Practicing Gratitude in Marriage
When we get into a healthy marriage, our spouses hopefully help us feel love, connection, safety, and a desire to challenge ourselves to be the best version of ourselves. Just like we need to add more wood to a fire to keep the flames burning, a marriage needs a steady stream of genuine gratitude to keep the connection going strong.
Sure, you can plan to have date nights, and plan romantic surprises. But for many marriages, especially those with children, the little moments of gratitude and connection can be lost in the hustle and bustle of daily life. For most married couples we see in therapy, the disconnect happens gradually over time, making it almost imperceptible. Past conversations of appreciation, gratitude, and affection may have been slowly replaced by endless task lists, appointments, and work obligations. In fact, after some time, couples may need to get to know their inner worlds all over again.
Many clients may wonder what they can do to rekindle the fire if they can’t find time for big, weekly dates, like they used to. This is where inserting small, daily doses of gratitude can make a world of difference.
It sounds simple enough, but you may be surprised how often people in marriages may run on autopilot. Taking our spouses for granted is detrimental to their self-esteem and sense of worth, and also detrimental to our sense of connection and admiration towards them.
Take a look at these examples of regular comments vs. comments made with gratitude, and notice how you feel when you read each one:
Regular: Take out the trash on your way to work.
Gratitude: Could you please take out the trash since you are heading out? I appreciate it. It is one less thing for me to do!
Regular: I see the kitchen is finally clean.
Gratitude: The kitchen looks great! Thanks for taking some time today to clean up, I know you’ve been busy.
Regular: Oh, you called the insurance company already?
Gratitude: Thanks so much for taking care of that call for me.
What did you notice as you read each example? It’s true, the gratitude-filled comments are lengthier and require a bit more effort. But that is exactly what spouses need in a marriage- to feel that they matter, to feel that they are appreciated, and to feel that they are still worth putting effort into.
If you are reading this article and realizing that you need to practice showing more gratitude, then there is some good news. It is an easy fix! And it is one of the simplest ways to foster connection throughout the day. You don’t have to say “please” and “thank you” during every single conversation. But with just a little extra noticeable effort, and more time to observe their actions, you could make a huge difference. Your spouse may be pleasantly surprised at this change in dynamics and may put even more effort into maintaining harmony in the home.
If you are reading this and noticing that perhaps it is your spouse who has been complacent on showing gratitude, or noticing your efforts, then it will not be as easy of a fix. Anytime we bring up an unmet need to a spouse, we may risk receiving a defensive response. It is natural for spouses to feel a bit guarded right off the bat, but hopefully you have the type of communication where the discussion can remain civil, open, and cooperative. If you find that you often cannot collaborate in these types of discussions, then you may need the assistance of a therapist or trusted guide to help you navigate feelings during tough conversations.
We all deserve to feel valued and appreciated. Gratitude, effort, and connection are just as important in the dating stage as they are many years into a marriage.