Saying "thank you" will improve your marriage

I don’t imagine these things work as well in the short term; I’ve also been pretty sceptical about the idea that smiling makes you happier. However, changing your perspective when there really is something you’re failing to notice can be important. Doing stuff for others without receiving any gratitude in return can create a negative feedback loop where you do less for them and they resent the loss of things they took for granted, while gratefulness both shows your partner that you notice the things they do and makes you more likely to actually do things for them in return.

I would actually be less convinced that happier people would necessarily show more gratitude - some people are too self-absorbed to notice that they should be happier (i.e. more content, not merely smiling all the time), or that they should acknowledge an important source of the happiness they have. Giving people like that more things to be grateful for would change nothing.

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But are those people typically happier than other people? When I think of it, I think experiencing gratitude is probably happiness in itself. Not saying the words “thank you” but feeling something good that extends outside of yourself into another person. Having small children, I definitely spend time prompting “please” and “thank you”, but I’d rather have a request in a kind tone without a “please” than in a whiny tone with one. Gratitude is appreciation and appreciation is happiness at. If you don’t appreciate them, then “thank you” isn’t going to help. If you do appreciate them and aren’t showing it, then “thank you” is probably a good place to start.

Only if you thought that you could, through your actions, improve anything about your own life or the world, and look for feedback that would show you that they are having such an effect. What nonsense! Perhaps you should subscribe to my newsletter, Nihilistic Morality.


I think that’s pretty accurate - a lot of us have plenty to be happy about, and part of gratitude is realising that the other person didn’t have to do something for you and recognising the value that that person has to you. I think if anything can change consciously, it has to come from building awareness and gratitude for existing benefits. I guess verbalising gratitude or otherwise showing it is the other side of the coin - gratitude that is left unexpressed seems like a strange sort of gratitude.

Our kids are still quite young, but one of the things we’re working on is trying to be a bit more transparent about how we deal with our own issues. We get them to help with a lot of things and we do chores together with them, to show that we’re not offering to do everything for them and they need to contribute, but that we aren’t just giving them jobs that we don’t want to do (and therefore undervaluing them and their contribution). Thanking them and apologising to them or doing the same with each other in their presence is showing vulnerability and the idea is that they will pick up on that. As a SAHM, my mum always prided herself on being able to provide for everyone. She is very capable, but we weren’t asked to help all that much outside of our set chores, and probably failed to show enough gratitude for the work she did.

I agree with your main point here though - it isn’t about smiling or saying thank you per se and there isn’t some process where you outwardly express something that you don’t feel internally and the appropriate feeling magically comes.

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