It seems like any bridal shower you attend, there is a plethora of advice given for the bride and groom. I mean, you hear you whole life that marriage is hard and yet it can be hard to fathom why when you are in the bliss of dating. There is one piece of advice that I usually share with the ‘Brides to Be’ but in reality, it is the number one thing that will improve your relationship no matter how long you have been married. And it is this: If you want your spouse to continue a behavior, you simply need to express your gratitude for it everytime that they do it.
Everyone enjoys to be recognized and acknowledged by the one that they love. Especially when you were first dating, you would be quick to open doors or to send them a text to let them know that you were thinking of them. As a newlywed, you are constantly doing small acts of service to show your new spouse that you are thinking of them whether it is a packing a lunch for them for the next day or leaving a love note in their car that they would find later. However, seemingly without even noticing, these small acts dwindle and the routine to think of yourself returns. You no longer acknowledge when they do the dishes or wash the car–in fact, it becomes almost like the standard division of tasks and it turns those things to become automatically expected. We are more quick to acknowledge when they don’t wash the dishes or if the car looks dirty. The lack of gratitude tends to lead to criticism that can invade your relationship and sometimes can damage your relationship beyond repair.
Acknowledgement and gratitude are the things that will make the biggest difference in turning that around. So take a moment to figure out what act of service makes you feel loved and make a point to acknowledge and express your gratitude for it–even if it is something that you already expect. If you spouse says you look nice today, instead of replying in her head, “Well, took him long enough to notice!” say, “Thank you. It means a lot that you noticed.” Or when your spouse makes a point to send you a text or call you, make sure you acknowledge the effort and say thank you and let them know the impact that it made. They will want to repeat a behavior when they feel like it matters and you express gratitude for it. Life is full of repetitive needs–cooking, mowing the lawn or shoveling the driveway, cleaning, driving to work, dishes, laundry etc… These mundane tasks can become ways you can look for to express your gratitude for the ways in which your spouse meets your needs. Expressing gratitude is the antidote for criticism and is the key to improving and sustaining a healthy relationship. So, look for ways to express gratitude for what you have and make it a habit to acknowledge and express gratitude for the little things. Gratitude is the antidote to criticism and will improve and strengthen your relationship before, during and after you walk down the aisle.