Okay, I’m about to do some Carrie Bradshaw-type investigative reporting here. You know that happy, butterflies-in-your-stomach excitement at the beginning of a relationship where everything your partner does is amazing and awe-inspiring? And then as relationships get older, love for one another grows, but so does mundaneness? Those initial feelings of awe and thankfulness that we felt from the beginning are slowly replaced with expectations and routine. We might even, Carrie Bradshaw forbid, start to take our partner and all their amazing qualities for granted.
But maybe those butterflies-in-your-stomach feelings of amazement and awe is not purely a product of newness. Maybe it’s simply a product of gratitude. This self-help buzzword may not sound totally profound– I mean, Oprah has had everyone journaling their gratitude for years. But it can be life changing for your relationship. Gratitude happens to be easier when a relationship is new and you notice everything more, but that doesn’t mean you can’t feel it just as strongly years, or even decades later, if you work at it. And maybe, those butterflies-in-your-stomach excitement and awe might just last a lifetime. Here are some ways you can show (and feel!) more gratitude in your relationship, today.
Say “Thank You,” even for something you expect.
Sure, it’s easy to say “thank you” for all that your loved one does for you and/or your family on Valentine’s Day or a birthday, and it’s also easy to say “thank you” after especially thoughtful gestures like a gift or unexpected compliment. But maybe it’s time to reflect on what you expect out of your partner. If you’ve been in a longterm relationship for a while now, odds are you feel *super* annoyed when your partner doesn’t take out the trash, or puts nice wine glasses in the dishwasher (that are NOT dishwasher safe, for the thousandth time!!). You have every right to be annoyed–we should expect partners to be our equals; to be capable of what we need and ask for, both emotionally and in managing our shared household.
But do you thank your partner when they do take out the trash? Do you feel genuine appreciation that they’re doing their part in your life together, and let them know it? Just because you expect something, does not mean you shouldn’t be grateful for it. If you actually thanked your partner for doing those things, not only will you feel more appreciation than annoyance for them, but you’ll also subconsciously encourage them to do it more often because they feel appreciated for doing it, rather than nagged for not.
Be creative when expressing gratitude.
“Thank you” is a great start, but not always good enough. If you believe “everything good in moderation,” than you understand that saying “thank you” too often will lose it’s well-intended meaning. Even switching up the word choice changes how your partner feels appreciated. Saying, “I love it when you…,” or “It makes me so happy that you…,” can make a difference. But beyond word choice, think about the ways in which you can show instead of tell your gratitude. Cooking their favorite dinner during a stressful work week, or letting them get to bed early while you take care of the kids are small ways to show your partner you’re grateful for their hard work. Bringing home flowers or their favorite dessert/coffee drink on a random occasion will also make them feel appreciated, and leaving a sticky note on the fridge are all unexpected ways to say thank you, that might mean more than a verbal thanks.
Never underestimate the power of a compliment.
Compliments, much like general gratitude, significantly dwindle as the relationship goes on. We know that our partner knows what we’re thinking. They’ve heard it thousands of times before how attractive we think they are, how funny we think they are, how nice or charming or sweet we think they are. I don’t know about you, but I have never met someone who gets tired of being complimented (even a comment on my Instagram can make my day! Is that sad…?). Beyond just the big stuff (a supportive partner, a good person, a good parent), also notice the little stuff–how handsome or beautiful they look, how funny one of their jokes was, etc., because those are the first things that get left behind when building a life with someone.
Thank them when you succeed.
I’m the first one to believe that when I accomplish something great, whether it’s a job promotion, running a marathon, or becoming famous (one day…), it is my moment! That’s not selfish, that’s just pride in myself and all my hard work. But, with that being firmly stated, it’s also important to throw loved ones a little bone, too. Think about your partner’s part, no matter how small, in each of your successes. Whether it’s making you smoothies after your morning runs, encouraging you to keep trying when you were getting discouraged at work, or taking care of the kids so you could pursue your dreams, realize their part in each of your successes. Because when you’re in a relationship with someone who truly loves you, they bring out the very best in you, and you can depend on them. Your successes are not just your own, they become shared successes, whether it’s because of their help or just because they’re so happy for you. Either way, they deserve your gratitude and to be appreciated for their part in helping you succeed.
Praise them publicly.
Before you panic about the word “public” and gloss over this part as a means to protect yourself from becoming the PDA-y couple you wish you could shout “get a room!” to, this praise looks different for every couple. It could be posting a Facebook status or Instagram about your partner’s career successes (no shame in a #humblebrag), or telling your mom how delicious your partner’s spaghetti carbonara is or how they crushed their annual meeting last week, when all of you are together. This will not only make your partner feel like you are genuinely proud of them and their accomplishments, but it will also make you remember how lucky you are to be with them.
Don’t just be grateful for what they do, be grateful for what they are.
While you know to be thankful for what your partner does, also be grateful for who your partner is. When your partner takes out the trash, why stop at just being grateful for them taking out the trash? Also be grateful that you have a partner who is thoughtful enough to know that you don’t like taking out the trash. Even the smallest chores that you expect out of your partner (See: first point), you can train your mind to not only feel gratitude for your partner doing those chores, but to also use those tasks as a reflection of the kind of person your partner is, and how lucky you are to have them. It’s a slight difference of thought, but teaching your mind to not only be grateful for all the little things, but to see these little things as an example of the person your partner is as a whole will make you wake up every day truly feeling grateful for your partner, and will let your partner feel appreciated. And when your partner feels appreciated, well, they feel grateful.