There’s a curious pattern I’ve seen a lot of people (including myself) do in close relationships. We often expect our partners, friends, and family members to appreciate the things we do for them without our having to tell them what we’ve done.
I understand the impulse. Sometimes, it feels like telling people what I do for them is fishing for compliments. Or it can seem like they don’t really appreciate my efforts if they don’t say something spontaneously. But I’ve found that when it’s done right, it can be really useful to let folks know what I’ve done.
One of the things I’ve learned about relationships is that it’s really easy for resentment to build, and one of the ways that happens is when we start feeling like we’re being taken for granted. There’s a difference between knowing we can rely on someone and taking them for granted. The former is the foundation of a solid relationship and the latter is a great way to let things start to erode. Offering appreciation and expressing gratitude (and really meaning it) is one of the best ways to make sure that things keep working.
So one of the things that my partner and I do is make sure that we each know what the other one has been up to. Of course, we try to keep an eye on it and thank each other, but sometimes that doesn’t work. There are times when I get so focused on whatever I’m doing that I don’t notice all of the things she does, and vice versa. That’s when it’s useful to let each other know what we’ve done.
It might be as simple as my saying, “Hey, I went grocery shopping and started the laundry.” That offers the opportunity for her to thank me, which helps me keep from feeling like she’s taking me for granted. And when we make this a regular practice, it helps make sure that things don’t build up to the point of annoyance or resentment. I used to think that she should just know what I’d done, or that she should pay attention without my needing to say anything. But the problem with that, especially when it comes to the day-to-day chores is that we’re both busy people with lots on our plates. It’s easy to get caught up in everything and simply not see it. So we take the time to change that.
As part of that, we like to offer thanks for what the other has done, even (or perhaps, especially) for the daily tasks that need to happen. It’s easy to thank someone for a gift, but it’s harder to remember to say something about doing the dishes or sweeping the floor. Yet, those are the little things that define the structure of our shared lives. And sometimes, it’s easy to not even notice that they’ve been taken care of.
The funny thing is that if someone doesn’t see it and you don’t say anything about it, how are they supposed to know? And if they don’t know about it, how are they supposed to thank you for it? As in so many other places, the solution is communication. So if you find yourself feeling unappreciated, that’s the time to say something. Do it before resentment builds and see how it can help things happy. What have you got to lose?