Hello everyone, I hope you're all having a wonderful day. Today I'd like to focus on two concepts that are often conflated, appreciation and gratitude.
Let's start with the good old dictionary definition.
1) Recognize the full worth of.
2) Understand (a situation) fully; recognize the full implications of.
The quality of being thankful; readiness to show appreciation for and to return kindness.
Within a marriage
To appreciate your spouse is to value who they are and the qualities they posses, regardless of performance. In fact, it may be very useful as a way of uplifting your spouse after a failure. For example - after making a silly mistake, you may want to speak a paragraph or two to your spouse describing how smart they are in general. People make mistakes and this particular choice was silly, but you're usually so smart and I like smart people ;)
Gratitude is about being thankful for what your spouse accomplished. Thank you for taking care of the kids, for cooking dinner, for earning enough money. Gratitude is about what your spouse did for you or the family while appreciation is about who they are as a person.
Both appreciation and gratitude are crucial within a marriage. It's wise to dole them both out in abundance, just try not to conflate the two too often.
Mike and Becky are having marital issues. Mike says - I go to work and sweat my butt off every day, trying to earn a living and you just don't appreciate it at all! Becky counters - what, am I supposed to get down on my knees and thank you every day for doing your job? (Insert scrunched face here). Mike gets frustrated and sighs, "you just don't understand, whatever". Then he retreats further from the marriage.
What went wrong here is that Mike feels like Becky doesn't get it. She doesn't get just how hard it is to earn a living these days. She doesn't appreciate the toil he invests to make it happen. Mike may not even want a thank you at all, that's gratitude. Mike wants her to appreciate what it takes. He wants her to recognize the full worth of his efforts and to recognize the implications of it. So when Becky starts to whine or subtly suggest they go on vacation soon, Mike gets the message that she doesn't appreciate what it takes to earn a living. She doesn't appreciate his effort in keeping the family's finances afloat during difficult times. All she can think about is her vacation when he's choking financially. He's drowning and she doesn't notice. When he tries to explain how there's no money for a vacation, she snaps at him with - there's always money for important things. He therefore feels that she doesn't get it.
Becky is conflating appreciation with gratitude. Mike needs appreciation, she counters with gratitude.
Danny comes home from work every day to a clean home and hot dinner ready for him to eat. Joy is getting frustrated that she's never complimented for her cooking and cleaning. Danny counters - but I always tell you what a good cook you are and how organized and spotless you can keep the house, what's the matter? Joy responds - yes, you do that often, but it's all general and never specific to today's dinner or organization. Danny retorts - that's ridiculous. Now they have a stalemate.
What went wrong here is that Danny never compliments her on the specific food his wife cooked for him. He thinks it's enough to praise her cooking skills in general, in private and public. He thinks it's ridiculous to get into the nitty gritty of how each food item tastes, which one he likes, likes better or is his favorite. Joy feels like after all this effort, it doesn't matter to him what he eats and her whole investment in keeping it exciting is for naught.
What Danny doesn't realize is that Joy is asking for gratitude and he's answering with appreciation.
Understanding the meaning of words and the concepts behind them can help improve your marriage.