I jokingly said once that my brother-in-law takes better care of me than my own husband. You see, my husband and I frequently eat dinner with his family since we live so close, and there have been numerous times when I asked Chris to grab me a glass of water but he genuinely did not hear me. Frankly, he had tuned me out. (Before you judge, admit it—we do this to our kids all the time.) When my brother-in-law saw that my request had gone unanswered, he would drop what he was doing to get me a glass of water.
Ladies, he’s still single!
As I sat down for dinner tonight, I started shoveling food into my mouth as fast as I could because, as usual, Lizzy woke up from a nap the instant I took my first bite. (How do they know?!) I looked up from my plate and was surprised to find a glass of ice water sitting right next to it.
“Is this mine?” I asked, knowing I hadn’t poured it for myself, but no one else was sitting by me except Hannah, who had her sippy cup.
“Yeah, I grabbed that for you,” Chris shrugged, like it wasn’t a big deal. Truthfully, I don’t think it was a big deal to him. But it was a big deal to me. Like, a really big deal. He had anticipated my need even before I knew it was a need. It’s been hours since that happened, and I am still thinking about how loved that simple gesture made me feel.
Why the change? I am pretty sure I owe it to two little words. “Thank You.” I’m not kidding.
A few weeks ago I was struck by something I heard on FamilyLife Radio, where Shaunti Feldhahn shared that she had been searching for years for a man’s emotional equivalent to ‘I love you,’ and she finally found it; it was simply ‘Thank you.’ “Thank you for ___, even though ___.”
I decided to conduct a little experiment to see if she was right. I began to thank Chris for absolutely everything I could think to thank him for, trying not to use the phrase “for helping me with __.” Instead, “Thank you for putting the girls to bed tonight, even though you had a long day at work. I really appreciate it.” Or “Thank you for calling even though it’s been a hectic day. That means so much to me.” Etc.
I thanked him for everything. And I mean everything. I thought for sure I was being just plain obnoxious about it. It felt annoying.
But Chris didn’t seem annoyed. In fact, just the opposite. The changes in his behavior were almost immediate—he put his shoes in the shoe rack (with no nagging from me), he swept play-doh off the floor before I even asked, and he randomly brought me flowers one day when I was sick. It still feels almost too good to be true.
In thinking about it, I asked myself if I would ever be annoyed if someone thanked me too much for something. But really, is it possible to be thanked too much? “Thanks for lunch, mom!” every single day? Nope, that would never get old.
Then I thought maybe all of this thankfulness “didn’t really count” because I didn’t come up with this idea out of my own initiative, but again, if Chris had heard and decided to apply something like this, I wouldn’t consider it contrived at all; rather, I would feel so loved he was thoughtful enough to put it into action.
Still, I started to feel like a jerk, as if I were just thanking Chris because of what I could get out of it in return. But that’s the crazy thing. I was completely unprepared for how much this little experiment would change ME. The more I find little things to be thankful for, the more thankful I feel for those same little things. So far, this little experiment has ignited a cycle of thankfulness. The more I find things to be thankful for, the more he does things that I’m thankful for, and the more he does things that I’m thankful for, the more thankful I feel.
But the change is deeper than that. Even if Chris had not changed his behavior at all, I still find myself changed. I am so busy finding things to be thankful for that I no longer mind the things that normally grate on my nerves. This attitude of gratitude has changed me. 180 degrees.
Your turn. I dare you to say thank you. See the change in your husband. But be warned… You will see a change in yourself.
Here’s what started it all… Listen to Shaunti Feldhahn’s show on Surprising Secrets of Highly Happy Marriages: A Man’s Fantastic Five, and read her awesome article about the 5 Biggest Little Ways to Improve Your Marriage.