How often do you thank your spouse for what he or she does for you every day? Do you sometimes withhold words of thanks because you feel your spouse doesn’t deserve them or won’t receive them?
Jesus Himself put a high priority on thankfulness, and He gave thanks whenever the occasion warranted it (for example, before He fed the five thousand in John 6:11). The way of Jesus is to give thanks, and He expects His followers to give thanks to God and to others. When He healed ten lepers, He noted that only one of them – and a Samaritan at that! – returned to thank Him (Luke 17:11-19).
I’m guessing that husbands or wives reading this will have different answers to the question “How thankful are you for your spouse?” You may be one of those who has to admit that you have fixated on the negative and are overlooking the positive and the good. You may have a problem with the way God designed your spouse. You didn’t bargain on getting someone who is so different from you. To remain unthankful for your spouse because you two are “so different” is a sure way to get on the Crazy Cycle, and this lack of gratitude for your spouse will not be any help in getting off.
Or you may be one of those husbands or wives who believes you have good reason to not be thankful for your spouse – at least right now – because your spouse is doing or saying extremely unlovable or disrespectful things. I can fill a book with letters from husbands or wives whose spouse is investing nothing in the marriage, and we’ll address that in part 2 of this blog on thankfulness.
So how does being thankful connect with Love and Respect? Obviously, a husband who wants to speak lovingly to his wife cannot also be ungrateful for her. And a wife who wants to speak respectfully cannot also be complaining about her husband. If you attempt to use Thankful Words but have not made a conscious commitment to be loving or respectful, your words will sound phony, gruff, or sarcastic. To be respectful toward your husband, you must speak Thankful Words respectfully. You do not want to sound like this: “Thank you for putting gas in my car – after the third time I asked you.” And to be loving toward your wife, you must speak thankful words lovingly and sincerely instead of getting in a sly dig: “Thanks for cleaning the house – for the first time this month!”
Also keep in mind that thankfulness in marriage is to be a very reciprocal kind of thing. If you want your husband to express appreciation for your attempts to be respectful, you must speak thankfully when he tries to be loving. And if you want your wife to express appreciation for your attempts to be loving, you must use Thankful Words when she tries to speak or act respectfully.
But is giving thanks really about your spouse? Of course you know you should be thankful to God for your spouse and for a lot of other things as well. But don’t try to be thankful in your own power. In marriage, we soon realize that being thankful really isn’t about our spouse and how well he or she is performing. Instead we pray, “Lord, because I love You, I am asking You to make me a thankful person because my ultimate goal is to please You and to hear Your ‘Well done’ and maybe Your ‘Well said.’”
Will you try using THANKFUL WORDS around your spouse this Thanksgiving? Since it is easy to be negative, focus on your mate’s good qualities and express thanks with positive words of Love or Respect.
Excerpts taken from The Language of Love and Respect by Dr. Emerson Eggerichs.