year because when I encountered a trial, I was able to go to gratitude and focus on the good in my life. I believe a lot of relationships can be saved if the two people focus on what is good between them and not a current, temporary conflict.

One of my sister-friends invited me over her house three weeks ago for some wine and to show me a clip from the new movie she is shooting. After we watched the clip, we did what we always do… started catching up on our lives. My sister-friend has been married for 15 years to a great guy. She has one of those “man’s man” husbands who is also tender and loving to all of her friends. I really adore her husband and his spirit.

Four years ago, my sister-friend took a leap of faith and decided to pursue her dream of being a filmmaker and quit her job as an insurance executive. As a filmmaker myself, I was completely supportive and so was her husband. Even with the economic downturn, his law practice was still thriving and he encouraged her to go for it. Fast forward to 2011, and his practice is suffering from the blows to the economy that we’ve all felt in one-way or another. It has caused a tremendous strain on their relationship. Unfortunately, finances are a major cause of divorce in this country.

My sister-friend was lamenting about how they fought more now than in their fifteen years of marriage. They’d even begun to speak about separating and possibly divorce. I could tell she was very stressed out and lost on how to fix it. I looked around their home and saw all of the pictures on the walls, in the bookshelves, on the piano, etc. The house was full of wonderful memories of good times and love.

I said, “Look around this house!” She didn’t immediately follow directions and looked at me crazily instead. So, I explained, “Your house is filled with portraits of your life. Look, there’s your wedding photo. I remember you were both so happy.” I pointed to a picture of she and her husband at their 10th anniversary party. “Ten years later, you were even happier. And this one, is from our trip to Brazil — the one where we had so much fun we should’ve signed confidentiality agreements.”

“Okay, but I see these photos every day. What’s your point,” she questioned? “Well, you may see them, but do you see them?” I asked. I went on to explain that oftentimes we may become so accustomed to our daily routines that we forget to stop and appreciate the things around us. The birds, the trees, the sky… and, in this case, the wonderful memories she’s built with her husband. The whole point of pictures is to capture a beautiful moment in time so you can remember it. By passing these pictures every day and failing to embrace all the good in her life, she and her husband were missing an opportunity to heal the pain they were currently experiencing.

“One of the things I’ve learned about going to gratitude in difficult situations is that it’s very hard to be upset while you’re being grateful for what you do have,” I shared. My sister-friend looked at me and smiled. “We have had some really great moments. Actually, most of our moments have been good. I guess we’ve both lost our way and forget to see that. But, it’s so easy to get caught up when things get rough.”

When things get rough, that is the exact time you need to focus on the good in your life. I suggested that she and her husband schedule some regular time for them to reminisce and just be together without worrying about finances and their troubles. Go through some photo albums! Have dinner at the place where they met! Revisit those good memories they’ve built over the fifteen years and I promised it would make things better. It’s so hard to be upset when you’re in a place that recalls a happy time.

Relationships are difficult to maintain — especially, as the years get longer and there are issues with finances, children, health, etc. It becomes increasingly difficult. It takes a commitment to the relationship, but it also takes both parties being focused on what is good between them.