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Being the Change You Want to See in Your Marriage or Relationship When Feeling Unappreciated

Ambrie shares her thoughts, reflections and/or experiences on subject matters that many can relate to.

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People in Long Term Relationships -

... take each other for granted for a variety of reasons, with complacency and laziness being strong factors in couples drifting apart. There are many options that may come to mind for someone who is in an established relationship and feeling taken for granted. Assuming this is the only major problem in the marriage, they might, for example, choose to ignore the issue hoping it will resolve itself, or else respond in kind and on purpose not show appreciation to their partner in the hope it might somehow have the other person change their ways (keep in mind though that we cannot force a person to change their behaviour, especially not for the long term).

Alternatively, they might calmly discuss the problem with their spouse or emphatically confront them asking or commanding them to make changes in this area. Of all these, calm discussion and a request for a change in behaviour is probably the rational option, but as the title of this page infers, there’s also the option to be the change you want to see, and that’s the option this page is going to focus on.

We Cannot Force -

... our spouse to change their behaviour and show more appreciation. That has to be their choice. However, what we can do is to change ourselves, and a good place to start is to be the change we want to see in our relationship. Naturally, there’s no guarantee, but when we change ourselves, it opens up the possibility of our spouse freely responding differently as the marriage atmosphere and dynamic they find themselves in has altered.

Gaining Clarity

Being the change you want to see can be a very wise first course of action because, after diligently being that change for a reasonable length of time it can help you more clearly reassess the situation and be best placed to come to a decision on next steps. However, please note the suggestions below can go hand in hand with being more independent, resilient, self sufficient and taking responsibility for uplifting and valuing yourself, as opposed to endlessly longing for a partner to explicitly approve, pursue and cherish you.

Overlooked

If, for example you feel your partner doesn’t notice the myriad of things you go out of your way to do for them day to day, you can start with making a pointed effort to notice and favourably comment on even the smallest positive efforts and good deeds on the part of your partner.

It may well be that you routinely overlook the good deeds and right behaviours your partner performs in areas that you’re not seeking more recognition from him or her. Even if, in your opinion, the things your partner does seem less important, simpler or of low priority and difficulty compared with the things that you do that get taken for granted, it’s still good to recognise and acknowledge these things to your partner.

Be daily on alert to what your partner does and says so that you duly acknowledge and/or thank them for so doing.

Tangled Wavelengths

Often we don’t notice how much a person does until they stop doing it!

When being the change we want to see in the area of being taken for granted, we must bear in mind that our partner may feel underappreciated in different ways than we do.

There are a variety of ways to show appreciation. Some might buy their significant other a bunch of flowers as a thank you, some will write a special note in a card, some will say so in words face to face, some may express thanks by spending more quality time with you, some may give a hug, pat on the back, or peck on the cheek as their way of saying thanks, or they may try to do something nice for you or try to help you out in some way. We tend to express our thanks to others in ways that we would appreciate others expressing their thanks to us, and the two are not necessarily the same.

Hence sometimes we don't notice our partner's expression of thanks. The flowers may not come with a note specifying exactly what it is that is being appreciated. The same can happen with the other actions described.

For further insight in the area of Love Languages (the way in which a person tends to feel and express love) I have found the book “The 5 Love Languages” by Gary Chapman to be invaluable. It helped me become aware that sometimes my partner had "said" thanks but in a different way than I would have "said" it.

The Book That Helped Me Appreciate Our Differences

Noticing and Acknowledging

Using the “recipe” below for being the change you want to see when you’re feeling taken for granted, as you become more focussed on the worthy and helpful things your partner does day to day, you may well start to realise that your partner actually does make a modicum of effort or some tiny improvement in the specific area(s) in which you feel taken for granted.

And of course it goes without saying - when you notice something, be sure to say so.

Being Backhanded

It has to be said though, that when you still feel the effort your partner makes is insufficient, the tricky bit of saying thanks or acknowledging their effort is making sure there’s no sarcasm, or hint of contempt as you communicate your thanks or acknowledgement to them.

For example, if your significant other should uncharacteristically thank you for making dinner, doing the laundry, taking the garbage out, mowing the lawn, shopping, helping the kids with homework, supporting the emotional well being of a family member, fixing/mending stuff, doing routine chores or whatever and says to you “Oh thanks for …”, then don’t come back at them with a retort such as

“Oh - you’ve noticed this time have you? About time too.”

Definitely it’s tempting to respond in this way, but trust me, it isn’t helpful. It’ll likely put them off showing thanks, appreciation or giving acknowledgments for the future. Instead, try a gracious and pleasant

“You’re welcome”

which is much more likely to encourage further such expressions and have you feeling less taken for granted.

The same principle applies should your partner say or do something appreciative of you in any area where normally they don’t. For example if you’re spouse is normally last out of bed and leaves it unmade ninety-nine percent of the time, but miraculously one morning he/she does make the bed, then be conscious that you saying

“I’m glad you made the bed this morning - makes a change!”

is a backhanded statement, akin to criticism, rather than a purely positive acknowledgement.

