The Two Words Your Husband Really Needs to Hear: Thank You

Shaunti Feldhahn
After another heated argument, Josh and Hannah came back together with calmer attitudes to sort out what was going on. Lately they had been getting irritated with each other and they wanted to figure out why. Josh had been saying that Hannah doesn’t appreciate him, and she fiercely disagrees with that. But he says she never thanks him for things he does around the house like taking out the trash or mowing the lawn. Hannah certainly appreciates everything he does, but wonders why she’s expected to thank him for doing things that are his assigned chores. Between work and household responsibilities, she feels like she’s on duty 24/7 herself. So she just doesn’t get why he thinks he should constantly be thanked for doing his share. If you experience the same kind of irritation toward your husband over the household chores, you’re not alone! I get asked about this all the time when I’m speaking at women’s conferences. But your frustration—and Hannah’s—arises because you have a misunderstanding about how men are wired and what is important to them. Let me explain. For men, being appreciated is their equivalent of being loved. It is so easy for us women to never realize the fact that for men, being appreciated is their equivalent of being loved. Saying “thank you” to a guy is like when he says “I love you” to you. You know that awful joke that some guys teasingly say: “Why should I have to tell her I love her? I told her when we got married!” Well, the reality is that maybe they shouldn’t have to say “I love you”—maybe we should just know it somehow—but don’t we want to hear it? Oh, you bet we do. In fact, if my husband felt love but never said anything about it, I would probably be unhappy very quickly. Saying “thank you” makes your husband feel cared for. Well, it works the same way for guys, but for them, their “love” is appreciation. In my surveys of the happiest couples for my book The Surprising Secrets of Highly Happy Marriages, I found that one of the things these couples do differently is that they’ve found the little day-to-day things that make the other person feel cared for. And believe it or not, what makes a guy feel the most cared for is when his wife notices something he has done and sincerely thanks him for it. (“Thank you for mowing the lawn even though it was so hot outside.” “Thank you for taking the kids this morning and letting me sleep in.”) That seems like such a little thing to us women, but nearly all men on the survey said it was important, with 72% of men saying they were deeply impacted by it. Why? Because a man’s greatest desire is to do something well—but since he doubts himself, his greatest need is for what he does to be noticed and appreciated. Look for ways to express appreciation and thanks to your man. Think about how “I love you” says many different things to us. (“You’re mine,” “I’m glad I chose you,” “You’re attractive to me,” and so on.) Well, for a guy, hearing “I love you” is nice—but it doesn’t hit him in that deep way. Instead, what says all those important things to him is “thank you,” because it reassures him in all the ways he doubts. It says “I appreciate you,” “you take care of me,” “you did a good job” and so on. So instead of getting irritated that your husband wants to be thanked for something that is “his job,” actively look for ways to appreciate and thank him. Hannah started making an effort to tell Josh how much she appreciated the things he did around the house. As she found out, saying those two little words—“thank you”—can make a big difference in our man’s attitude and confidence, and can help to create an atmosphere of peace and partnership in our home.