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She says: Matt never says “Thank you." He says: Sarah knows I appreciate her

She says: Matt never says “Thank you." He says: Sarah knows I appreciate her

Matt never shows any gratitude. I don’t think he appreciates me – in fact I feel taken for granted.

I just don't remember to say thank you for everyday things. Sarah knows I appreciate her – why do I need to say it every time?

Perhaps Matt actually has been attempting to communicate gratitude to Sarah in his particular way, but she’s not perceiving it – that is, not in her own particular way. If so, some re-learning could help.

In his best-seller, The Five Love Languages, Dr. Gary Chapman explains that marriages sometimes go haywire if the two have different “languages” for expressing and receiving love. Say, for instance, that Spouse A’s primary language is Acts of Service, while Spouse B’s is Words of Affirmation. Imagine the scene of mutual frustration of Spouse A complaining that he is indeed showing love and gratitude by remodeling the bathroom, even as Spouse B complains that her husband won’t ever verbally communicate his love and gratefulness for her.

The solution is for each to learn to the language of the other so that both can 1) better hear what the other is trying to say, and 2) better speak to the other – that is, in a language that he or she will understand.

Matt, it’s clear that, despite your best efforts, Sarah is just not feeling appreciated. But the good news is that she’s provided you with her blueprint. So, just get in the habit of saying thanks to her daily for simple things. Even if it feels unnatural or dumb to you to thank her for making dinner or taking out the trash, it would be sweet music to her ears.

By the way, expressing gratitude on a regular basis is a good thing for any marriage. Pope Francis emphasizes the importance of three basic words in marriage and family life: please, thank you, and sorry: “Let us not be stingy about using these words, but keep repeating them, day after day … The right words, spoken at the right time, daily protect and nurture love.” (Amoris Laetitia 133)

Finally, Sarah, it’s great that you’ve helped Matt understand your language of love, but be open to hearing the ways that he really has been attempting, in his own way, to communicate love and gratitude to you. Why not get Chapman’s book and read it together? Spoiler alert: the other three languages he identifies are Receiving Gifts, Quality Time and Physical Touch.

Steve and Bridget Patton hold master’s degrees in theology and counseling and serve as family life ministers for the Diocese of Sacramento.