Many couples come to the Relationship Help Resort in distress. Their relationships are sick, and some, nearly dead. They are angry, frustrated, and confused, and they have tried everything they know how to do, but simply don't have the answers they need. The main artery has been cut in the lifeline of their relationship and they can’t seem to stop the bleeding. When I begin my questioning to understand what went wrong I always find that they have stopped giving one another the respect and consideration they each feel they deserve.
The woman might say, “I work so hard to please my family. I cook, and clean, and care for their needs and no one even says thank you.”
The husband’s response goes something like this. “Why should we thank her? She is simply doing her job.”
Or the wife comes in complaining that her husband doesn’t do anything around the house. His argument is, “He can never do it to her satisfaction.”
Her response, “He should try harder.”
I ask what he does that he does well? Many times the wife cannot come up with one thing. When I ask the husband in what ways does he believe that he contributes, he can easily give me a list, such as:
“I take out the trash. I maintain the cars. I do the yard work. I clean the garage. I fix anything that is broken. I work every day to make a living, and she never even notices. At some point, I stopped even caring.”
“Is that true?” I ask the wife.
“That he stopped caring?” she usually snaps. “Absolutely, it is clear that he doesn’t care.”
“No, that it might be possible that you don’t notice what he contributes?” I redirect.
“He is simply doing his job.” She defends. “When he does something worth noticing, I’ll notice.”
In all these cases, the couples believe in an entitled fashion, that they shouldn’t have to appreciate what the other is contributing. They have become blind to the contributions made by one another and in the process, focus their attention on only where they believe their partner is failing or falling short. They have lost their ability to be grateful for one another.
It takes a conscious choice to feel gratitude. It is easy to feel slighted, look past, ignored, frustrated and even angry. Why it is more difficult to feel gratitude is something he continues to confuse me. Gratitude is better for our health, our blood pressure, our happiness and certainly our relationships, and yet, people choose to feel emotions that make them feel miserable.
When I explain to a couple that I want them to actually cause themselves to feel gratitude and say "thank you" to each other for everything the other contributes, they look at me perplexed.
When I tell the man that every day when he comes home, he needs to thank his wife for taking care of his home and his children. When I tell the wife that every time her husband remembers to take out the garbage, helps around the house, or even the fact that he works to put food on the table she needs to thank him and mean it, they are bewildered.
Why should I thank him or her for simply doing his or her job?” they argue. “Then they will think it is enough.”
"What they think,” I explain, “isn’t as important as what happens to you. When you take the time to appreciate the little things, you show respect. When you show respect, you begin to feel it. When you feel it, it, first of all, makes you happier. The second benefit is that it causes you to feel closer to your partner. It allows you to remember what you might otherwise take for granted. It benefits you in many powerful ways. And those two benefits are just the beginning.”
“Remember,” I tell them, “the journey to greatness is a selfish one. You definitely benefit from uncoiling yourself from entitlement’s tight grip, however, it is a win, win, win. You are not the only one who benefits. The people that you love benefit as well.
Let’s examine what appreciation does for your partner? Appreciation is the greatest gift that you can give another. When we feel appreciated, we find ourselves wanting to do more. We like feeling noticed; appreciated, it inspires us, motivates us, and makes us feel important. When we feel important to our partner we are much more likely to want our partner to feel important as well. Showing appreciation and respect is like giving selfish gifts for the return comes back one hundred fold.”