This is probably one of the simplest and most easily overlooked ways of loving anyone better: be NICE! Be polite; say “please”, “thank you”, and most importantly “I am sorry”.
Brett has made choices to serve me in two specific ways – by washing the dishes at night and by bringing me coffee in the morning. Everytime he does either of those I now make a point of showing him thanks (hugging him, squeezing his hand as I walk past him in the kitchen) AND saying my thanks. In doing so I not only show him that I appreciate him and am grateful for his service, but I also stop myself from taking it for granted. As soon as I start taking Brett’s choice of serving for granted it no longer becomes a gift to me but a duty which I expect him to perform! Never knowingly turn your spouse’s/partner’s gift of service into an act of duty! It undermines the choice to love, and sets the stage for resentment (i.e. when the “Duty” is not performed).
I generally wash the clothes. Everytime I do – even though in some ways this could be seen as my role/responsibility (as much as washing the dishes could be seen as Brett’s role/responsibility) – Brett thanks me. And if I’ve been tempted to wallow in self-pity because I am again washing the clothes, or if I have been getting upset because I would rather be sitting inside on the couch, Brett’s verbal “thanks” reminds me that I am valued and that my role/responsibility is not taken for granted. Several times I have come home from a long day out or work, and the clothes are already washed and on the line. I always thank Brett, even though I could so easily see it as my “right” that he did that because I was busy.
Here’s another example: I use the word “could” in a polite way. So often instead of saying “Please bring my book when you come down”, I say, “Could you bring my book when you come down”. The “Please” is implicit when I use “could” in this way. But Brett didn’t used to hear the silent please. So I told him. And now he gets it. BUT, I have also decided to try and remember to use Please in place of Could because even though he knows it’s there, when he hears me ask he has to work twice as hard to hear the politeness, the gratitude, the appreciation. And I don’t want it to ever be any struggle for him to feel appreciated and not taken for granted.
So say the polite words; and mean them. Don’t treat your partner’s service as duty.