Being taken for granted is a lonely feeling, and it’s very easy to allow that to grow into resentment.
Especially for those things that become “your” thing.
If you’re a good cook, you plan dinner. if you’re a better money manager, then that becomes your job. One of you can be in and out of the grocery store in twenty minutes, the other is a whirlwind with folding the laundry. In a healthy modern partnership, chores are divided and conquered, and routines are established.
But we can all get very tired of doing the same thing over and over, right? So, hearing a little gratitude goes a long way towards injecting a little enthusiasm back into your day. Do you ever thank your partner for wiping down the kitchen counters or taking out the garbage?
When I talk about the importance of this kind of communication with patients, I usually hear some moans and groans, “Do I have to thank him every single time he loads the dishwasher? I cook. He’s supposed to clean up. It’s just how things go.”
Or, “We’ve all gotten so politically correct. That woman who writes about cleaning up your house wants us to “thank” our clothes before we give them away, for Pete’s sake.”
No, of course you don’t have to thank your partner every time they do something around the house. But I wonder if you’ve ever asked your partner if they know you’re grateful for what they do? Or simply who they are?
Being taken for granted…
I heard a story on the radio many years ago. The teller of tale, Janet, had a somewhat raspy but very melodious, slow Southern drawl. It was like listening to a gentle wind in the midst of a grove of pine trees.
Her ensuing story was funny. Every Wednesday night at her church, there was a potluck — one of those meals where you eat things you never eat “normally,” making sure to say that quite loudly, and secretly hope that Mrs. Smith brings her brownies. Janet’s specialty was her grandmother’s potato salad, the recipe passed down for generations. Even though she spent hours peeling, dicing, and mixing, she was egged on for her effort by praise and adulation for her very special recipe – but with little understanding of the hours of work involved.
But one Wednesday night Janet arrived, potato salad in hand. And what did she “finally” see? There were a few homemade items, chocolate chip cookies and deviled eggs seemed favorites. But others brought items from bakery or deli departments, explaining that they hadn’t had time to bring something from home. Or, “I simply cant cook.”
Janet felt taken for granted.
So it was at that moment Jane decided that her special potato salad would no longer be offered every Wednesday night. It was to be “special” potato salad – and only for special occasions.
My own example of showing gratitude..
My husband has a lot more patience than I do, so he does a lot of the things around the house that require that particular virtue. I rush around, multi-tasking, and checking things off my too busy list.n
He fills up the little pump thing to the left of the kitchen faucet that holds dishwashing liquid. He unravels my earrings or necklaces when they are all balled up (because I haven’t put them away neatly). He folds our clothes with great patience, which I appreciate because I also don’t care for ironing.
The other day, I was rushing to get to the office and grabbed tuna fish out of the fridge; I looked in the place we keep our plastic grocery bags to use one to carry my lunch, expecting it to be overflowing. Miraculously, someone had remembered to take them to be recycled.
Someone who’s not always in a hurry.
That particular someone happened to be standing in the kitchen as I plopped the tuna into the sack, so I took this as an opportunity to follow my own advice. ”You know…I do notice all the things you do around here. All the little things. Thanks for taking those bags to be recycled.”
He smiled, that little twinkle in his eyes telling me that I was welcome.
Three steps to take if you feel taken for granted..
Here are three steps that I recommend:
- Lead by example and make sure that you’re showing gratitude yourself. Tell your partner what you appreciate not only what they do, but who they are. Hopefully, they will respond in like manner, and both of you can realize you’d just gotten into a bad rut.
- If you’ve tried this, given it some time, and you’re still not receiving it, then you can overtly ask for what you’re not getting. You can begin a discussion on what you’ve been trying to do and how you’re feeling, and invite them to join you and talk about why it’s important. They may not have grown up in a family where gratitude was ever offered, your partner may never have recognized its worth. And it will take practice.
- And then, if you are met with disdain or criticism, you may have a much bigger problem on your hands and need to reconsider the relationship itself.
It’s more than okay to want to be recognized for the gifts you bring.
Gratitude is the food that nourishes each relationship. And it’s needed for both individuals and the relationship to thrive.
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This was originally published on September 24, 2016 and was updated on April 6, 2019 and again on June 22, 2021.