My husband’s love languages are words and service. Mine are not. The short story is we’ve had a bit of conflict over how best to love each other in our nearly seven years of marriage.
One of the lessons I learned early on, however, is the power of gratitude for the small things. Once I realized that his acts of love were taking out the trash, doing the dishes or changing a tire, I knew these deserved my heartfelt thanks. Awkwardly at first, I began recognizing the ways he loved me that I hadn’t seen before.
Were any of these actions extraordinary? Any above and beyond? Not really. Except the date night – we all know that’s a small miracle, y’all. But it’s the faithfulness I’m noticing, and I want him to know I see it.
When I’ve talked to friends and patients at work about this generous expression of gratitude, the response is often, “Well, I don’t feel thankful for those things. It doesn’t feel genuine to say that.” Well, that makes the gratitude about you and not your partner. You aren’t saying thanks so you will feel good – you’re saying it for them. So it isn’t necessary for you to feel warm and fuzzy every time.
Their small act of service is their love to you; your thankfulness is your love to them.
Others have responded to my suggestion with, “Well, my spouse should be doing these things anyway. Why should I thank him for it?” That’s true. If marriage is a partnership, both you and your partner should be looking for ways to make the family life run without needing to be asked or thanked. But isn’t it nicer to be acknowledged?
The truth is many of us feel lost and unnoticed in our homes, marriages and families. The primary caregiver in most families often lands a surprising amount of the household chores as well, and most of the work goes unacknowledged. At the same time, working partners return daily to jobs they don’t always love because they’ve prioritized their family.
I hear husbands and wives grow weary under the repetitive, thankless burden of the mundane. They know their work is ordinary, but they want someone to notice their contribution. They want to matter. To be appreciated.
And that’s what “Thank you” can do. These two small words spin a world of difference when you use them.
When we express gratitude to our partners for their contributions, however small, we are saying, “I appreciate how you served our family in this way. I see what you are doing, and it matters. Please don’t stop.”
It’s the most basic of psychological laws. Whatever we praise, we reinforce. Whatever we reinforce, we will see more of.
If we ignore the every day acts of service and love that make our little lives go, if we are always waiting for something extraordinary to praise, we will rarely feel grateful.
And here is the biggest thing: as soon as we start telling ourselves we don’t need to thank our spouses for the everyday, we realize we have nothing to thank them for because ordinary everyday living is our life.
These moments of laundry and dishes and errands and school plays and tucking-ins are not the margins. These are all we have together. If we wait until our spouses do something extraordinary in order to express gratitude, we will lose out on the beauty in the every day. And the fact that this person, your best friend, is there to share it with you.
So let’s not miss what’s right in front of us. Look up from this post and around your home. See who’s in the beautiful mess with you, really see the man, the woman across from you, see all they do and all they are and notice the tired but satisfied look on their face. Then say “Thank you”.
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