We have come to that time of year when we gather as friends and family and say what we are grateful for. We get to read through social media what our friends and acquaintances are focusing on each day for their 30 days of gratitude. I wonder though, are we focusing on one of the most important things, on the most important person we should be grateful for? In couple's work, I find that this is often not the case. Also, our partner is someone that we should be grateful for all year round, but do we take this for granted? One of the most common reasons people enter couples therapy, or at least one of the most common complaints, is that their partner takes them for granted. So what better time of year could there be than now to start to develop some habits that express gratitude and rebuild your connection?
When couples come to me to work on their connection as a couple, both intimately, and emotionally, I have them do an exercise for a week or two. I ask that each and every day, whether by saying something face to face, by sending a text, writing a note, or sending an e-mail, they make a point of telling the other person one thing they appreciate about each other. It does not have to be something huge, in fact it is often better if it is the small things that they think you do not notice. Believe it or not, couples love this exercise. They often either want to extend it as an "assignment," or it is something that they want to keep in regular practice in their lives. This makes them feel appreciated, more connected, and truly does increase the fondness that had been dampened by feelings taken for granted.
Speaking of feeling taken for granted, we should be going out of our way to tell our partners "thank you" for everything and anything they do for us. Has your toilet paper and paper towels been magically restocked without you ever asking? Are your favorite Keurig cups just always stocked full and there? Do your clothes get magically washed, dried, and put away? I will let you in a secret, it is not magic, it's your partner. They do these things because they love you, and to make life easy on you, so let them know how much you appreciate them. When we feel unappreciated, we do not want to go out of our way to do these things. However, when we are consistently told we are appreciated, we are more than happy to go out of your way for them.
The key here is to let those we are closest to know how grateful we are to them, not just this time of year, but all year. To rebuild the closeness and intimacy that may have been lost by taking each other for granted. It takes so little effort to say one thing each day that we appreciate about each other, to say thank you, to do one kind deed. So little effort can produce so much reward and build such a strong relationship. A relationship where each person's love's freely, expresses gratitude, shows they love, and knows they are loved. This is the foundation of a strong and genuine relationship. A couple that knows the lesson of not taking things, or each other, for granted is an enlightened couple. If you practice this kind of gratitude with your partner year round, if you make it part of your life, you are far ahead of many couples, and in my humble opinion, have a great shot at a strong relationship.