It's funny how two little words have become the most repeated in my daily vocabulary.
Sure, those words often appear in some modified form, such as "Thank you, sweetheart!" "Wow, thank you SO much!" "Thank you, I really appreciate it." and "You're amazing, thank you!"
It's so easy to say them. Yet, we often have difficulty - dating back to our preschool days - in expressing gratitude for those who help us, give us something, or simply do something nice that we benefit from. I wonder why it is so hard for people's egos to simply let go and acknowledge that there are other people out there who genuinely think about you and want to make things better for you, even in the smallest fashion.
Of course, all of this is kal v'chomer X a bazillion when it comes to being married. There are so many things that can be taken for granted - ever so easily! The nightly dinner, the clean bathroom, the new and empty trash bag, the folded undershirts, the washed and dried cutlery and plates, among a thousand (and more) other things. And that's aside from all the "big" things a spouse can do, such as being emotionally supportive, helping with a major project, or doing favors that he/she does not find pleasant or worthwhile, but you happen to want/need.
Nowhere does halacha obligate a spouse to be the custodial staff/maid of the household. Yet, this other person is willingly making time to ensure that everything you come into contact with is in working order, clean, tastes good, or is otherwise pleasing according to your personal sensibility. Isn't it amazing? It certainly is, but don't you dare take it for granted. Treat him/her like a person, acknowledge that you have noticed all the wonderful things he/she has done for you, and do it with a smile.
Truthfully, merely saying "thank you" isn't enough to cover the debt of gratitude a spouse owes for all the little (and big things) his/her husband/wife does for him/her. More should certainly should be done to express gratitude, but making sure to say "thank you" at every single available opportunity - whether in person, in a cute little note, or on your little magnetized dry-erase board stuck to the fridge (a favorite with ASoG and I) - is an absolute must. Nothing should ever go un-thanked and nothing your spouse ever does should be taken for granted. Buying presents, extending yourself to help/please your spouse, and other things - which should be done with an attitude of wanting to give to your spouse rather than "Oh, I owe him/her one" - are also very appropriate.
Though I have been writing this as gender-neutral as I can, I am quite certain the un-thanked wife/unappreciative husband model is by far the more common one. So guys, be more mindful - and thankful!
And for all the single readers: it definitely pays to develop a sense of always saying thank you now, while you are still unmarried. No reason to wait until your spouse feels aggrieved because you fail to acknowledge the myriad wonderful things he/she does for you every day. We are supposed to have hakaras hatov as an ingrained part of our psyche, whether to HaShem, our parents, or anyone who does something for us. Learn the lesson now, and it will make your marriage that much richer and enjoyable.
So, in conclusion: Thank you ASoG for everything!