“Are you finished yet? We are late!”
“I’m almost done. Hold your horses!”
“Well, if we are late, I’m going to make sure the whole crowd knows whose fault it is. You are never ready on time and it makes me look bad! I’m so tired of your selfishness affecting my social life!”
“Well, if you would do more of the things I have asked you to do over the years like, let’s say, paying the bills instead of creating them, I would not always be busy doing something to keep this family afloat! Our bills getting paid on time is far more important than your precious social life! Grow up!”
“Maybe I spend a lot of money because I’m lonely. You work all the time. You don’t even care that I’m sitting at home… alone… every night of my life! You’re just lucky I’m shopping and not looking for a fling somewhere. It would serve you right if I did!”
“Seriously, I work my fingers to the bone and get four hours of sleep a night to be threatened by my wife? Why do you think I work so hard? For YOU! So you can buy all your precious clothes and spend time chatting over $20 salads with your pathetic friends. What an ungrateful, spoiled, cantankerous woman you are! And do you honestly think any other man would want you? Ha!”
Ouch. During the dating phase of a relationship, having such a conversation later in marriage may seem virtually impossible. “I would never talk to my sweetheart that way!” Sadly, many couples become angry and spiteful over time when they have not been diligent to keep their relationship weeded and watered. Perhaps one of the greatest weapons to fight bitterness, contempt, and complacency is simple gratitude.
Think about it: when was the last time someone genuinely thanked you for something? How did it make you feel? Were you more or less likely to help that person again?
When someone shows you appreciation, the natural response is to want to continue to please that person. When Eric comes into the kitchen while I am cleaning and says, “Wow, it is looking really good in here… I appreciate all your hard work,” it makes me want to continue cleaning! When Eric comes home after a hard day at work and he hears me say, “Thank you so much for working so hard for us. You are one of the hardest working men I know,” he is reminded that all his efforts are not in vain and are not going unnoticed.
So how could that initial conversation have gone if the couple employed a little gratitude?
“Are you almost finished? We are running late.”
“I’ll be finished in a few minutes and then we can go. Thank you for setting up this dinner party with our friends. I need to get out more and I’m sorry that writing out these checks for these bills is taking so long.”
“It’s okay. I texted Marsha and she is going to make sure everyone gets seated and gets their drinks. If I had thought about it, I would have written the checks for those bills earlier. I am so glad you remember all the details in our life. I don’t know what I’d do without your brain!” ~smile~
“You work hard for us too. I never have to worry about the kids and you keep us well fed. I love coming home to your good cooking.”
“Well, it is sad that you have not had a chance to eat too many meals with us lately since you have been working so late. I will be glad for all of us when your project is finished, but I know you are working for a promotion that will help us put the kids in private school, and I want you to know that I respect how hard you are working for the good of our family. In fact, I am going to seriously cut back on some of my spending. That’s the least I can do to help us out financially.”
“I’m a lucky man. Maybe we can come up with a workable plan so you can still enjoy time with your friends… maybe just not as often for a while. You are a good mom to give up some of your fun time to save money for their schooling. Ok. I’m ready. Let’s go have dinner!”
The only differences between this conversation and the first one were humility and gratitude. Both people looked at the other’s needs and spent less time thinking about how the situation was affecting them. A gentle thank you can change the whole course of a conversation!
Grateful People versus Ungrateful People
What are a few differences we see between those who exude generous portions of gratitude and those who do not? A gentler face. More peace. More friends. More respect from others. More contentment. Grateful people choose to find the good in their situations and it changes their entire outlook on life. “Maybe I don’t have much, but what I have I can appreciate and share with others!”
My paternal grandmother was one of those truly grateful people. The last several years of her life, she did not go to the grocery store. She didn’t need to go as people constantly brought her food and clothes. She ended up with more clothes than I have! Whenever someone cleaned out their closet, they thought of her! ~smile~ Why? When you gave her something, she acted like you had lassoed the moon for her! People loved to give to her because of her exuberant and abundantly grateful spirit!
We all know ungrateful people too. These are the ones with the scrunched up faces who are never satisfied with anything. Even when they are given something completely free, they find fault with it. These folks are discontent, listless, and often friendless. Who wants to give to someone who is going to bite them?
Gratitude in Relationships
The second conversation depicted gratitude in a marriage (or dating relationship) and it was a conversation changer. If I am running late (which I often am) and Eric comes into the room and fusses at me (which he usually does not ~smile~), the conversation is probably going to take a negative turn. But, if he comes into the room and says, “Thank you for spending all that time cleaning today… the house looks great” the conversation is going to take a positive turn.
Simple gratitude may be one of the few ingredients it takes for a marriage to stay intact and vibrant. Husbands and wives push away from each other when they feel taken for granted and unappreciated. Getting in the habit of showing gratitude every day is like spreading a sealant over your fragile relationship. Our relationships can be more easily damaged than we normally think. This is why it is important to protect it from the elements instead of trying to repair it after the damage has been done!
Gratitude can make or break your relationships. As you enjoy stuffing your belly full of turkey, stuffing, and cranberry sauce tomorrow, take some time and ponder all the reasons you are thankful for your sweetie… then let him or her know! Start a tradition of showing gratitude in your relationships – both romantic and platonic. Perhaps even go around the table before your Thanksgiving meal where each person says a few items they’re thankful for in the past year!
Eric and I want to wish you all a super, happy Thanksgiving. Eric proposed to me on the day before Thanksgiving, so if anyone gets engaged today, please comment and let us know!!!
How has gratitude, or the lack thereof, affected your relationships?