01 June 2021

Lack of Gratitude

Lack of Gratitude: Reflections of My Live Vernon Chalmers Photography Copyright
"Of all the crimes that human creatures are capable of committing, the most horrid and unnatural is ingratitude"  — Hume

Lack of gratitude in my most important personal relationship...

While growing up I was taught from a young age to say 'Thank You' when receiving something from someone, be grateful for good intentions and appreciate goodwill towards me. 

In school, during my military service and while attending university I did not give thank you, being grateful or showing gratitude any special thought - it was part of my daily interaction with people and reciprocated by most people in every community I was a member of. I never questioned it. It was never an issue. Not in my academic, business, social or personal life - it was a way of (appreciating) life - or so I thought.

Fast forward 2019: during November 2019 I met an attractive, intelligent and charming (albeit dramatic) woman and very quickly we became inseparable. We spent a lot of time together, visited many different places and really enjoyed each other's company. I fell in love and by April 2020 we decided that I will spend the South Africa COVID-19 Lockdown Level 5 at her place in Cape Town. 

My income was severely compromised during the COVID Lockdown rules and I realised I had to make a serious plan for not just my own survival, but to also contribute to the household. My girlfriend, being an entrepreneur herself, also had no fix income (due to COVID restrictions) and I needed to pull a rabbit out of a hat as fast as possible.

Fortunately, throughout the years, I have been a Contract for Difference (CFD) trader on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange (JSE) and when the oil price slumped in April 2020 I made a high risk decision to purchase Sasol (energy and chemical company listed on the JSE) CFD's through my online trading account. As the oil price and Sasol share price recovered I purchased more and more Sasol (and other) CFD's and very quickly reached high liquidity positions to withdraw cash and contribute handsomely to the household.

Experiencing ingratitude
We used to go shopping every couple of days in which I would purchase all the food and basically everything and anything we needed. This was now about four to five months into our relationship and I noticed, for the first time, something strange - she would never thank me for anything I do or purchase. It starting to worry me in a big way. The words 'thank you' did not exist in her vocabulary...

During the infatuation stage of the relationship it never occurred to me that she never thanked me for anything. It was only while living with her full time (in a routine environment) that this behaviour of ingratitude was now overtly manifesting itself. Over the short term this behaviour from her was repeated ever so often and I felt the need to address this delicate issue.

I confronted her with the fact that she never says thank you for anything... her only response was that the mere fact that she was eating the food that I purchased with me was her thank you to me. Almost a statement of self-entitlement and disdain from her. I was quite baffled with her response and discussed it with one of my close friends a few days later.

I find myself for the first time in my life questioning somebody's repeated lack of appreciation and ingratitude. Something wasn't quite right or perhaps I was expecting too much. My friend assured me that there was nothing wrong with my expectation of gratitude from her - and it's is quite normal to say thank you, even for the smallest token of appreciation. 

This was a profound shift in the relationship. I started thinking back to all the occasions where I felt she acted a bit strange after giving her a gift or bring flowers and / or other gestures of goodwill. I realised on top of that I did not once received a thank you - I lived off the crumbs of expectation only to receive no gratitude for anything I would do for her.

This ingratitude would repeat itself over the next few months. In May 2020 I overindulge on her birthday with gifts and goodwill - I thought (although not very optimistic at the time) that I would at least get some sort of acknowledgement... I received nothing!

After the strict lockdown rules were lifted we went away for a few weekends of which I paid for everything - I did not mind paying, as my CFDs on the JSE were thriving - and I really wanted to share my JSE trading gains. I received no thank you, no gratitude for anything during and after these weekends. On one occasion she told me of the very nice thank you note she sent the manager of a guest farm we stayed. Go figure...

Moving on
On the return of an extended weekend we spent down the Cape West Coast she told me that I should thank her for the nice weekend we had. This was the moment I realised that her self-centeredness is not going to change and together with all the other red flags in her behaviour its best that I move on. I withdrew from the relationship by spending a few weeks in my studio apartment to try and come to terms with her behaviour.

During August 2020 I started to pull away completely from the relationship. It brought an immense sense of sadness over me. I grappled for the next couple of weeks with her lack of gratitude, sense of self-entitlement and her physical and on-going verbal abuse against me. The verbal abuse was getting worse - she also verbally attacked my sister (over the phone) and I knew I had to disengage permanently from her.  During September 2020 I collected the last of my stuff from her (said a couple of nasty things to her - of which I'm not proud of). Apart from a few text messages after this I have not engaged in any further contact with her. 

My learning and acceptance
I've read and research a wide range of phycology and dysfunctional relationship resources to come to terms with the past year of my life... in many ways I was still very much in love with her when I walked away, but knew that I could not carry on living like this... for my own safety and sanity. My dreams with her were shattered and it's taking me a long time to pick up the pieces in rebuilding my life without her.

I had to come to terms with my own relationship co-dependencies and I'm learning that I will have to be more patient and vigilant in future relationships. I also need to set healthy relationship boundaries in terms of expected behaviours and emotions from (significant) others.

I have learned to accept that I cannot change somebody else's behaviour. I have to accept that some individuals are incapable of showing appreciation and gratitude. I'm mindful of showing gratitude in each and every opportunity I get to appreciate the goodwill and good intentions of others towards me.

Coming to terms with the fact that she showed no appreciation and gratitude towards me is something I have to accept, understand how it affected me and what I have learned from this unfortunate behaviour. 

Why is gratitude so difficult for narcissists? Video


I hate ingratitude more in a man

than lying, vainness, babbling, drunkenness,

Or any taint of vice whose strong corruption

Inhabits our frail blood.

— Shakespeare


"In many ways, the ideal model of a giver is God (or Nature), who bestows his many gifts upon mankind
with no thought of any return. Because God needs nothing, when he bestows a benefit he is only concerned with the advantage of the recipient. A benefit, in this respect, is good in and of itself. Gratitude also makes one a better person, a more virtuous person. It builds bonds of harmony and community in the world. Ingratitude, on the other hand, is a vice to be avoided, one that destroys the individual and society by disrupting." 
— Seneca 


"Ingratitude leads inevitably to a confining, restricting, and "shrinking" sense of self. Emotions such as anger, resentment, envy, and bitterness tend to undermine happy social relations. But the virtue of gratitude is not only a firewall of protection against such corruption of relationships; it also contributes positively to friendship and civility, because it is both benevolent (wishing the benefactor well) and just (giving the benefactor his due). In gratitude, we show our respect for others by recognizing their good intentions in helping us." 
— Robert Emmons


Hume in-text quote from the book THANKS! How the New Science of Gratitude Can Make You Happier
Robert A. Emmons, PH.D.

Shakespeare and Seneca quotes from the book The Psychology of Gratitude
Edited by Robert A. Emmons, PH.D. and Michael E. McCullough PH.D.

Robert Emmons quote from the book THANKS! How the New Science of Gratitude Can Make You Happier
Robert A. Emmons, Ph.D.

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