My friend Ken’s father had a serious emotional infection. Let’s call it Paralyzed Appreciation Disorder, or PAD. He simply could not express thankfulness or appreciation. His wife suffered most from her husband’s disorder. No matter what she did, big or small, her husband would never thank her.
She tried forcing him to express appreciation by doing some distasteful task, like cleaning the mud off his shoes. Still he said nothing. The dear woman didn’t want much. She just wanted to know the man she married needed her and appreciated her. Surely every good wife needs and deserves that.
Over the years Ken’s mom became mentally ill, with unpredictable behavior. Some would say her husband’s lack of appreciation contributed to her illness. It’s possible. We’re all healthier if we know we are appreciated.
Late in his life, Ken’s dad developed a painful condition that put him in hospital. Ken visited his dad one day and found his mother there. She had a big jar of greasy ointment (like Vaseline), which she intended to smear on her husband’s back. Ken wanted to stop her. Greasing her husband like a pig for roasting! Crazy, right?
Just at the moment when he would have stepped between his crazy mother and his ailing father, a small inner voice stopped him. He stood there, motionless, watching as she scooped out a large glob of ointment and spread it on her husband’s back. As she rubbed, she kept asking, in her dreamy, feeble-minded voice, “Is it all right, Darling? Is it all right?”
For the first time in his life, the first time in more than thirty years, Ken heard his father appreciate his mother: “Yes, Darling, it’s all right. Thank you.”
Thankfulness came late in life for that man. Ken’s father died the next day. But that is not the end of the story. From the moment her husband thanked her, Ken’s mother changed and her mind began healing. What a pity her husband hadn’t thanked her years before, and often.
I wonder how many of us have partners who are withering inside, like a plant without water, because we don’t thank and appreciate them.
People in Asia, where my wife and I have spent many years, are great at appreciation. Dinners, expensive gifts to valued customers, lavish gift baskets at Chinese New Year and Christmas– all display the value they place on clients and customers.
We receive a lot of appreciation here, too, and deeply appreciate each one who has encouraged us with their kind words. Each time it refreshed and strengthened. Yet we know that some of those who expressed such sincere appreciation to us rarely thank or appreciate their marriage partners.
What Would You Miss?
In one of our marriage seminars I asked our friends, Art and Eugenia, to stage a big argument. They did it superbly. They stood apart, arms folded, glaring at each other in anger. They played the part so well that I didn’t know what to do with them.
Then I got an idea. Pretending my white board marker was a gun, I shot the wife. Like the great actress she is, she collapsed convincingly. Then I said to her husband, “Art, I just killed your wife. What do you miss?” Tears came to his eyes. Not stage tears. Real tears. He told us that he missed the woman who was such a great mom to his kids. But what he missed most was his best friend.
When he said that, a miracle happened! Eugenia was resurrected from the dead! Running to her husband, she cried, “Honey, why didn’t you say so before?”
Another man at the seminar, Fred, was married to his first wife, Mary, for many years. They had a good life. Then cancer attacked Mary, eventually killing her. For many months Fred grieved for his wife, often breaking into tears at unexpected moments as a memory pierced his heart.
That happened one day when he was ironing some handkerchiefs. “I wonder,” he said to himself, “how many handkerchiefs she ironed for me?” Calculating the number of handkerchiefs he used in a week, and the number of years they were married, Fred estimated that she had ironed several thousand. “Did I ever thank her?” he thought.
Not long after that, Fred was looking through a box of his wife’s keepsakes. He found a note he had written many years earlier. He couldn’t remember exactly when. It simply said, “Thank you . . . for ironing all my handkerchiefs.”
If Fred could talk to you personally, he would encourage you to appreciate your spouse every day. The day may come when you will not have the opportunity.
Appreciation imparts new life and purpose. And, we let our spouses know that they are meeting needs in our lives that no one else can touch. Who else knows you so well, yet loves you so much?
Medical science will probably find, if they haven’t found it already, that appreciated people live longer, healthier lives. It wouldn’t surprise me.
Why not start making life healthier for your spouse today? Make appreciation and thankfulness a daily practice, a habit that never dies. You’ll be thankful you did.
Think, Act, Pray
1. Begin a thankful list for your spouse. Be sure to include some specifics, not just generalities.
2. Find at least one opportunity to thank your spouse today. Do it again tomorrow, and the next day, and the next day, until appreciation becomes a habit in your marriage.