How to Show Thankfulness to Your Spouse

By Erin Smalley
By Greg Smalley
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Focus on the Family
It's important that you take time alone with your spouse to tell him or her directly why you're thankful. This should involve not only thanking God, but also thanking your partner—directly and specifically—for the things he or she does that bless and enrich your life. Not only at Thanksgiving but throughout the year, we should make a concerted effort to express gratitude for our spouse and to our spouse!


Date Night #12—Thankful


In everyone’s life, at some time, our inner fire goes out. It is then burst into flame by an encounter with another human being. We should all be thankful for those people who rekindle the inner spirit.—Albert Schweitzer

As Thanksgiving approaches, we set aside time to reflect on the blessings God has bestowed upon us—our families, our friends, our health, our jobs, our freedom, and so on. These are all tremendous gifts, to be sure. But during significant “events‚” like Thanksgiving, we tend to look at the big picture—attempting to encompass all of the many blessings God has given us rather than narrowing in and focusing on specific things.

This is especially true when it comes to our spouses. It’s one thing to say “Thank you, God, for my wonderful wife‚” while everyone is sitting around the dinner table. That’s a nice gesture, but let’s be honest—it’s not very specific, and besides, it’s what everyone expects you to say. So it’s important that you also take time alone with your spouse to tell him or her directly why you’re thankful. This should involve not only thanking God, but also thanking your partner—directly and specifically—for the things he or she does that bless and enrich your life. Not only at Thanksgiving but throughout the year, we should make a concerted effort to express gratitude for our spouse and to our spouse!

However, be careful to avoid what pastor John Piper calls “the debtor’s ethic.‚” Being thankful for your husband or wife should not involve attempts to try and “pay them back‚” for the wonderful things they’ve done for you. That’s not gratitude. Piper explains the concept in his book Future Grace:

There is an impulse in the fallen human heart—all our hearts—to forget that gratitude is a spontaneous response of joy to receiving something over and above what we paid for. When we forget this, what happens is that gratitude starts to be misused and distorted as an impulse to pay for the very thing that came to us “gratis.‚” This terrible moment is the birthplace of the “debtor’s ethic.‚” The debtor’s ethic says, “Because you have done something good for me, I feel indebted to do something good for you.‚” This impulse is not what gratitude was designed to produce. God meant gratitude to be a spontaneous expression of pleasure in the gift and the good will of another. He did not mean it to be an impulse to return favors. If gratitude is twisted into a sense of debt, it gives birth to the debtor’s ethic—and the effect is to nullify grace.

John Piper is talking primarily here about our tendency as believers to try and “pay God back‚” for His grace to us (as if that were possible!) by embracing legalism. But the same principle applies to marriage. True gratitude toward your spouse will not take the form of “paying back‚” or “returning the favor.‚” Instead, it will be an honest, joyous expression of love and thankfulness for what you could never repay.


DATE NIGHT

Remember, always act like you’re trying to get a second date! Sometimes in marriage we forget that we need to pursue and “woo‚” our spouse. So dress up a bit. Be polite and open doors. Compliment one another. Be affectionate – hold hands, cuddle and steal kisses. Remember to protect your date night from conflict by cutting off any arguments and agreeing to talk about the issue at a later time.

Step 1: Go someplace different for dinner.
Instead of visiting the same familiar locations and eating the same old food, pick somewhere new or try a different type of cuisine.

Step 2: Express your gratitude to one another.
Either over dinner or at a quiet location afterwards, take turns talking openly and specifically about what makes you thankful for your spouse. Make a list together if you feel it would be helpful. Here are some ways you might complete the sentence, “I am thankful for you because…‚”

1.I have someone to share my life with.
2.I have someone to help balance me out.
3.Two are better than one; together we’re stronger than we are apart.
4.The ways in which we differ make me a better person by stretching me.
5.I have someone to laugh with.
6.I have someone to hold me when life gets hard.
7.I have someone to come home to.
8.I have someone to challenge me.
9.I have someone to hold me accountable.
10.I have someone to cuddle with!

Step 3: Get specific.
Once you’ve made a list of general qualities, dig deeper. For example, talk about a specific time recently that your spouse made you laugh, or otherwise cheered you up, when you were having a bad day. Or if you’re thankful for your spouse’s parenting skills, cite a specific example of those skills in action. After you’ve shared some examples and spent time conveying gratitude toward one another, take a few minutes to pray together and express gratitude to God for each other and your marriage. This process has the potential to be a time of great connection, reminiscing and intimacy.

Step 4: Relax and unwind.
After praying together, head to another location for dessert or coffee. Answer the following questions. Be sure to keep your responses positive, uplifting and encouraging.

•What was your favorite part of the evening?
•What is the one thing you learned tonight that you didn’t know about me before?
•What is one way I can express my gratitude for you over the coming week?

Step 5: Home Sweet Home
As you drive home, spend time planning your next date. Also, think about additional ways you can demonstrate thankfulness and gratitude for your spouse in the days ahead. Once you get home, however, it’s up to you what happens next. Have a great final adventure!

Date Guide
(Print this out and take it on your date!)


Thankful

Step 1: Go someplace different for dinner.

Step 2: Express your gratitude. “I’m thankful for you because…‚”
•I have someone to share my life with.
•I have someone to help balance me out.
•Two are better than one; together we’re stronger than we are apart.
•The ways in which we differ make me a better person by stretching me.
•I have someone to laugh with.
•I have someone to hold me when life gets hard.
•I have someone to come home to.
•I have someone to challenge me.
•I have someone to hold me accountable.
•I have someone to cuddle with!

Step 3: Get specific.
•Cite specific examples of things that make you thankful for your spouse.
•Pray together and thank God for each other and your marriage.

Step 4: Relax and unwind. Ready to answer a few questions?
•What was your favorite part of the evening?
•What was one thing you learned about me tonight that you didn’t know before?
•What is one way I can express my gratitude for you over the coming week?

Step 5: Homesweet home. Let’s plan our next date!
•Think about additional ways you can demonstrate thankfulness and gratitude for your spouse in the days ahead.

Download the PDF version here

Copyright © 2012 Focus on the Family. All rights reserved.

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About the Author

Erin Smalley
Greg Smalley

Dr. Greg Smalley serves as the Vice President of Marriage at Focus on the Family. In this role, he develops and oversees initiatives that prepare individuals for marriage, strengthen and nurture existing marriages and help couples in marital crises. Prior to joining Focus, Smalley worked for the Center for Relationship Enrichment at John Brown University and as President of the …

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