“Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful.” – Colossians 3:15
The people we live with have a tendency to be the people we most take for granted, don’t they? We get so accustomed to each other. We have routines that can turn into ruts without our realizing it. We sometimes don’t even notice anymore just how much our spouses are doing to contribute and help with the daily-ness of marriage and family life. In fact, sometimes we only notice when something that normally gets done doesn’t get done, and we respond negatively to that.
Being intentional about regularly expressing gratitude toward each other can greatly strengthen your marriage. Thankfully, there are ways to cultivate this practice until it becomes a natural–and sincere–habit. And we can even be fun and creative with the ways that we express this gratitude toward each other.
1. Say It
Sometimes, we forget to say the actual words “Thank you” to each other. Whether it’s in response to an unexpected gift, a regular date night, help with a project, words of encouragement, or the fact that the trash gets hauled to the street faithfully twice a week, sincerely saying “Thank you” to your spouse is always a loving response. We all like to know that our hard work is noticed, even if it’s the same work we’ve been doing every day for 25 years. The occasional acknowledgment is encouraging and makes us feel seen. We know how good it feels to receive this praise, so let’s not neglect giving it, as well. Here are some creative ways to say “Thank you”…
- Write a variety of notes that say “Thank you for _________” and leave them in places around the house that coordinate with each note.
- Make a list of all the things you love about your spouse and give it to them on an ordinary day, just because.
- Write a letter of gratitude for the work your spouse does to provide for the family and mail it to be received by them at his place of employment.
- Be intentional about looking for things to thank your spouse for, and then take those opportunities to express your gratitude with actual words.
- Go on a “thankfulness date” and, over a meal or coffee, take turns telling each other what you are thankful for about one another.
- Let other people (especially your children) hear you express gratitude for your spouse. It is a positive testimony.
Let’s also remember to thank our spouses for who they are, not just what they do. Be specific with these words of thankfulness.
2. Show It
We all know that words can sometimes feel shallow if they aren’t backed by action. So while “Thank you for the delicious dinner, honey” is greatly appreciated, an added “I’ll take care of cleaning up” can be even more appreciated. There are lots and lots of ways you can show your spouse that you are grateful for him. Here are a few examples to get you started…
- Surprise your spouse by doing one of his regular household chores for him. (Extra points for doing one of his least favorite!)
- Take your spouse on a spontaneous date. It doesn’t have to be fancy or expensive just thoughtful and something you know they would particularly enjoy.
- If your spouse usually runs the family errands or picks up the kids from school, work it out to do it for him one day and then send him to his favorite coffee shop or restaurant with a gift card and a good book.
- A back rub or foot massage are never bad ideas!
3. Mean It
When you express gratitude toward your spouse, here are some things to remember:
- Be sincere. Don’t be sarcastic. Or dramatic.
- Don’t overdo it. This might sound contradictory, but if you thank your spouse for every little thing every day, it will lose its effectiveness. Spread it out. Keep it real.
- Be specific with your thanks. Tell him what you are thankful for and why.
- If your spouse has a particular preference for either spoken or written words of affirmation, pay attention to that and act on it.
- Avoid comparisons. Not all comparisons are bad, but it’s probably wise not to base your gratitude on a comparison between your spouse and someone else or even between your spouse and his former self.
- Especially on the hard days, be thankful for your spouse’s commitment to your marriage. Thank each other often for this.
4. Receive It
My husband and I often remind each other to be “gracious receivers.” When we are complimented or thanked for something, it can actually be hurtful to the other person if we brush off or discount what they have said to us. This is another opportunity for us to show gratitude. Here’s what being a gracious receiver might look like:
- When your spouse tells you how beautiful you are, don’t start listing all the things you don’t like about your physical appearance. Simply thank him. And believe him.
- Always consider the heart behind the words and actions. Your spouse might not say or do something exactly the way you’d like him to, but if the motivation behind it is good, be thankful for that. Avoid correcting him.
- When your spouse offers to serve you in some way, let him. And thank him.
- If you get embarrassed or self-conscious when you are being praised or thanked, you can show love to your spouse by disciplining yourself to be still, look him in the eyes, and just listen to all the positive things he has to say about you. Don’t interrupt him or tell him to stop.