Every night since we’ve been married, my husband crawls into bed, turns toward me, and says: “Thank you so much for everything you did for us today.” After a couple years, I asked Peter if he felt obligated to thank me every night.
“No not at all!” he replied “You mean so much to all of us, and I want you to know how grateful I am.”
My husband has tapped into a secret to a happy marriage – and a happy wife. It’s also a habit that’s so easy to incorporate into every marriage, every single day, yet so often overlooked: saying “thank you” to your spouse.
In a meeting earlier this year with over 12,000 engaged couples, Pope Francis remarked that saying “thank you” to your spouse is one of three phrases that can transform a marriage. “In your relationship, and tomorrow in married life,” the Holy Father reminded the couples, “it is important to keep alive the awareness that the other person is a gift from God — and for the gifts of God we say thank you! — we must always give thanks for them.”
The pope’s words remind us that we need to see our spouse as a God-given gift. At a time of year when gift giving and giving thanks are near the top of everyone’s to-do lists, it’s a perfect occasion for you to take a step back, to remember the most meaningful gifts you’ve been given – your faith, your family and, in a particular and special way, your spouse – and to add more daily thanks into your marriage.
Here are four foundations for saying “thank you”:
To your spouse for simply being. As Pope Francis said, your spouse is a gift. Because of that fact, you should give thanks that he or she is alive.
For all that your spouse does, the big things and the small. My husband thanks me for giving birth to each of our children, but also for folding his laundry or loading the dishwasher. I thank him for working so hard to provide for our family, but also for filling my car with gas, mowing the lawn or taking over the bath and bedtime routine.
Without conditions. Some nights my husband crawls into bed and turns towards a smiling wife; other nights he meets the a woman whose moodiness could turn the warmest heart to stone. Still, he thanks me just the same. For thankfulness to transform a marriage, gratitude cannot be restricted to how you feel. Unconditional gratitude must be a work of grace, an opportunity for growth in unconditional love even when your heart is struggling.
With an attitude of acceptance. For some (hand raised!), it can be especially hard to accept compliments, to bask in someone’s praise. Yet it’s so important to acknowledge and accept the gratefulness your spouse offers, to refrain from downplaying your worth or sloughing off compliments. Accepting thanks graciously is the surest way to guarantee your spouse will want to say “thank you” again, and often.
Ann Voskamp wrote in her book One Thousand Gifts that Eucharisteo (Greek for “thankfulness”) “always, always precedes the miracle.” A miracle that arrives as a result of thankfulness is the transformation of the heart at its deepest, purest, most intimate level. When our heart is full of thanks, we see everything around us with a more grateful spirit. We recognize our blessings more easily. We are satisfied with the blessings we have instead of constantly pining for what we don’t. And, in marriage, a thankful heart elevates our perspective so that we see our spouse as he or she really is: a gift from God.
Reprinted with permission from FathersForGood.org.