I recently read an article by Gretchen Rubin that listed several mistakes that we all make in our marriages. The mistakes that she lists I think are worth all of us taking a look at and evaluating if we are making the same mistakes in our marriage. Gretchen Rubin is the New York Times bestselling author of The Happiness Project and Happier at Home. In her books she writes about her pursuit of happiness in every facet of her life and how she lived out her theories on happiness throughout a year.

As part of her Happiness Project, Gretchen studied her marriage and realized that she had five areas in her marriage she wanted to change. I decided to break each of the mistakes she listed into a separate short post. Gretchen made marriage one of the primary themes of her happiness project and points out that “marriage is one of the most central elements in my life, my home, and my happiness.”

Demanding Gold Stars

We were all brought up to shoot for the highest grade and do our best. That worked out great in school because we were awarded good grades with gold stars for all of that work. In marriage, however, our spouses aren’t always the best at giving out praise when we do the ordinary tasks of maintaining a family and a home. It is easy to feel like our spouse does not appreciate what we do and this often leads to feelings of anger and resentment.

Most of the time there is no intent by the other spouse to not appreciate the job the other spouse is doing. Men in general are programmed pretty hard to take a problem and go about fixing it. This works great for getting the toilet working and men in general just consider this part of the territory of being the man of the house. I would appreciate being praised for getting the toilet fixed, but it wouldn’t necessarily be a requirement because I know my job is to fix problems that arise around the house.

Let’s flip that situation around though. What if my wife normally took care of the laundry around the house and I decided to help her by running a load of laundry? Would I expect to be praised for doing a task that she normally works on? It obviously would be easier to want to get some appreciation for completing the chore. Should I be disappointed that she didn’t commend me for the accomplishment?

Do Things for Myself

Gretchen points out that she tries to “think more about doing things for myself” now. Her feeling is that once she decided that she was doing things at home because she wanted to do them, she didn’t have the expectation for him to “respond in any particular way.” I think it is important to point out that this should be done in a way that is not selfish. When my wife is working on the laundry she doesn’t just wash her clothes, dry them, and hang them up. She does the family’s laundry because she wants to get it done and it is a need for the home to function properly. She loves her family and is willing to sacrifice some of her time for the home to be in order. I also might point out here that everyone likes to get a pat on the back and feel they are an important part of the family. The next time you see your spouse doing something around the house let her know that you appreciate it. It does not matter how big that role may be.

Do Things to Honor God

Even better than wanting appreciation or making the case of “doing things for myself”, one must realize that they can find peace in their marriage and family by taking care of the needs of the family to honor God. I know if I was to try to keep score with my wife about what I do to help with our family and home I would lose the contest miserably. The odd thing, though, is it is likely that my wife would say that she would come up short in her evaluation. Do we sometimes still want to be appreciated for the little things we do? Absolutely. If we can put our focus on God and not on our own desires, we can find comfort by following His design for our marriage and family.

This week make it a point to show appreciation for those little things your spouse does to help around the home. Also, work on helping your family and home without the expectation for a reward. You might not get a gold star this week, but you might just earn a God star.