05/08/2014 11:00 am ET Updated Jul 08, 2014

I'm Done Being a Parasite!

ap·pre·ci·a·tion (from
1. The recognition and enjoyment of the good qualities of someone or something.
Synonyms: valuing, treasuring, admiration, respect, regard, esteem
2. Gratitude for something.
Synonyms: gratitude, thanks, gratefulness, thankfulness, recognition,

Appreciation. This word keeps smacking me in the face. It has come up several times over the last few months as I'm speaking with women. These women aren't telling me how wonderful their husbands are and how much they feel appreciated in their marriages. They aren't telling me that they feel treasured and valued. They aren't telling me that they feel recognized for all the day-to-day things they do for their husbands and their children. Instead, they are feeling incredibly frustrated, and many are near melt-down point, because they aren't feeling appreciated.

This should be an easy one to fix, right? These marriages aren't falling apart (yet!) because one person is having an affair, or because one person has an addiction which is tearing the family apart. These marriages are failing because one person feels as if she is being taken for granted. The women I spoke with are losing faith in their marriages and beginning to consider an exit strategy. The common sentiment is that they would rather be single, and have no expectations of wanting to be appreciated by someone else, than to have those expectations, and to have those expectations constantly missed.

A friend once said to me, "If he doesn't appreciate my presence, then I will make him appreciate my absence." Drastic? Perhaps. But true. She was so frustrated with feeling unappreciated. She told me that was tired of living, as she phrased it, as a parasite. Time-warp! I immediately regressed to my high school biology class. I get it! Parasites are when two organisms enter into a relationship that benefits one at the expense of another.

My friend felt like her husband was taking from her, and that she wasn't getting anything out of the marriage. She worked full-time, and brought in an equal share of their income. In spite of both working full-time, she was the one who managed most of the responsibilities for their three kids They were able to afford a house-keeper, so they didn't squabble over "chores," but she did pay all the bills and manage the "house." When she and I spoke, she had reached her saturation point. She was done - "I don't mind doing all of this, I just wish I felt appreciated." To her credit, she tried articulating this need to her husband. To his credit, he tried to understand, but old habits are hard to break. He told her that he did appreciate her. She heard him, but she just didn't feel it. She filed for divorce a year later.

Her husband didn't want the divorce, but he never quite fully grasped the impact of her feeling unappreciated. She's a single mom now and living a hectic schedule. She recently said, "I never realized the weight I was carrying around every day. I thought I was happy then, but I am so much happier now. I'm not waiting, hoping, and getting frustrated by not feeling appreciated. There are no longer any mixed expectations."

Her husband confided in me that he thinks he messed up, saying, "Perhaps I didn't give her enough credit for all she did for us." It reminded me of the Bruno Mars' hit song, "When I was your Man"...

"I hope he buys you flowers
I hope he holds your hand
Give you all his hours
When he has the chance
Take you to every party
'Cause I remember how much you loved to dance
Do all the things I should have done
When I was your man"

Regret is such a sad thing, especially when we regret something that could have been avoided. Appreciation is incredibly easy. It's a simple "thank you." It's a kind word. It's a little foot massage after a long day. It's a cup of coffee brought to you while you are getting ready in the morning before a big day. It's a little love note left by your toothbrush just to say "I love you."

Maybe articulating it this way is a gender thing. For every five women who I hear articulate a need to feel appreciated, I perhaps hear one man articulate a similar need. I don't believe for an instant that men don't want to feel appreciated. I believe it simply means that they don't articulate it in the same way. In fact, I think men articulate it on the opposite side of the coin. They get frustrated when women nag. Nagging makes them feel unappreciated, but that's the subject for another post!

Appreciation. Such a simple thing to do. We can start with saying "please" and "thank you" and take it from there! Margaret Cousins said, "Appreciation can make a day, even change a life. Your willingness to put it into words is all that is necessary."

What about you? What are you doing to show your appreciation to others?