How often do you say “Thank you” in your relationship?
Your relationship can completely shift when you employ the magic of “Thank you.” Today I’m gonna show you how versatile those two simple words can be. Here’s the four ideas we’ll discuss:
- How “Thank you” makes invisible work visible
- How “Thank you” creates an attitude shift
- And why it’s often important to use “Thank you” instead of “sorry”
- Why “Thank you” gives permission to yourself or your spouse
#1: Why and how thank you makes invisible work visible
You share a home, so there’s lots of invisible work. (If you wanna go through the chores workshop, click here for the blog and here for the podcast.)
Thank you helps with that invisible feeling because when you say thank you, you are naming a reason your spouse is valuable in your life:
Example: “Thank you for dinner.” This is one of the most basic thank you’s in the world.
Your “Thank you” acknowledges that you got to eat well because your spouse turned thin air into something you could eat that powers your body. Just because that need to eat happens every day doesn’t change the fact that someone took the time to prepare your food. Saying thank you makes it a sweet exchange.
Thank you cements a feeling of belonging between you and your spouse. Saying thank you is another way to say “I need you,” or “I’m grateful you’re sharing my life.”
We resist these thank yous because we value independence.
When you say “Thank you,” you’re acknowledging that you need your spouse. Is that difficult for you? It’s a vulnerable feeling, no doubt. But these thank you’s create deep intimacy. Deep intimacy is forged in the fires of vulnerability. Embrace the value your spouse brings to your life by letting them know how much you need them.
Example: “Thanks for buying my airline tickets. I get so overwhelmed and when you just make it happen like that: decisions about flight times, the inputting data…wow! It feels like I just got a vacation from planning my vacation. Thank you.”
Example: “Thank you for driving the carpool so much. Whenever the kids are in someone else’s car I worry. I never, ever worry when they’re with you. I know you’ll listen if they have something to say. I know they’ll get there safely. And I know the last thing the kids will hear is “I love you,” when they get out of the car. Thank you.”
Thank you makes invisible work visible and that alone will transform your HEA.
#2: “Thank you” creates an attitude shift
You’ve heard the stories about me putting my husband through medical school at the same time I was raising toddlers, mourning the loss of my mother and brother, and working a job in the wee hours of the morning while kids slept.
I’m not gonna lie. I was doing a lot of invisible work during that era and my husband was too overwhelmed to say anything to me about it. It was the most stressful season of our lives. I felt alone and lonely.
I was sharp tempered in those years. “Thank you,” would have tamed my temper significantly, but it’s challenging to thank a stressed out, controlling tigress. I didn’t make it easy for David to thank me.
You need your spouse profoundly. David needed me during his schooling so he hid from “Thank you.” Saying thank you acknowledges the debt we owe, and we tell ourselves all kinds of stories like, “I don’t deserve this help.” “I’m not worthy of this gift.” So we bury all of it: our feelings of unworthiness as well as our gratitude.
A lot has happened between then and now.
These days David realizes that I feel privileged to have been so helpful. I felt like we were teammates and that’s my favorite way of connecting to him.
Are you in a situation where your spouse makes an enormous difference in your life?
So much so that you’re afraid of drawing attention to it because your spouse might stop their support if you point it out? I’m gonna go out on a limb here and tell you that your spouse already KNOWS how much they’re supporting you.
While the thank you doesn’t begin to repay them for their generosity, marriage is one of the situations where precise repayment is impossible. In my experience with couples, an acknowledgement of gratitude shifts things for both people. One day I heard David tell a friend how incredible his wife was to say “Yes,” when he wanted to go to medical school. I glowed. I felt so seen. So valued.
David speaking about my support so vocally inspired me to say to him, “I loved that era of our lives. I felt so useful to you.” He burst out laughing. He could not conceive that I didn’t know that.
“Useful?” he said, “You mean like a good hammer?”
My husband has this gigantic laugh at moments like this. His laugh announces his incredulity. “Darling, I couldn’t have gone to medical school without you. I’d be grumpy, doing a job I didn’t want to do.”
He was no longer overwhelmed, and no longer feeling the shame he attached to the impossibly large task he’d asked of me before he knew how big the task was.
Now, years later, there was only gratitude. I’d changed his life. He knew it. And he wasn’t afraid to tell anyone who asked. Where had the shame gone?
Where was that shadowy feeling that kept him from thanking me because he felt he could never thank me enough?
I know exactly where it went.
Thank you to help usher in a new chapter in your lives
For the duration of the time David was pursuing his career change, and for the first few years after he finished and was a practicing physician and we were settling into a new chapter of life. I was still short-tempered.
Looking back at my younger self, I see this thirsty woman. I was beyond tapped out. But my coping strategy when I’m drained is to control more of life’s details, so no one saw that I was parched. On the outside I looked highly functional. Highly capable. But I became a porcupine signaling I’ve got this. This is mine to do. I’ve got this.
With each quill of capability and capacity to do more, I pushed away the thank yous I craved. I kept pushing and pushing until I heard my husband tell his friend that story. “I’m just lucky my wife was game for that adventure.” His acknowledgement softened those sharp quills.
“Thank you” lubricates your relationship
Just this little bit of softness hydrated that desert inside me that felt so invisible. I asked him to talk to me about those years of schooling and how he had felt my support. “You always encouraged me to go to the gym even though I was away so much already. You made dinner over and over for all my classmates so we could hang out and laugh together.”
He’d seen it all. It was a rainforest moment inside me. His specific “Thank you” healed me. Do you have something specific that causes you to porcupine-quill up? What would happen if you felt truly seen for your invisible contribution to your spouse’s life?
