I try hard to show my gratitude.
He fills up the little pump thing to the left of the kitchen faucet that holds dishwashing liquid. He unravels my earrings or necklaces when they are all balled up, because I haven’t put them away neatly.
He also is a great clothes folder. It takes patience.
The other day, I was hurrying to get to the office, and grabbed tuna fish out of the fridge. I looked where we keep our plastic grocery bags. Miraculously, the sack was not stuffed to the brim with bags! Someone… had remembered to take them to be recycled.
Someone who is not always in a hurry.
He was standing there.
“I want you to know that I notice all the things you do around here. All the little things. Thank you for taking those bags to be recycled.”
I can assure you not all moments in our marriage are this beatific. But I am making a point.
When we are together for a long time, we can take each other for granted. If I do some task well, I usually am the one in the partnership whose primary responsibility it becomes. It just makes sense.
We all get very tired of doing what we do well.
So gratitude goes a long way. A very long way.
When I talk about this with patients, I usually hear at this point, “Do I have to thank him every time he loads the dishwasher? I cook. He’s supposed to clean up at least sometimes.”
No, of course not. That would be a bit silly.
It’s important to notice. To show that you are grateful — that the other person is doing a good job.
I use gratitude exercises to help build a stronger, positive, more hopeful tone in a family. Oprah used to advise people to keep a “grateful journal,” writing 5 things a day they were grateful for in their own lives that day. I just expand that idea, asking folks to write down one thing each day that they feel grateful for – that is about their partner. Leave it out where both can read. The whole family can join in!
One guy wrote, “I am grateful that my wife could think of something to write!” Pretty funny…
We are also modeling healthy behavior for our children. When they hear you being kind to one another, they will mimic you. If they hear you being negative, or just don’t hear anything nice, they will mimic that.
George Saunders in his 2013 commencement speech at Syracuse University stated that what he regretted more than anything in his life were “failures of kindness.” “There’s a confusion in each of us, a sickness really: selfishness.“ He goes on to advocate for being unselfish. To act when you see others hurting. To be kind.
That’s what gratitude is really. Taking the time to notice and be kind, when you see your loved one trying. Maybe not always succeeding, but trying.
If either one of you do not feel appreciated, your relationship will be hurt.
A simple “thank you” can work wonders.
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