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How to get your husband (or boyfriend, partner, fiancé ...) to write thank you notes

"There is only one way... to get anybody to do anything. And that is by making the other person want to do it."
Dale Carnegie (1888-1955), writer, lecturer and self-improvement guru

It's one of those knotty relationship issues: guys who refuse to write thank you notes. Or perhaps worse, guys who assure their wives and girlfriends that they'll 'get around to it tomorrow...', but of course tomorrow never comes.
Generally speaking, men and thank you notes just don't get along. And it's not just today's men who are at fault. Did you ever see your father write a thank you note? But to be fair, few men expect to receive thank you notes either. It's a gracious formality that many men just don't find important.

It's unsurprising then that in the majority of relationships the task of acknowledging gifts and sending thank you notes, cards and letters falls squarely to the woman. Of course, many women are happy to assume these 'social secretary' duties. But even so, it can cause tensions, particularly when it repeatedly falls to her to write thank you notes for gifts or favors he received from his family or friends. In these days of (relative) equality, is it too much to ask your man to do his bit?

So, what can you do about it?

"If it can't be fixed by duct tape or WD-40, it's a female problem."
Jason Love, stand-up comedian

First of all, try to understand why your guy hasn't written the note(s). Could it be simply because thank you notes are just not something that is expected or appreciated in his family / social circle?

Bear in mind that different families often have very different customs, cultural traditions and ideas of correct etiquette. For example, some may consider a personal, verbal thank you to be quite sufficient, even for an elaborate gift. In that case, so long as your man has acknowledged the gift of favor and expressed his thanks (be it verbally, by phone or e-mail) then it's probably best to leave him be. Don't try to force him to adhere to your standards if he is satisfied that he has already handled the issue himself in his own way. If you continue to feel uncomfortable and worry that the lack of a formal thank you note reflects badly on the two of you as a couple, then by all means write one yourself!

On the other hand, you may know for a fact that his family and friends set great store by sending and receiving thank you notes, and that his great aunt (for example) will be most upset not to receive a note in response to the birthday gift she sent. Therefore, by neglecting to write a thank you note, he is either genuinely too busy (for example he has a lot on at work right now), or he is thoughtless and just plain lazy. Either way you have two choices: continue to encourage him to write the notes, or come to terms with the fact that he's not the thank you note writing type, and let it go (or write them yourself!).

Tips for encouraging him...

"Men marry women with the hope they will never change. Women marry men with the hope they will change. Invariably they are both disappointed."
Albert Einstein (1879-1955), German theoretical physicist

First of all, make sure that what you term 'encouragement' isn't what he considers to be 'nagging'. There's nothing worse than being nagged at, and important though thank you notes are, they're not worth a row! It's never easy to get someone to behave in the way in which we think they ought to behave, but here are a few suggestions:

  • Make a date with him to write thank you notes (take some of your own to write too). Perhaps in a favorite café or coffee shop? Or snuggle up at home with a bottle of wine and some music you both enjoy.

  • Try to convince him that writing thank you notes is what a cool guy does: buy him a book on male etiquette or send him to The Art of Manliness. And maybe a classy new pen would do the trick?

  • Refuse to go with him to the ball game (or whatever...) until he's written the note(s). This is a high-risk strategy, of course, as it could easily develop into a row, so tread carefully.

If all else fails...

"If you want something done, ask a woman."
Margaret Thatcher (b. 1925), British Prime Minister (from 1979 to 1990)

If he still resists, be realistic: unfair though it might seem, perhaps it does fall entirely to you to be the 'social secretary' in your relationship. Yes, it can be tedious, but the likelihood is that he shoulders tedious tasks too. For example, is he in charge of car maintenance? Lawn care? Keeping your computer working smoothly?

If any of these, or similar things, fall totally into his domain, then consider viewing thank you notes as your lot in your relationship's division of labor. You're anyway likely to be better at writing them than he ever would be. So do them and stop resenting it. Alternatively, simply refuse to do them... and stop caring.

Whatever you do, don't let a few thank you notes ruin your relationship!

See also: