Like all parents, my husband and I struggle to find time to be together as a couple and create a little distance from our roles as co-parents. After the kids are in bed is no dice because one of us is usually snoring right along with them. The morning isn’t good either because our children need breakfast, help finding their shoes and a ride to school. During the happiest of times, it's been hard to give our marriage the care and attention it needs.
Once I realized that I wanted to strengthen my marriage and move it up on my priority list, I instantly got scared about what it would take. I asked other friends what they did to keep their marriage strong. Some suggested counseling, which isn’t a bad idea, but it’s expensive, hard to schedule and not very fun. Other friends swore by weeklong vacations sans children or weekly date nights. Like counseling, that sounded great in theory, but also prohibitively expensive, hard to schedule and logistically challenging.
I bought into the idea that I had to make a grand gesture in the service of my marriage, one that would cost a lot of money and blow a chunk out of my weekly schedule. And that’s exactly why I did nothing to work on my marriage.
While discussing these grand gestures one afternoon, my husband said that what he really wanted was for me to express more gratitude for him and the things he does for our family. “Yeah, yeah,” I said, “but what about strengthening our marriage?” But then I realized that I would like some more of that too.
Then, we began to thank each other—sincerely—for the things the other one did, those dozens of tasks we were doing without recognition day in and day out. I thanked my husband for finding my son’s gloves and for doing the Costco run. He thanked me for planning a playdate and for getting his brother a present.
We both feel more willing to step up and do our part because our default mode is gratitude, instead of focusing on what wasn’t done or how much we were doing.
I began to feel more cherished and less like a frazzled mom on autopilot. My husband seemed to appreciate the daily acknowledgment of things I’d seen him doing for years, but never bothered thank him for.
At first it was hard to stop in the middle of the daily grind to say thanks. I mean, someone had to load the dishwasher, why not him? But I forced myself to pause in the cacophony of the morning and thank him for making the lunches or during dinner mayhem to acknowledge that he took the kids to piano.
And the more I took the time, the more my husband did.
The same thing happened when he thanked me for running the kids’ social lives. Suddenly, I felt more joy when emailing other moms about birthday parties or sleepovers.
The overall mood of our marriage is warmer now. We both feel more willing to step up and do our part because our default mode is gratitude, instead of focusing on what wasn’t done or how much we were doing. By making this a daily practice, I spend more time feeling lucky that I’m partnering with my husband and less time counting the things I wish he’d do.
I’m sure marital counseling is a wonderful, enriching tool. I’m positive that an all-inclusive in Cabo would be pretty spectacular, too. But for now, daily gratitude and affirmation for each other has made my marriage a better place to be. And given how hostile the rest of the world feels lately, I can’t express enough gratitude that my home is place where appreciation and kindness rule the day.