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Make “thank you” your default

A happy couple in the wild. Let’s watch as they interact. (Part 8 of 8 of the relationship series.)


We were in the kitchen, leaning over the countertop and putting together plates of food when our friend Craig walked in from the BBQ outside to grab a beer.

I sprinkled some salt over the burger patties I’d just made. “Hey, thanks for going to the grocery store and grabbing everything,” I said to Chelle.

“Well, thank YOU for making the burgers and setting up the grill.”

Craig opened his beer and looked at us, his head cocked to the side. “I feel like I’m watching a Discovery channel episode right now,” he said.

Chelle and I looked up, confused.

Craig put his hands in front of him, like a magician. In a mock narrator voice he said, “Here we come across a happy couple…in the wild.”

Then he whispered, “Let’s watch as they interact.”

He smiled, took a swig of beer, and walked back outside.

Up until then, I never noticed how often Chelle and I thanked each other.

But after Craig’s comment, I started to notice the instances throughout the day. There were a lot.

  • Thank you for unloading the dishwasher.
  • Thanks for making me coffee.
  • Thanks for bringing me a snack.
  • Thanks for being willing to try this.
  • Thank you for handling this so well.
  • Thanks for working with me on this.
  • Thanks for a good day.
  • Thanks for making dinner.
  • Thanks for helping me make dinner.

Stacked on top of one another like that, all those thank-yous are kinda nauseating. But in practice, it doesn’t feel that way.

“Thank you” has become our default.

We probably say it dozens of times per day, though I’ve never counted.

But we don’t say “thank you” the way we used to toss out “I love you”—all airy and reactive without any substance or weight. No, we look each other in the eyes, hold the gaze for a beat, and say it with purpose. We say it with genuine appreciation and gratitude.

Thank you.

It feels good to say. It feels good to hear. It may even feel good to read. So lets end it here:

Thank you for reading this essay series.

I don’t know if anything Chelle and I have done works outside the context of our relationship, but maybe that’s not important.

What’s important is that whether you’re wandering off into the wilderness together, playing with stuffed animals, or just taking a quick second to show appreciation, a healthy relationship is what happens when two people are willing to trust each other, respect each other, and put in the effort.

A personality test and a joint bank account may help, but the intention behind all that is simply to understand each other, and to use that understanding to boost each other’s strengths, help with weaknesses, and to love all of each other.

And then—most importantly—to do it all over again every day.

Field notes: How we created a better relationship.

This is the final installment in a series of eight short essays about relationships. I recommend reading them in order, as they’ll make more sense that way.