“Baby, you’re the greatest!”
That sentiment, expressed by Ralph Kramden of TV’s classic “The Honeymooners” (after half an hour of scheming, arguing and offering one-way trips to the moon), just may be the key to a happy and lasting marriage.
Researchers from the University of Georgia interviewed 468 married individuals about relationship satisfaction. In a study published in the journal “Personal Relationships,” the researchers revealed that the most consistent significant predictor of a happy marriage is whether the spouse expresses gratitude.
Yes, sincere doses of “Thank you” can boost self-esteem, strengthen commitment and offer a light at the end of the tunnel when times are tough.
In case you’re wondering, other significant indicators include: a sense of humor, generosity, compassion and “not spilling all our secrets to some nosey interviewer who will splash them all over the journal ‘Personal Relationships.’”
Many couples start a lifetime habit of appreciation from Day One. In other cases, once the wedding ring is on the finger, couples gradually start taking one another for granted. (“Oh, there’s no need to verbalize a lot of mushy stuff. My sweetie pie knows how I feel. We can even finish each other’s...finish each other’s ...Darn! Anybody going to the Hallmark store?”)
To be fair, an unappreciative nature can begin long before courtship and marriage. We live in a “me-centered” society. You are probably all too aware of the guttural sounds that pass for thanks from Tomorrow’s Husbands and Wives. (“I’ve cooked your favorite five-course meal, honey.” “Grunt.” “My boss pulled some strings and got you a full scholarship.” “Grunt.” “Your aunt is giving you one of her kidneys.” “Grunt.”)
Why do we keep these people around? I guess we think one day the little geniuses will discover fire or the wheel.
Our public and private expressions of gratitude need to be better aligned. If you’re like a lot of spouses, you’ll say “Thank you” to a clerk who FINALLY gives you a cold burger and the right change, but then ignore the spouse who just cleaned out the septic tank while battling a high fever. (“Um, in my favor, my SPOUSE didn’t bother to ask me if I wanted fries with that.”)
Is it going to KILL you to say “Thanks”? (Okay, maybe if the sentence is “Thanks for not asking why the new pool boy hurriedly left his last six assignments”...)
Of course in some toxic relationships, there’s not a lot to say “Thank you” for. Just be creative and come up with SOMETHING to utter between gritted teeth. Possibilities include:
1. “Thank you for being so patriotic and letting the 101st Airborne use your muumuu for maneuvers.”
2. “Thank you for stopping short of being an EXACT clone of your mother.”
3. “Thank you for cooking my bacon into such an unrecognizable state that it doesn’t make me worry about colorectal cancer.”
I must admit that this column has been difficult to write. I simply have a hard time wrapping my mind around the concept of being ungrateful. Every day I work extra hard at letting wife Melissa know that she is special and appreciated. She is the light of my life.
Okay, technically, the light of my life is those little STARS I see when she crowns me with a cast iron skillet if I ever do forget to say “Thank you,” but...
Danny welcomes email responses at email@example.com and visits to his Facebook fan page “Tyree’s Tyrades”