Do You Have an Ungrateful Partner? ? This advice may surprise you

 In Negative emotions, Relationships

This week, I’m grateful for the opportunity to share an excerpt from a fabulous “advice” article by Christine Carter, an author, sociologist and Senior Fellow at UC Berkeley’s Greater Good Science Center. She is the author of The Sweet Spot: How to Accomplish More by Doing Less and Raising Happiness: 10 Simple Steps for More Joyful Kids and Happier Parents.

This person’s husband recently started a ketogenic diet (a very strict, specialized diet) so they decided to do it along with him. They researched, shopped for, and cooked very low-carb foods so that he could achieve his goals. This person was writing to Christine because her efforts have been met with complaints about the “stupid diet” rather than gratitude.

Here’s an excerpt from Christine’s response about the ungrateful partner.

I understand why you are hoping for a little more attunement to all the work you do to “run the show” in your household, why you expect a little appreciation. But feeling entitled to gratitude is tricky because entitlement is the opposite of gratitude—and rarely do we attract the opposite of what we feel. Just as your husband isn’t fostering your affection by complaining about the food you’ve worked to prepare for him, your entitlement (and the resulting resentment) won’t likely generate his appreciation.

Since you can’t change your husband—as you note, trying to change a grown man is a fool’s errand, not because they don’t change but because we can’t force change in other people—you’ll have to change yourself.

If he needs help with the shopping and cooking, let him ask you for specific favors. Decide on an individual basis which tasks you want to help him with. Don’t do any that will make you feel put out or burdened. You are not trapped in a role you didn’t choose. You are not a victim to his dieting whims, or his bad moods, or his health problems. As such, he doesn’t owe you gratitude.

Sometimes, when we overhelp people, we unconsciously send them the message that we believe that they can’t do it without us. This can make them feel criticized, or like they need fixing, and that can hurt. People don’t tend to appreciate it when their spouses (or friends or parents or children) don’t accept them as they are.

Fortunately, you can still aid Keto Dad in his quest for health and happiness by supporting the three basic psychological needs related to self-motivation: autonomy, competence, and relatedness.

  • Support his autonomy by letting him retain control over his diet.
  • You can encourage his competence by helping him build the skills he needs—if he wants your help.
  • Finally, you can foster relatedness by getting your kids and other family members involved. How can you make it fun to do together?

How might this advice help you in a relationship where you feel unappreciated?

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