Most of the time, feeling “taken for granted” translates into loneliness, growing resentment, and withdrawal.
So today we’re going to focus on what you can do – or what you and your partner can do – if either one of you feel that way.
First, here’s a story.
I was listening to the radio years ago and there was a woman on who told wonderful stories. 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.”
“Every Wednesday night at my church, there’s a potluck — one of those meals where you eat things you never eat “normally,” making sure to say that quite loudly,, while secretly hoping that Mrs. Smith brought her brownies. My specialty was my grandmother’s potato salad, a recipe passed down for generations. Now I spent hours peeling, dicing, and mixing, but admit I was egged on for my effort by the praise and adulation I heard all around me.”
“But one Wednesday night I arrived, still perspiring from hurrying so much. And what did I finally “see”? I saw deviled eggs, that was true. And maybe a barbecue bean casserole. But mostly I saw meat trays from the deli. Or veggies already cut up and ready for ranch dip.”
“And I finally got a little mad. My potato salad would no longer be a weekly staple, but a treasured surprise offered from time to time.”
My point? What we do well, what we “seem” to do easily, is taken for granted.
If you’re a good cook, you plan dinner. if you’re a better money manager, then that likely becomes your job. (This might not be true for all partnerships, but sharing chores is more of a present-day expectation for many.)
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 some enthusiasm back into your day
When I talk about the importance of this with couples, 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.”
No, of course not. What it does have to be is enough. You need to show gratitude “enough”. What that is for the two of you – is unique to the two of you.
.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.
For example, 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 and has more patience than I do…
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..
- 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. If they didn’t grow up in a family where gratitude was ever offered, your partner may never have recognized its worth. And it will take practice.
- Yet, if you are met with disdain or criticism, you may have a much bigger problem on your hands. And you may need to seek therapy or at least an objective opinion from someone you trust about a next step.
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