It is not uncommon for one of the main complaints I hear from my clients is that their partner “isn’t grateful” for who they are or what they do for them. Lack of felt and expressed gratitude is one of the top 5 reasons I’ve seen relationships falter and sometimes fail.
For some, this may have brought them to the end of their rope and they now feel hopeless that anything can get better. That has led them to reach out to me where we talk about it and see how their relationship can be salvaged.
Remember in the beginning of the relationship how you were so loving and considerate with your partner? How when they surprised you with a coffee or a chocolate bar, you gushed with gratitude and thanks? Then as the relationship progressed, those surprises happened less, and so did the gushing of thanks.
But did the gratitude have to go away? There are many, many things in a relationship that one can be thankful for, even if not obvious. For instance, I’m eternally grateful that every morning my wife wishes me a great day and tells me she loves me. I, of course, say the same. I am deeply grateful for her taking the time to do that small thing for me. And I let her know it. It’s one of the “little things” that keeps our relationship (and lots of others) healthy!
Focusing on the positive
Your mindset is a habit. And like all habits, there are good ones and not-so-good ones. Focusing on all the ways that person has wronged you and how horrible they are can be an exhausting and relationship-damaging habit. Whether or not your partner is even aware of what they are doing doesn’t matter.
Yes, you need to address their behavior, however, you also have the opportunity to look differently at the environment and consciously seek the positive things they are doing as well! If you are constantly looking for the “bad” that’s what you’ll likely find. And, other than being in a chronically abusive situation, if you spend more of your time seeking out and focusing on the good, that is more likely what you will find.
Maybe one (or both) of you aren’t showing gratitude in the best way
Perhaps it’s a case of they aren’t showing their gratitude the way you want (or need) to receive it, and vice versa. Here’s some help. Have you ever heard of “Love Languages”? Gary Chapman wrote a book called The Five Love Languages. In short, it says that people express and receive love in different ways, and when one partner in the relationship is not showing it the way the other needs to receive it (accidentally or on purpose), it has a negative effect on the relationship.
The five love languages are:
- Words of Affirmation
- Acts of Service
- Receiving Gifts
- Quality Time
- Physical Touch
These 5 “languages” often look and sound different from each person. If you’re hearing something like, “You never tell me thank you for doing your laundry,” or, “Am I just here to be your slave and do your chores? It’s like you just expect me to do it!” Then your partner may be looking for words of affirmation and not getting it. And, yes, you may like more than one of the love languages and perhaps all five. What are the most important ones for you, and your loved one?
Conversely, if your love language is words of affirmation, and you’re not receiving it, shouting that you’re not being affirmed will likely have little effect. A calm discussion about how you’re feeling would work much better. Follow that by thanking your partner for things, even if it’s just for taking out the garbage. It doesn’t have to be monumental, but starting with the small everyday things can lay the foundation for greater gratitude on both ends, which then, in turn, adds to great connection, and a deeper relationship.
This doesn’t just have to apply romantically though. It can also impact your kids!
When parents model gratitude to their children, their children reflect this into society and into their lives. According to research, children that are more grateful tend also to be happier, more optimistic and more satisfied with school, community and themselves!
In the workplace, gratitude correlated directly with employee engagement. Studies have shown that employees receiving a gracious talk performed better at a fundraising task than those who didn’t receive the talk. It also generates happier more satisfied feelings, whether the gratitude is given or received. A workplace culture that includes this is really benefiting the whole person by having positive lifestyle effects (better sleep and less stress) and actually triggering the hypothalamus to release dopamine in response to the happy feelings they are experiencing with gratitude!
There is a quote that I think fits perfectly right here:
“Unexpressed gratitude doesn’t do anybody any good.” – Author Unknown
So, let’s put this into action! How can YOU show genuine gratitude to others?
Say Thank You
Specifically. A blanket “Thanks” or “you’re great” doesn’t always get the job done. When showing heartfelt gratitude, be specific about what you’re thankful for, and how it affected you. For example, and using the person’s name, simply say, “I just want to thank you (their name) _______________ so much for taking out the trash. It’s a job I really hate doing and I’m glad you helped with that.”
Do something unexpected
It could be a small gift, lunch brought to them when they are “working in” that day, or offering to do a task for them they don’t particularly love (clean the toilets, anyone?). These small gestures let someone know you’ve been thinking of them and you appreciate how they help you.
Smile, reach out and touch
Smiling is totally underrated! I sincere smile with eye contact can convey a lot to the person on the receiving end. When your smile accompanies your words, it gives them more impact and fosters a connection between you and the other person. In today’s fast-paced world, taking a minute to really smile, look the person in their face, make eye contact, and then sayings “thank you” makes a big impact!
I love helping people cultivate gratitude in their life! If you need a little extra help discovering gratitude in your life, in your relationship or at work, please let me know. I have some great strategies that can help!