It was during our engagement that a couple speaking at our pre-marital class gave us this advice, and it has stuck with me ever since. Perhaps because it sounds so weird when you first hear it.
They said, “Make an effort to always treat each other like strangers.”
I remember thinking, “That makes zero sense, you should know your spouse better than anyone…right?” “Why would you want to be married to someone you barely know? That would be a little creepy, no?”
But then I went on to listen to their explanation, and I thought it was one of the most profound things I’d ever heard.
They said, “For instance, if a stranger holds a door open for you, what do you do? If a stranger held the elevator for you, or offered you a chair…what would you do? You would smile and say, ‘Thank you!’”
Basically, someone you barely know, or don’t know at all, could offer you the simplest act of kindness, and you would openly express your appreciation for them. But sometimes in a marriage, people tend to come to expect their spouse to do these simple things and completely deny them this common courtesy.
I was dumbstruck. It’s so simple, but makes so much sense. Okay, maybe it’s not exactly revolutionary, but I thought it was a really unique way of reminding us how important it is to practice thankfulness in a marriage.
Sure, there are times when you’ve just spent hours scrubbing and cleaning your house until it’s completely spotless and your husband comes in and throws his socks in the middle of the floor and you think your brain may just explode…but then you realize he also just took out the trash and filled up your car with gas and baked cookies for your book club, and you can choose to be thankful instead (after making a snide remark and possible death threat for him to kindly place the socks in the hamper two feet away, of course.)
But in all seriousness, I see almost daily this practice of thankfulness positively impacting our marriage. In fact, practicing thankfulness has become the norm, just as it is with strangers. I usually don’t even realize we’re doing it anymore, but it struck me today when I got a “thank you for taking the pup for a walk last night!” text message and sent a “thanks for making me a delicious lunch!” text message and realized how awesome of a practice this really is. And it all goes back to “treating each other like strangers.”
Don’t forget to appreciate all the little things the most important peoplein your life are doing on a daily basis. Taking trash out, making dinner, walking the dog. They don’t have to do those things…they’re making a conscious effort to be a team player, and that deserves appreciation. So treat them like a stranger and start saying “thank you.”