The #1 Relationship Killer of a 'Healthy' Partnership

The grass is not greener.

It may be greener where you stand, but not necessarily on the other side of the fence.

We try to create our lives around what makes us happy, but fail to question the pains we are ok living with. Of course, we all want a perfect marriage, behaved children, a booming business, and an impressive house, but everything (e-v-e-r-y-t-h-i-n-g) comes with a compromise, an investment and some pain to achieve it. However, when it comes to marriage or relationships, we often tend to neglect that same investment because we get too comfortable; we settle. We don’t think that our relationships should be painful, but they all do come with some trade-off. We may grumble and ‘nag,’ huff and puff about the quirks and annoyances of our partner, but if they are genuinely a good person, then these are the things we must accept. It’s the ‘pain you must sustain' to have a happy marriage or partnership.

Mark Manson argues that the question we should be asking ourselves in place of ‘what makes you happy’ is ‘what pain do you want in your life?’ What are the things you are willing to struggle for to sustain your happiness? While the sole focus shouldn't be on the pain itself, he does make a good argument about what you should be willing to compromise to make something work. 

An old friend of mine days before my wedding sent me a note to give me some unsolicited marriage advice. He said, “Renee, today make a list of the ten things you love the most about your future husband, keep that list and reflect on it later. In 10-years those ten things will become the things you HATE the most about him!”

I thought to myself could I hate being motivated to grow my business every day? Could I really hate how on-the-go we are all the time? Could I really hate how devoted he was to learning and growing his business? It turns out, I can, but it’s not the actual list of things that he does that I started to ‘hate,’ it’s how I was taking those things for granted every single day that made me start to lack appreciation for him.

Eye opener!

And this lack of appreciation can eventually grow into a lack of gratitude which in turn kills the relationship. It kills any relationship for that matter, but when it’s the by-product of a seemingly healthy one, it can be deadly to all those around you too. Not good for business and definitely not good for your family life. And so when you reflect on the pains you're willing to sustain for any relationship, remember this; you should never compromise gratitude for anyone. 

Lack of Gratitude is the #1 Relationship Killer. 

How can you start to create more gratitude practices when it’s been slowly seeping out of your relationship? Here are three ways.

1. Say thank you more often

Do this with everyone and make it a habit.

A dear friend of mine Dave taught me an incredible life lesson a while ago. Whenever he ordered food during lunch, he always asked the server how they were that day and what their name was. In trading the greeting role in the initial interaction Dave was not only quickly able to build rapport by showing appreciation with the server, but he also made everyone at the table follow suit. This made the server feel more at ease (and it may have even gotten us some bonus dim sum on occasion), but more importantly, it made them feel seen and heard. 

Gratitude is contagious.

When it comes to marriage, research has shown that people who feel grateful for interactions with their significant others have a stronger connection and feeling of satisfaction in the relationship. The more grateful the couple reports being, the more likely they will stay together for a longer time.   

2. Show how you’re grateful

It’s not just about saying ‘thanks’ as a reaction to something someone did, it’s actually meaning it. 

~ Saying you’re getting engagement is one thing.
~ Starting a business is one thing.
~ Being romantic is one thing.

But to actually have a successful marriage, business or intimate relationship means doing the work and committing to an outcome.  As does showing gratitude. Of course, you can say thanks and mean it, but how you show your gratitude is what matters. 

For the past 9-months, I was responsible for both drop-off and pick-up of the boys from daycare as my husband hustled to bring his business to the next level.  We agreed on the compromises and went with the new programming. But after a while the commute coupled with meal prep, lunch prep, and nighttime routine became taxing. I was doing it all plus working in my business.

Bit by bit Dan started doing more afternoon pickups and night time routines outside of our agreement, without asking me -- he just did it. I noticed so much so that I think my thanks got a little bit out of hand. But he got it, and our overall energy shifted. We started to enjoy the nuisance of the daily grind because we appreciated both our efforts in committing to our routine and because of this, I happily made him lunch and dinner and sewed the buttons on his pants. 

3. Broadcast your gratefulness

If someone does something special for you going beyond just saying thank you takes your gratitude practice to the next level. This could be sharing your gratefulness on social media or telling a close friend about how great that person made you feel. It could also mean introducing them to someone that they may find inspiring or could help them with their business or parenting woes. 

Broadcasting how appreciative you are will pay back in spades. People will begin to see your character shine through or even see a whole other side of you. Women find this sexy, men see this as a commitment. In a relationship (especially if your love language is words of affirmation) those words or gestures can last a long time.  Mark Twain once said, “I can live for two months on a good compliment.” When was the last time someone said something great about you? How long did that feeling last? 

A few weeks ago I was having a conversation with someone in my husband's industry. A friend of his. We chatted about work and in me possibly hiring this person to help me take my business to the next level. She questioned why I would work with her when I have free resources right at home. She said, “With the way in which Dan speaks so highly of you, especially when you’re not around, it seems as though you have it all figured out?”  And while I’d love to jump on a down and scream, I do! I do! In that instance about work, I didn’t. But it quickly threw everything aside and made me realize how much Dan appreciates me, especially because he was broadcasting that gratefulness to others when I wasn't around. It felt so good!

Psychologists have known for a while that couples who express gratitude toward each other are more likely to stay together. In fact, thanking your partner even once can bring you two closer months later.
— Erin Brodwin in BusinessInsider.

If expressing heartfelt appreciation for others is really hard for you then start small. Thank the guy at your drive-thru coffee shop, clean up after yourself a little bit more, or even lend more time to someone when they least expect it, the whole idea is to SHOW and GIVE it a little bit more every day. More importantly, show your significant other how grateful you are for them every day. Every-single-day.

Photo: Camila Cordeiro