“Piglet noticed that even though he had a Very Small Heart, it could hold a rather large amount of Gratitude.”― A.A. Milne, Winnie-the-Pooh
I didn’t think that I’d last another minute pulling those weeds in our front yard. It was a typical, sweltering 95° summer day in south Louisiana. My wife came home from running errands, stopped at the front door, and said what was unexpected. “Wow! That looks great! I know it is so hot. Thanks for taking the time to pull those weeds.”
The result: I was ready to tackle the backyard, too. Why did this simple comment make so much difference?
One of the most important factors in successful marriages is something we learned even before we entered Kindergarten. How many times were we told as a preschooler to say “Please” and “Thank You?” We even tried to teach our children to appreciate what someone had done for them – and to tell them.
But somehow, in the hustle and bustle of living, we forget the person with whom we live. “After all, she is my wife. What she does we ‘kind of’ agreed to during our first year of marriage” . . . or “Husbands are SUPPOSED to take out the trash. And I thanked him enough when we first got married. And now I always have to remind him.”
We go to leadership seminars and corporate sponsored training every year that remind us that “Thank You” is so important. Study after study tells us that what brings the most long-term job satisfaction is not the salary, or benefits, or even bonuses based on performance (although these certainly help!). It is the verbal recognition by the boss of a job well done. A pat on the back, a phone call, an E-mail, or (more significantly) a hand-written “Thank You” note.
Yet, when we come home, we tend to forget all of that.
A Simple “Thank You” can make a BIG difference
Reflect for a moment on how meaningful (and perhaps how shocked!) you were when your spouse thanked you – even if it was for something simple and ordinary. “Thanks for going to work today to support our family.” “I appreciate you looking good for me when I got home.” “Thanks for taking the children on an outing this afternoon so that I could get things done.”
Isn’t that what we did when we first got married? Every day we found something new to appreciate. When did we forget that? When did we stop noticing?
From One Pocket to Another
I have a friend who found that he often forgot to thank his wife for some of the simple things she did. He decided to put five coins in his left pocket, and then every time he noticed something and thanked her, he put one in the other pocket. (Of course, he did not let her know he was keeping track of it this way!).
For the first several days, he realized that he still had one or two coins in his left pocket. So he decided to look at who she was as well as what she did. The more observant and aware he became of the woman that he had married 20 years earlier, the easier it was to thank her about something – even if it was something she did every day. “I love how your eyes sparkle when I tell a joke.” “I appreciate you remembering my family’s birthdays and reminding me to send a card or call.” “I know that I was irritable yesterday. Thanks for your patience and willingness to continue to be kind to me, even when I was unkind to you.”
Notice the Little Things
One reason that we do not verbally thank our spouse is that we do not notice. After a while, we begin to expect them to be that way or to do certain tasks all of the time. And when we begin to no longer notice the qualities that we appreciated and fell in love with, we begin to have time to notice those habits that begin to irritate us. My friend began to realize that as he spent so much time looking for things to appreciate, he began to overlook those habits and qualities that sometimes “bugged” him.
But what if my spouse does not deserve to be appreciated for what he/she does right – he/she does so many things WRONG?! This is where our character begins to take over. Dr. Emerson Eggerich has noticed a principle that is so true in marriages. This concept can also motivate us to begin to verbally appreciate our spouse. The one that is the most spiritually mature will take the first step.
Do you consider yourself the more mature or spiritual than your spouse? Is it your spouse that tends to be childish or selfish? Then you are the one that should take the first steps of gratefulness.
Be Patient for the Response
The rewards are usually unexpected. At first, your spouse will wonder what you are up to. (Which can be kind of fun to let them wonder.) Your wife will wait to see what you want now. Your husband will wait for the complaint of something he has done wrong (again). So the response you get may not be positive at first. But as the “more mature,” you can keep it up! Chances are that your spouse will begin to respond with time. And even if you did not receive the response you hope for, your perspective will change.
What If There is No Response?
We do need, however, to be willing to demonstrate gratefulness to our spouse, with no strings attached – no expectations of anything in return.
How? By depending on God’s strength instead of our own. That is true maturity.
“Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy — think about such things.”Phil 4:8