Today my husband and I are celebrating our 27th wedding anniversary! Yes, we have actually been married 27 years! We are celebrating because despite the stress of life’s up and downs we have managed to keep respect for each other intact. Now that I think about it, we often say ‘thank you’ to one another, for a meal prepared, a timely phone call to say we’ll be late, for going to pick up the kid or just passing the salt. More than ‘I love you,’ I believe ‘thank you’ has been the phrase that has provided the daily, gentle wind beneath our wings all these years.
In my psychology practice I see couples for therapy and it never seizes to astound me how remarkably rude people can be to each other. The excuses Alisa Bowman of the “Happily Ever After Project.” lists below are sadly familiar to me because they are just the pitiful reasons spouses and partners give for depriving each other of the gift of gratitude. They don’t even realize what they are doing. It’s a kind of death by a thousand cuts. Part of couples counseling is helping people become aware of how they hurt each other in these small, daily ways and how to turn it around. I am happy to post Alisa’s seven bogus excuses here:
- “I shouldn’t have to thank my spouse for doing something he or she should be doing anyway.” Do you thank the person who bags your groceries? Do you thank your waitress for bringing your dinner to the table? Do you thank the fire fighter who gets your cat out of a tree? If so, you already are in the habit of thanking people for doing things they should be doing anyway. After all, these people are all getting paid to do these things. Your spouse doesn’t even get paid to wash the dishes, vacuum or cut the grass.
- “My spouse doesn’t thank me. Why should I thank him/her?” In the words of the venerable Dr. Phil, “How is that working for you?” Someone has to start being thankful. It might as well be you. And even if your spouse doesn’t thank you back, your gesture of gratefulness serves as positive reinforcement, so your spouse is more likely to do this task again. Gratitude is always a win-win.
- “But my spouse did it because he knew I was mad at him and not because he actually wanted to do it.” Think of how much emotional resistance your spouse overcame to perform this gesture. When your spouse is mad at you over something you didn’t do, is it easy or is it hard for you to perform a conciliatory gesture? It’s hard, right? It’s like running a dang marathon in 100-degree heat, isn’t it? It’s a gesture that is absolutely Thanks Worthy.
- “But my spouse only did it because I asked her to do it.” So your spouse did it to make you happy and not to make herself happy. That sounds like love to me.
- “But what my spouse did wasn’t a big deal.” It might not be a big deal to you, but it might be a very big deal to your spouse. More important, saying “thank you” isn’t a big deal, either. It’s just two words. You don’t even burn half a calorie to say them, and you can even do it with your eyes closed.
- “I already missed my opening. It’s too late to thank him now.” That’s like saying that it’s too late to send someone a belated birthday card. It’s not. I’ve sent people birthday cards months after their big days. They always appreciate the gesture. In fact, the later you are, the more meaningful the gesture can be.
- “She’s a big girl. She doesn’t need to be thanked.” That might be true, but why deny your spouse the opportunity to feel good?
Thank your spouse today.
Thank a stranger today.
Thank your kid today.
Thank a neighbor today.
I think you will find that the more thanks you give, the more happiness you will get.
Why do you avoid thanking your spouse and other people in your life? What is the road block? How has gratitude changed your relationships? What creative ways have you come up with to be more thankful? Who do you find easy to thank? Who do you find hard to thank? Why?