What does this have to do with appreciation and gratitude? Everything. It’s often difficult to see another person’s kind, thoughtful, loving and caring gestures because we tend to focus on what is happening inside of our own heads. Being grateful begins awareness, and awareness hinges on stepping beyond what’s happening inside your own skull. It can be difficult to show gratitude because we are so preoccupied with what’s happening in our own heads that we miss the chance to show our partners appreciation.
I mentioned that it can be especially hard to express gratitude when you have children. Children, especially young kids, make serious demands on your mental space. For instance, every week my wife does something incredibly nice for me: She takes care of the kids early on Sunday mornings while I go for a long bike ride. The instant I walk in the door, all sweaty and messy, I start thinking about what I need to do with the kids—how to help her, how to manage any emerging problems or physically hazardous situations, who needs to get fed, go pee, etc., etc.
Once the myopia of childcare sets in on me, I can lose sight of the fact that my wife has been incredibly generous providing me the freedom I want to exercise. From there, I sometimes let the chance to appreciate her slip away. This type of situation can occur when anything—work, future emails, transportation needs, researching a new iPad— competes for the same mental space needed to notice and recognize your partner’s nice gestures.
There’s a slightly more insidious problem here as well, and this also has to do with myopia. Because we can become so self-focused it is sometimes difficult to see your partner’s actions as deserving of appreciation. I’ll call this sad myopia because it is fairly sad when you cannot see beyond your own self-absorbed world to notice all nice things your partner is doing for you. But, it can happen to all of us and this is precisely what happened to me last weekend. It was not intentional, but I was stressed and saw my own efforts as Herculean and deserving of much appreciation. I became too “me focused” to see outside of my own (temporarily) warped view of how much I was doing for our family. When sad myopia continues unchecked, there is no hope for giving your relationships the booster shot of gratitude because one or both people are stuck on how much they are doing and how much they are not being appreciated.
What’s the solution? Awareness. Other focus. Empathy. And, practice. Myopia is natural and helps us a great deal. It takes practice to get beyond yourself to see the all the beautiful things your partner is doing for you. We can all do it if we try.
One last thought. I did not entitle this column “How to Appreciate Your Partner” because I think we all know how to do that. For most of us, it’s really simply: Say thank you, do a thoughtful thing, drop a compliment, take on more than you require in exchange, plan an exciting event, give a massage, etc., etc. The problem is not doing the act of gratitude. The problem is why we do not do it more often and what gets in our way. I’ve tried to tackle the larger issue head-on in this column. I hope find these ideas helpful.
Stay protected from harmful UV rays with this season's newest sunscreen launches.
Are you addicted? Learn how to break the habit.
Amp up your summer wardrobe with these flattering finds.
We'll help you pinpoint what's triggering those weird eyelid tweak-outs.
Get moving for a firmer and better toned behind.
Return to the Mobile Site