What happens when you say “Thank you” in your relationship?
I’ll tell you what happened to me. Not long after I overheard my husband tell his friend he couldn’t have done it without me, I began to thank David for going to work.
I thanked him even though I resented each weird shift he worked in the emergency room. I resented the Sundays he worked while I was in the park with my kids watching other families’ picnic. I resented the Christmas Eve when everyone else was tracking Santa with their children and my kids’ daddy was gone taking care of sick people.
I thanked him for going to work even though I resented his job.
At first, I thanked him because if I was a porcupine, he was an ostrich with his head in the sand. Overwhelmed, he needed to escape the debt I offered him. I wanted to see my husband again. I wanted him to feel that woosh of freedom I felt when he saw in my efforts what had been invisible for so long.
Something magical happened when I thanked him even though I resented his work.
I followed him into the mud room of our home, and as he put on his shoes and jacket to leave, I said, “Thanks for going to work, David.” His eyes softened as he hugged me. I saw in his face that he didn’t want to leave.
He didn’t want to miss the Sunday picnics. He didn’t want to miss tracking Santa. But my husband doesn’t complain.
Thank you helps to heal resentment in your relationship
He didn’t choose to miss the ballgames or the theatre productions of our children, and when I saw that, my resentment faded and my gratitude became more genuine.
One day, as he laced up his shoes, I heard my thank you change. I’d been saying thank you for going to work for a while now each day as he zipped up his jacket. But this day I said, “Thank you for going to work so I can write and not worry about paying the bills.”
The journey of thank you took me from feeling invisible to living my dream. Nothing changed except that I softened.
What would change in your life if you thanked your spouse for their invisible contribution to your life?
#3: Say “Thank you” instead of “Sorry.”
You’ve heard people who use the word sorry reflexively.
“I can’t come. Sorry.” “
Sorry, I don’t wanna see that movie.”
“I exist. Sorry.”
In all these scenarios can you hear how sorry is really an avoidance for saying, “I have my own desires.” And, in addition to avoiding your own desire, you’re asking your spouse to say, “That’s OK.” Don’t ask for permission to be yourself. This is detrimental to you and to your relationship.
This is not good for your happily ever after. Save the word sorry for times you’ve caused harm. Don’t apologize for yourself. Instead, say “Thank you” which sends the opposite message.
Instead, try this: “Thank you for listening to me.” When you say thank you instead of “I’m so sorry I always need to talk about this,” you do two things: you relieve the extra burden your spouse might feel to reassure you that you are worthy of listening; and secondly, you reinforce that you feel their kindness in your life.
“Thanks for inviting me. I won’t be coming.” The message you send is I like it when you include me in your life.
“Thanks for the suggestion. I’d rather see this movie.” The message you send is I’m a great date.
“Thanks for seeing me.” The message you send is I’m valuable. I’m worthy. This relieves your spouse of constantly reassuring you.
Thank you says I’m glad you’re in my life. You make my world more lovely.
#4: Thank you gives permission to yourself or your spouse
In the same way that thank you can get rid of resentment, thank you can also cultivate permission.
“Thanks for working out,” I say to my husband. There are many reasons I’m grateful my husband works out at the gym. The first is because I want to be attracted to him. When we fight, I can always say, “But damn he’s good lookin’” You can think I’m shallow if you want, but I like it when my man looks good.
The second reason I’m grateful my husband goes to the gym is because he will live longer. My husband is like all human beings and there have been times when spending time at the gym wasn’t as attractive as lounging with a glass of wine. I am like all human beings and I worry about my husband’s health.
Would I prefer to have him lounge more beside me? Would he regularly prefer lounging beside me? Yes. Do I want him to live a long time? Yes.
So I thank him for choosing the long-ball game when the wine and the lounging seems so tempting.
What does this sort of thank you do? It means he never, never ever needs to feel guilty about going to the gym.
And I never need to feel guilty about writing because my husband thanks me for doing what makes me happy.
These sorts of thank yous remove the pressure that somehow we’re responsible for making each other happy. When I say thank you for taking care of yourself, I’m both giving my husband permission to care for himself and I’m giving myself permission to expect that he’ll care for himself.
His happiness is not my job. My happiness is not his job.
And that leaves us free to be happy together.
Thank your spouse for something invisible. Or thank them to shift your attitude. Thank your spouse instead of saying sorry. Or thank them to offer them a get-out-of-guilt free card.
Don’t try to do everything. Just pick one of the four kinds of thank you’s and see if you can repeat it 2 or 3 times this week.
Then notice how you feel.
Imagine what that tiny shift in saying thank you will do for your HEA.
This week talk about a time you felt gratitude from someone.
- It might be yesterday when a colleague thanked you for helping them out of a pinch with a difficult email.
- It might be when you were a tiny kid and you shared your crayons with the new kid and the teacher saw you and thanked you.
- Maybe you felt gratitude wash over you when you knew the precise spice to add to make Taco Tuesday the favorite dinner of your family.
Tell your spouse the story of a time you felt gratitude light you up. Then ask your spouse about a time they felt washed in gratitude.
Why have this discussion? Because thank you is a phrase that will change your relationship.
But before you’re capable of feeling grateful to someone else, it helps to know the world is grateful for you.
When you let gratitude into your heart—when you tell a story out loud to your spouse about how the world is grateful for you—you feel worthy, and worthy-feeling people are the most generous with their gratitude.
What invisible jobs to you see now? How is thank you helping you avoid conflict? Text me today at 970-210-4480 and let me know.