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An attitude of gratitude not keeping score

Attitude of gratitudeThink back with me to the beginning of your relationship. Those heady days of infatuation, giddy bubbles in your tummy, talking endlessly into the night. Your partner could do no wrong. And you couldn’t do enough for them. There was no thought of demanding something in return – simply being in their company was enough. You both oozed an attitude of gratitude towards each other.

What went wrong?

Well, reality for a start. Jobs, mortgages, bills, health issues, the multiple mundane repetitive tasks of normal domestic life all do their little bit to take the gloss off. Possibly adding children into that maelstrom. Although lets face it – the initial days of total infatuation are not compatible with normal life. I remember one of my first dates with MB, talking till 5 am, getting maybe an hour’s sleep and then going to work. Couldn’t function like that now. Much older, value and need my sleep more, and the practical element of me kicks in – nothing would get done!

But a teensy bit of wistful reminiscing does no harm, especially if the reasons we got together in the first place are remembered.

Because last week we talked about the dangers of keeping score in a relationship – the lie that I am owed for what I do for my partner. And this is a far removed place from those halcyon first days when there seemed more simplicity, more grace, perhaps more gratitude in the relationship.

What is it you really love about your partner?

Why were you attracted to them in the first place? What strengths, character traits, little foibles make them unique and precious to you? Or at least, did at some stage?

What do they bring to the relationship that you would be lost without?

The key here is to recognise that within a relationship, we are not owed anything by our other half and therefore cannot start demanding or expecting them to do certain things. We choose to do things for each other whether merited or not because that is grace and love within a healthy relationship. We have entered a relationship with a desire for mutual love, respect, and give and take. This is not a business arrangement or contract.

How easy it is to fall into the dangerous black hole of doing things for the other to then manipulate them into doing something in return. Or to cast up to them how little they do and how tired and worn down we are.

Is it possible instead to choose to do things for and help the other other? Dare I say, to serve?

To choose to do what you do because it is the right and loving thing to do?

To learn to cultivate an attitude of gratitude towards each other, rather than keeping score?

If you are in a difficult place in your relationship just now, and feeling unloved and unvalued by your partner, I really do get that this will likely stick in your craw. In the face of our own unmet needs, choosing to continue to graciously and willingly do things for our partner will feel like a Herculean task. But again, I ask – what is the cost of continuing on the current path?

There are no easy answers, no quick fixes. This takes time, effort, willingness and a large dose of humble openness with each other. But the most important thing is to start to talk about what is going on, and gain awareness and understanding of each other.

When one partner feels they are doing more than the other and allegations of score keeping are flying about –

  • talk about the practicalities of who does what without blame or accusations
  • acknowledge the emotions and unmet needs
  • choose to see and affirm what the other does do
  • discuss ways of distributing things more fairly/evenly/appropriately (everyone’s situation will be different – there are no set ways nor stereotypes at work here)
  • understand that it is not wrong to want our spouse to do things for us, but we are not owed anything from them in return for what we do for them – this is a relationship not a business contract
  • understand that if I choose to do something for my other half, I do it out of choice not to get something back. 

If you have never come across the concept of love languages, this can be a useful way to gain understanding of yourself and your partner, and can provide the key to unlock the barriers between you.

And, perhaps most importantly, practice an attitude of gratitude. This goes a long way to changing our perspective. What little things does your partner do that you can appreciate and affirm them for? What are you thankful for about your other half?


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