Better to skip the “makes a change” part or swap it for a genuine smile - emphasis “genuine” not fake – to avoid quashing further effort on the part of your partner. And, importantly, you taking this approach is you actually being the change you want to see – assuming you are wanting your partner to be appreciative of what you do and to show sincerity when verbalising it.

As time goes by, you’ll find it becomes easier to express sincere thanks, but in the meantime, it’s worth making a conscious effort to speak agreeably.

Manner Matters

Tone of voice and emphasis when speaking makes a difference too. “Thanks for making the bed sweetheart” (or whatever their name/pet name is) said in a monotone won't go down as well as saying it in a genuine pleasant voice. You grudgingly uttering “Thanks for walking the dog earlier” likewise isn’t the best either. The manner in which an expression of appreciation, thanks or acknowledgement is delivered is key.

On the other hand, I advise you avoid speaking in an overly “sugar sweet” voice as, assuming this isn’t your normal way of speaking, this can come off as false and sarcastic. When I say speak in a pleasant, plain, or matter of fact voice, please take all that to mean speak in an authentic companionable manner that your spouse will appreciate.

Persistence in Being the Change

Very important. If you uncommonly start saying things that let your significant other know you’re not taking them for granted in areas that you wouldn’t normally have commented on before, don’t be put out if they respond sarcastically to you! Again, it’s not the best response, but if this does happen decide not to let it irk you.

Resolve to take it in your stride and just continue to go about your business without a hitch and most crucially, don’t let it cause you to prematurely give up on being the change you want to see – i.e. noticing and valuing them and letting them know it.

When we make sustained effort

to become the change we want to see, our own perception of the original problem may change.

My Notepad

I’ve had seasons when I’ve felt my partner just didn’t put forth effort to appreciate me. Last time this sort of feeling persisted within me, I decided to keep a record of stuff he did and said right, little things and bigger things. Now I have to tell you I thought there’d be nothing much to make a note of - but I was pleasantly astonished not to have a blank empty notepad. But don’t get me wrong - it certainly wasn’t perfectly overflowing with his compliments, thoughtful gestures, affectionate physical touch, words of affirmation, or acts of service all day, everyday - but I definitely found I had much more to write in my notepad than I had expected to. It helped me realise that little things mean a lot and they do count.

A Recipe for How to Be the Change You Want to See In Your Relationship

You’ll need to

  • Have a pen and notepad/notepad on your phone
  • Daily prioritise and make space for thinking time


Procedure

  • Think about things your spouse has done generally looking for positives, and make a note of them
  • Think about things your spouse has done specifically for you looking for positives, and make a note of them
  • Think through the day’s interactions and conversations with your spouse looking for the positives, and make a note of them
  • Genuinely acknowledge, thank and show appreciation to your spouse for one or more things daily, keeping in mind the advice on wording and tone detailed above.
  • Important - No matter how tempting, I do not advocate hinting/asking your spouse to make a list of your own good points. Nor do I recommend telling your partner you’re making a note of their good points.

Duration

Continue in this manner daily for at least six weeks.

Self Awareness

Being the change you want to see in your relationship can help you assess and ensure that you are not guilty of the very thing you have found wanting in your spouse! The scripture Matthew 7, 3-5 (that’s the one about the speck and the log) is relatable.

being-the-change-you-want-to-see-in-your-marriagerelationship-when-feeling-unappreciated

Persevere

Taking the time and effort to daily lookout for and celebrate your spouses goodness can be wearying and you may feel like giving up before the end of the six week period recommended above. But don't give up, because in the long term, as detailed above, it’ll be worth it, The scripture Galatians 6.9 is relatable.

Re-Evaluate

At the end of six weeks, re-examine your feelings about being taken for granted. There may well be a shift in how you feel about the issue, particularly if you find that your partner wasn’t as unappreciative as you had first thought, and particularly if you perceive that you too have been unappreciative of your partner, taking them for granted more often than you ought. When we are faced with our own imperfections it allows us to be more forgiving of the imperfections of others.

Having done all the above painstakingly, you may conclude that the level of unappreciativeness exhibited by your partner is unacceptable. However, having taken the time and effort to be the change you want to see in your relationship you’ll be well placed to decide on next steps.

Important: The above recommendations assume that the unappreciative partner is not verbally abusive. If they are persistently disrespectful and angrily critical of most everything you do in the course of taking you for granted, or indeed abusive in any area, seek professional help promptly.

This content reflects the personal opinions of the author. It is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and should not be substituted for impartial fact or advice in legal, political, or personal matters.

© 2020 Ambrie Anders

Comments

Ambrie Anders (author) on October 04, 2020:

Hello Dora

Yes, often the other person is oblivious as their partner suffers in silence. Thank you for your observations and comment

Dora Weithers from The Caribbean on October 01, 2020:

Great advice for marriage as well as other types of relationships. Sometimes the other person is having fun, and not even realizing how unappreciated the individual feels. You're right about changing one's own perspective.

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