“Four Little Words”
by Heather Tencza
He was standing at the kitchen sink cleaning up after dinner as he does most nights. In his hand was a dishrag. As he gave the sink a final wipe-down, my husband turned to me, “Did you see how clean the kitchen is now?”
Of course I had seen it. But I was busy with our toddler and hadn’t mentioned it. Why should I? As I said, he cleans it every night.
I simply said, “It looks great” (And it did). But I started to notice how often we asked one another these sorts of questions:
“Did you like the dinner I made?”
“Did you notice that I cleaned up in here?”
“Do you like my new dress?”
How old are we? I wondered. It’s like we’re children who need acknowledgement for every little thing we do!
Then it hit me…
I’ve long decided that my best marriage advice (after my lofty three years of marriage) is to never stop appreciating one another. Lack of appreciation can destroy a marriage. It’s easy to think, “Do I really need to thank him for mowing the yard?” “Why should I thank her for cleaning the bathroom?” Or even, “Why should I expect her to thank me for this?”
But I should be quick to thank and praise, especially when it comes to my husband.
In simple terms, it’s basic courtesy. Many marriage books point out that part of keeping romance alive is always being polite with one another. It’s easy to get so familiar that you forget to say “thank you,” “please” or “excuse me.” Courtesy shows a level of respect.
But true appreciation goes deeper than just courtesy. Showing appreciation for what my husband does–and more importantly, for who he is–is part of never forgetting why we got married in the first place.
Even after three years, it is easy to forget. It’s easy to start making lists of things left undone, to see my husband just in terms of more laundry to fold or an extra set of hands to wash dishes or hold the baby. Sometimes I just expect that something is his job or my right.
I’ve heard it said that in our busy lives, we tend to objectify other people, seeing them either as obstacles to be overcome or vehicles to get us what we want. And this happens with my husband too. I get so busy checking off my constant mental to-do list that I assume he’s just there to help me in my agenda. But when I reduce him to the help he provides when he walks in the door at night, something important is lost.
There’s a lack of appreciation for humans in our world. We’re too often just numbers, just job descriptions, just a person in a car or standing in a checkout line.
Words of affirmation, a smile, a hug–these bring us back from our self-focused busyness. These words and gestures remind us that we are human rather than mindless machines. They remind us that we are unique, that our efforts matter to someone. This applies to friendships, parents, children, siblings, and all our other relationships, as well.
We prayed a Puritan prayer at our wedding, and the words often come back to nudge me to thankfulness:
May they understand that you alone are perfect. Therefore, may they minimize each other’s weaknesses, be swift to praise and magnify each other’s strengths, and look upon each other with kindness and patience […]
May they never take each other’s love for granted, but always experience that breathless wonder that rejoices in the thought that out of all the men & women upon this earth, you gave them to each other.
Noticing my husband and his efforts gives me deep appreciation for the man I married, for the person he is and the things that he does. Praise and thanks remind me to truly look at him, to notice what he does and to remember the story of us.
When they’re young, our children have no problem saying, “Look what I did! Did you see that?” But as we get older, we hide this side of ourselves. I believe the need is still there, and it’s not just insecurity. Deep down we long for affirmation and affection, and we should certainly find these in our spouse.
Perhaps as important as those famous three little words are here are four more: I see. Thank you.
She writes these thoughts down at: http://pilgrimsandals.wordpress.com/