Dear Gary,

My husband is always telling me the wonderful things he’s doing to make me happy. If he makes the bed, makes calls on my behalf, works hard at work, I hear about it. The other day he had to take care of a health insurance issue and he made sure to tell me that it took over two hours and three phone calls in case I thought it went smoothly. I don’t constantly tally up what I do for him and I find it childish for him to do this. My friends told me her husband doesn’t do this so why is mine?

Either he has low self-value or you’re not appreciating him enough… or both. Telling him to stop obviously hasn’t worked. Have an honest conversation about what he’s looking to gain from these comments. If you want it to diminish, the best thing you can do is send more appreciation his way. Appreciation is crucial. My research reported that unhappily married men said the number one thing they wanted in their marriages is more appreciation.

Unhappily married men said the number one thing they wanted in their marriages is more appreciation.

Whenever I ask a couple to list the things they appreciate about each other, they always come up with a very short list. When I mention the obvious missing points like being a good parent, working hard to make money, the person always tells me, “But he/she is supposed to do that.”

Most spouses make the mistake of believing that appreciation is only given when someone has gone well beyond the call of duty. Yet every one of us wants to be noticed and loved for our hard work regardless of whether or not it is our responsibility. Appreciation can be as easy as a simply hug, thank you, loving gesture (her favorite flower, his favorite magazine). It’s more about a focus and a culture that encourages appreciation than tireless energy.

Related Article: 5 Ways to Stay in Love Forever

Whether or not he should be telling you about the “wonderful things he does” is the subject of the Talmud written approximately 2,000 years ago. It sums up that one should tell that he is the giver of the gift if the recipient will not figure it out on his own. However, if will be be clear to the recipient that you gave the gift, you should not mention it.

When a spouse is giving a gift, he or she should tell the spouse of the time, effort, and approximate cost, if it will in no way be clear. This is not tooting your own horn but rather elaborating that you love your spouse and are willing to go the extra mile to make your spouse happy and continue to create a loving relationship. If the receiving spouse will know of the gift and the energy and/or money it took, then it’s unnecessary to mention it. Under those circumstances, telling the recipient could be a way of bragging, trying to make the person feel guilty, or getting something in return. That person may have an excessive need to call attention to his actions so that he can be praised. If you feel this is the case, have a frank, loving conversation about it while listening carefully with a willingness to confront yourself and evaluate if you can be more appreciative as well.

When a gift is given from a spouse, it becomes the recipient’s job to be properly appreciative so that the gift does indeed create a warmer, more loving moment between spouses. Don’t wait for the big gifts. Appreciate the little things as well.