Important Words. Three of the most important words for living a good life are “please” and “thank you”. In fact, we teach children that they are magic words. Unfortunately, these words often disappear over the years of a marriage. But everyone likes to be appreciated, even your spouse.
The phrase, familiarity breeds contempt, becomes reality for far too many marriages. Managing the day-to-day responsibilites of life often takes priority over gratitude for a lot of couples. It’s a fine line between expecting your partner to participate responsibly in your relationship and taking their efforts for granted. Some think that walking this line, and not falling, requires the balance of a tight-rope walker.
Feeling Appreciated? Most people want to feel appreciated and your spouse is no different. They want to feel like they matter and that you believe they make a difference in your life. Even if they are simply doing the things that they agreed to do, if it makes your life easier or better, an acknowledgment of their efforts is never wasted.
A few years back, a pack of toilet paper sat in my kitchen for over two weeks. In frustration, I asked my husband why it was still there. He replied that he thought the person who brought it into the house should put it away. I responded, “So it’s not enough for me to put it on the list, get it at the store, and bring it home, but I’m also supposed to put it away?” To his credit, my husband admitted he had never thought about it that way. Taking the toilet paper upstairs wasn’t that big of a deal, but I didn’t believe my actions had been appreciated.
Expectations. In the same manner, although in a much more important way, I missed a moment to show my husband the appreciation he deserves. He has always worked hard to support our family. A while ago, he was going through a really hard time at work. He came home one day and told me he had almost quit. I did not respond well. Although I apologized, I know I hurt him and let him down. I make an intentional effort to let him know how much I appreciate the life we have built because of his efforts but this time I blew it. You see, I crossed that fine line because I got scared that he wasn’t going to continue to meet my expectations of what had become his role.
Unfortunately, in most cases when these things happen, the damage to the relationship can be severe. The more often your or your partner’s efforts go unacknowledged, the worse the damage to your marriage. While most of us don’t require a “thank you” with every paycheck or meal, not getting any recognition leaves many of us feeling “less than”. Wondering why we bother is not an attitude that encourages love and happiness.
It is also important to be receptive to appreciation from your partner. Try not to downplay compliments or heartfelt thank yous. If your partner offers you something from a place of generosity, accept it graciously. Questioning their motives or, worse, focusing on where they came up short is terrific way to stop those positive behaviors in their tracks.
Specific Actions. Being more appreciative of your partner and them being more appreciative of you can innoculate your marriage from falling victim to resentment and indifference. It’s easy to start and even easier to keep doing.
- Week 1: Identify the ways both you and your partner contribute to the marriage. Include all aspects–financial, emotional, chores, child care, etc.
- Week 2: Intentionally acknowledge one of your partner’s contribution each day.
- Week 3: Pay conscious attention to the ways your partner shows appreciation for you.
- Week 4: Share your original list of both your contributions with your partner and identify the ones important to each of you. Focus on these as you actively incorporate this resolution into your relationship.
As always, pay attention to how your feelings about your partner and your marriage are changing. If you still feel some resentment, take some time to identify what it’s about and how you might be feeding it. Let me know how it’s going. I would love to hear about your successes and any challenges your having.
If you have questions or want to know more about how you can make your marriage great, leave a comment below or contact me through www.AFearlessMarriage.com .