One of the things I love about October isn’t just the beautiful fall leaves, the crisp air or clutching a warm cup of hot cider at an outdoor fall festival – I love that all the people in our neighborhood are out working on their yards, chatting with each other, being part of a community. In our family, Jeff does most of that type of yard work, and in the last few weeks he has been outside planting, pruning and trimming; making a real investment in our property.
Watching Jeff clipping hedges the other day, I was struck by two things. First, it struck me that I need to be so, so careful to not just internally appreciate what Jeff is doing but to actively say, “thank you.” Over the past few years in my research, I have come to realize that what “I love you” says to a woman, “thank you “says to a man. We hear “I love you” and it communicates ten different things to us about his affection for us, our being worthy of his love and our being special. But while men told me that hearing “I love you” is certainly nice, it doesn’t really say ten different meaningful things to them.
Instead, what powerfully touches a man’s heart is “thank you.” “Thank you for clipping the hedges even though you weren’t feeling well today” and “thank you for being willing to pick up the kids when I got stuck in a meeting” and “thank you for working so hard to support the family.” It’s stuff that we think often and say rarely. And since a man’s primary need is appreciation and respect, we need to get in the habit of saying it!
The other thing that struck me is that Jeff and all the others working in their yards are not doing it in order to have a pretty yard this winter but so that their yards will be beautiful in the spring. It occurred to me that we need to view our relationship as this kind of investment as well. So often women approach me at my events and tell me that they’ve tried to be appreciative, tried to show respect…. but they just didn’t see any results. But when I sympathetically ask, “how long have you been trying?” sometimes I hear something like, “ a whole week!” And on the other side of the gender aisle, I often hear similar things from men who are newly committed to doing things to show their love, but are frustrated that they haven’t yet seen it have an impact.
Although we often do see immediate results from changing how we approach each other, very often when we start being purposeful about giving the other person what they need, we are making a long term investment in the relationship. An investment which may not always deliver results right away – but which will flower in time.