'Tis the time of year to show thanks, and one person you must thank is your spouse. Why? Because according to psychotherapist and relationship expert, Toni Coleman, “too often, when partners give feedback to one another it is about what is not going well in the relationship. The focus is on the negative—what their partner has said or done or not said or done that has hurt, disappointed, or angered them. And they seem to take the good things for granted and assume the other knows they are valued and appreciated.”
On the flip side, “when we take the time to show gratitude, it lets our partners know that their efforts have not gone unnoticed,” says Lesli Doares, marriage coach and author of Blueprint For a Lasting Marriage. “It lets them know that they are important to us and that our lives are better for them being part of it.”
So to get you started on spreading your gratitude, here are eight things our experts say you should thank your spouse for this season—and every season after it.
1. Coming Home to You
Of course, you expect your spouse to walk in the door each evening after work. “But it doesn’t always happen,” Doares says. “There can be accidents or illness, of course—but staying in a relationship is always a choice and having your partner make that choice every day is something to be thankful for.”
2. Your Partner Let You Win the Argument, Just Because
“Too often couples get into a competition that ends with a winner and loser,” warns Coleman. “What a loving gesture to allow your partner to win—which says your partner’s feelings matter more to you than your own.” If your partner does this for you, acknowledging it with thanks “will help encourage this caring behavior to continue between you,” Coleman says.
3. Doing That Chore You Hate Yourself
You always take out the trash. But lately—or even just tonight—your spouse did it for you, and it’s as if they gave you a million bucks. “Putting the kids to bed, going to the grocery store, mowing the lawn, whatever—when your partner takes something off your plate, even if they don’t do it exactly the way you would be grateful,” says Doares. “It means they noticed and wanted to help you.”
4. Contributing Financially
No matter who is the breadwinner in your home (if there even is one), “it is less costly to share life’s expenses than paying for everything yourself,” Doares points out. So thank them for their contribution to your bank accounts. “It’s also important to remember saving expenses—like childcare or an extra car—count too,” she says.
5. Having Your Back
Life’s not always easy, but challenging situations are easier when your partner is by your side. “One of the most important qualities that all people seek in a partner is someone who has their back,” says Coleman. “It is important to say thanks and acknowledge how much this means, or your partner might feel it is taken for granted, not appreciated, and not make it a priority going forward.”
6. Being With You for Things You’d Rather Not Do
“Whether it’s going shopping with us, watching sporting events, going to a different restaurant, hosting your family for the holidays, or whatever, they are choosing to do what we like even if it’s not anything they would do on their own,” Doares explains. That selfless action is definitely worth your thanks. “Putting you and your relationship first are always reasons for thanks,” she says.
7. Putting up With Your Family—Even If They Don’t Like Them
“When we marry, we take on many new relationships because these are people that are important to our partner. We don’t always like them, and in fact, might find them very difficult to even be around them,” Coleman says. When your partner makes the effort to get along with your family, he or she is telling you he or she loves you, very much. “This should always be acknowledged and never taken for granted,” Coleman says.
8. Opening Your Eyes to New Experiences
One of the best things about being in a relationship with someone who has his own interests is that you often get to try something new, just by virtue of being together. “When you go along with something they like that you might not have thought to try, they are helping you grow by experiencing new things,” Doares says. “You may love the activity or you may hate it, but either way you will have changed,” and that is something to be thankful for.