I love each and every gift my partner has given me. I just have a hard time showing it.
“You don’t like it”, he sighed after giving me a silver bracelet for Christmas. No, I admonished, I loved it. Hadn’t I said so when I opened the box? Had my eyes not lit up enough?
But then a pattern emerged. My dog jumped up on some cabinets, sending a hand painted plate my housemate bought me from Sicily crashing to the floor. I texted him apologetically and received a curt response saying it was fine, I had never liked it that much anyway.
I’m amongst those who need to work a little on how to express gratitude. Verbalizing gratitude isn’t my forte. However, leaving people who you care about feeling like you don’t appreciate their thoughtfulness can be incredibly damaging.
So, like you dear reader, I’m getting stuck headfirst into incorporating more of the following ways in which you can express gratitude to people you care about.
Let’s get started:
1) Learn their love language
Maybe, unlike me, you’re already great at verbalizing gratitude, but your partner or friend cringes and withdraws whenever you start gushing about how great they are and how you’re so thankful for everything they do.
The concept of giving and receiving in different love languages started circulating in the 90s after Gary Chapman published the infamous The 5 Love Languages.
Maybe you’re really good at verbalizing gratitude, but your partner prefers receiving gratitude through acts of service. Chapman’s book outlines 5 ways in which we give and receive love; words of affirmation, quality time, physical touch, receiving gifts, and physical touch.
Obviously it would be best if you and your partner spoke the same language when it comes to expressing gratitude.
You might think you’re doing a great job of showing your thanks by smothering them in kisses when you want them to feel appreciated. However, they really want you to step up and show that you care by performing thoughtful acts of service in return, like remembering to pick up their dry cleaning or surprising them with a cinnamon bun on the way home.
Understanding how your partner (or friend, or family member) best receives gratitude is a great start to being able to express it in a way that resonates the most with that person.
Trying to work out your own love language or your partner’s? Try out the quiz here.
2) Be specific
“I love you.”
“You’re the best.”
“I don’t know what I’d do without you.”
All great statements to incorporate into your relationships regularly, but see the pattern? They’re not specific in communicating what exactly you’re grateful for.
Things can happen and change very quickly so by no means be put off telling those you care about that you love them frequently. However, consider incorporating more precise statements when expressing your gratitude.
Pinpointing an exact action or deed that your partner or friend performed for you and thanking them for it will show a) that you noticed, and b) that you really care.
Did they sit down and listen to you venting about your work projects, offering up a sympathetic ear and some sage advice? Or did they hoover out the car since they know you really hate getting the crumbs out of the nooks and crannies?
Identify a precise action and include this when expressing your gratitude. Trust me, it’ll go a lot further than a simple “thanks.”
This also means being mindful of not taking that person for granted. It’s easy to get complacent in relationships and begin overlooking or expecting certain things. But remind yourself that it wasn’t the car fairies who hoovered your car; it was your partner.
Be mindful of the things that they go out of their way to do for you, or the ways in which they emotionally support you and make your life better, and make sure to let them know how much you appreciate these gestures – no matter how big or small.
3) Show that you value their time
A great way to show how much you value a person is simply by showing up and being present in your time with them.
Say for example you notice that your partner has tidied away all of your laundry (you hate laundry). Or cooked you a three-course meal.
Scenario 1: “OMG, thank you so much, ILY”.
(Goes back to chewing bubble-gum and scrolling on TikTok).
Scenario 2: “You cooked my favorite food?!” / “You even ironed my pants?”
You then go on to express how delicious the food is, or how thankful you are that they go out of their way to make your life easier. You put your phone away and you focus all of your energy on that person, distractions removed.
This doesn’t just have to be in direct response to actions that your partner, friend, or loved one performed.
You can practice expressing gratitude regularly and without prompts by showing up on time, responding promptly to their messages, prioritizing them, and always being available when they need a shoulder to lean on.
4) Be consistent
Maybe you’re going through a bit of a rift in your relationship or have decided for yourself that you need to get a bit better at expressing gratitude. Whatever the reason, you’ve taken the first step.
Now, you have to remember to keep it up. Just like a dog isn’t just for Christmas, gratitude isn’t just for when you suddenly remember about it. It’s something that you should be incorporating regularly and consistently.
There’s not much point in telling your partner or loved one how much you value them, smooching them, and doing all their house chores for a week alone, only to then go back to being blasé and ignorant the week after.
Consistency is a key factor in expressing gratitude. Showing and communicating how you value someone regularly demonstrates that you see them as a priority and are consciously grateful for everything they bring to you.
Don’t overdo it either. Being too gushy can lead to a gratefulness overdose, which might come across as insincere.
5) Get creative
Poem writing time!
I’m kidding, you don’t have to write a gratitude poem.
(Unless of course, you want to…)
But shaking gratitude expression up once in a while goes a long way.
Even if you’ve sussed out your partner’s love language, don’t stop there. Continue trialling and incorporating new methods of gratitude expression. Don’t just repeat, “I’m so grateful that you X” if you’ve discovered that they thrive off of words of affirmation. You’ll be at risk of sounding a little robotic.
Instead, get creative.
They appreciate words of affirmation? Drop a little handwritten note in their bag. They value acts of service? Find an experience or a date idea that you think they’ll like, that you haven’t tried out before and treat them to it. They like receiving gifts? Time to get out the glue-sticks and scissors – we’re making something handmade.
Additionally, just because the love language quiz said that you or your partner/friend has one particular love language, that doesn’t mean you can only stick to one form of gratitude expression forever. Mix things up and continue to think up new ways to show the person you care about how much you value them.
Never let them know your next move!
It’s easy to become complacent in long-term relationships, but remember, a little gratitude goes a long way.
People aren’t obliged to stay friends or partners with us. Admittedly, family stays family, but even then, showing your gratitude and appreciation for those you care about is incredibly important for maintaining healthy and long-lasting relationships.
You put time and effort into relationships, you hopefully receive the same. That effort shouldn’t go unnoticed, and being able to express and demonstrate how much you care and value others will do wonders for lifting up their self-esteem and making both of you feel seen and cherished.