The Power of Words: “Thank You”

Kelly and Mike

Our son was born about a year ago, and it has been a lot of fun—but it hasn’t been easy.

I have leaned on my husband, Matt, more than I thought I would need to, both for child care and help around the house. When I sit and reflect, I am so grateful to my husband for stepping up to support us both. But in the day to day hustle and bustle, I don’t always express that to him like I should. 

One day in particular stands out. I was in the middle of trying to get the baby dressed and ready to dash out the door to do some of my classwork. Matt was going to watch our son, since he had a free afternoon.

As I sprinted between the bathroom, bedroom, and kitchen with my hair in a towel and my toothbrush in my mouth, I noticed a distinct hostility from Matt. I might have simply ignored him, given him the baby, given him the drive by smooch and run out the door. But that particular day, I decided to ask him about it.

“What could possibly be the matter? What’s the problem?” I demanded.

“Kelly, you’re just running around the house focusing on yourself” Matt explained.

I exploded. “Of course I am! I have a million things to do, I’ve gotten five hours of sleep, and if I don’t get out of the house to get a moment’s peace and quiet, I am just gonna lose it! You have no idea what it’s like to have to schedule quiet time to yourself. You can just go to your office and close the door. And I’m the bad guy here because I’m rushing out the door! I mean—really! What could you possibly want from me?”

He replied, “I just want you to say thank you. And to show that you appreciate it.”

Even I, the queen of quick comebacks, had no response for that. He was dead right, and I was dead wrong.

Part of my emerging relationship philosophy is that men’s needs are, indeed, simple. But men are no different from women in their need for affirmation—that is, to be verbally reminded of how and why you love and appreciate them. It’s something I’ve too often forgotten in my own relationship. But when I consciously remember to affirm my husband for his positive qualities and positive actions, it pays dividends immediately.

I wish I could say that I learned my lesson for good that day, and that I have never failed to affirm and compliment my husband when he needed it, or when I felt the urge to give him the props he deserves. But it is still a work in progress.

But I recently discovered a way to make sure my husband receives the affirmation he needs and deserves. It may sound cold to some, but I have gotten in the habit of sending him affirmation in emails and letters—this way I can think through what I mean to say to best share with him how much he means to me.

I first did this when Matt was away on a ten day business trip. It was the longest we had ever been apart—and a very long time to be left alone with our son. I was plenty busy during the day, but when it was time to go to sleep at night, I felt my heart aching with a sense of loss I don’t know if I had ever felt before.

But Matt had no way of knowing that through the Google hangout online chats we set up. I was pleasant, but very short with my words. One night, I was sad and crying because I missed him so much.

I realized in a moment of clarity that he deserved to know how very much he was missed. So I got out of bed that minute and went downstairs to type a letter. I emailed him the letter the day he left to come home, so he wouldn’t worry or feel bad during his trip. When he got home, he told me how much he appreciated it. I could tell that I had truly affirmed him and how important he is to me and our family.

I’m hoping that as time goes on, my husband and I can continue to find ways to share how much we mean to each other—even when life gets crazy. Especially when life gets crazy. Because that’s when it’s needed the most.

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