“To appreciate—to say ‘I love you’ and ‘thank you’—is not difficult. But these expressions of love and appreciation do more than acknowledge a kind thought or deed. They are signs of sweet civility. As grateful partners look for the good in each other and sincerely pay compliments to one another, wives and husbands will strive to become the persons described in those compliments” (Elder Russell M. Nelson, “Nurturing Marriage,” April 2006).
Sometimes we know someone so well that we assume they know what we are thinking—as in my husband knows I love him, so I don’t have to tell him all the time. But everyone likes to hear it! I know that my husband loves me, but after all these years of marriage, there’s nothing better than actually hearing him say it. I’m thrilled when he notices that I cleaned the house. It makes my heart warm when he compliments my cooking. I’m sure he likes to know that I appreciate him too. Knowing it and hearing it are two different things.
Life sometimes gets in the way. Busy lifestyles often push the little things aside—even important things, like thinking to say “Thanks for taking out the trash.” I truly appreciate the fact that my husband takes out the trash without being asked. I don’t wear shoes at home, and taking out the trash means putting on my shoes so that the hot cement doesn’t burn my feet in the summer and my feet don’t freeze in the winter. Yet, I rarely remember to thank him for doing it. I don’t think I need to thank him every single time, but it would be nice for him to hear it occasionally.
Another thing that gets in the way of showing appreciation to a spouse is pent up anger. If there are unresolved issues that you haven’t forgiven your spouse for, it can become quite difficult to express appreciation for anything he/she does. It is important to work out the issues, but even more important to forgive. You may not always agree, but if you want a healthy marriage, you can’t let your disagreements cloud your love and appreciation for the other many qualities your spouse possesses. For instance, if you carry a grudge for the can of soda he forgot in the freezer until it exploded when he wasn’t around to clean up the mess, it may be difficult to thank him for getting dinner on the table every night this week so you could concentrate on helping a struggling child with homework.
Please don’t make your spouse pay for a mistake for 20 or 30 years. It not only makes you seem petty and nagging, but your spouse will most likely be doing “life” for a whole lot of misdemeanors. Just as with children and dogs, the punishment needs to fit the crime. It’s difficult for your spouse to feel appreciated if she is still hearing about the fender she crumpled 15 years ago, or when she let dinner burn and set fire to the kitchen 25 years ago. Somewhere in that time frame, she’s made up 10-fold for those mistakes, so let it go! As you begin to forgive the faults of your spouse, there is room in your heart for the love and appreciation she/he deserves.
I love that then-Elder Nelson pointed out in the quote above that as we compliment our spouses, they will try harder to live up to those expressions of appreciation. Many years ago when we were first married, my husband told me how much he liked my spaghetti and my meatloaf. He raved on about how he could never get enough of the spaghetti, and that nobody makes meatloaf like I do. All these years later, I’m still taking great care to make sure that those two meals live up to his expectations. I never deviate from the recipe, never take shortcuts, and always make those meals with a lot of love. It still makes my heart go pitter-patter when he digs in and tells me how good it is.
Love is a two-way street: I feel good that he appreciates my cooking; he feels good that I still make his favorite meals with love. Marriage thrives on two-way appreciation.
This article was originally published in March 2014. Minor changes have been made.
Tudie Rose is a mother of four and grandmother of ten in Sacramento, California. You can find her on Twitter as @TudieRose. She blogs as Tudie Rose at http://potrackrose.wordpress.com. She has written articles for Familius. You will find a Tudie Rose essay in Lessons from My Parents, Michele Robbins, Familius 2013, at http://www.familius.com/lessons-from-my-parents#.UYPhA6K.