Steven Lake reminds of us of the ways we can appreciate our partner, even when the world conspires to make us lose sight of what we have.
1) Ask if she feels appreciated.
This is number one on the list for a reason. Research on divorce indicates that when men are asked about marital satisfaction they rate the quality of their relationship much higher than their spouses. This may be the reason many men are surprised when their spouses walk out or ask for a divorce. There is a disconnect between men and woman and marital satisfaction. Why? It may be due to different needs and expectations as to what the relationship is supposed to offer and provide.
The best way to be proactive in this department is to ask, rather than assume, all is well. If she says she is feeling appreciated – great. Keep doing what works. On the other hand, if she says no – red flag. This is your opportunity to ask what is missing and see what you can do to change the situation.
2) Ask how she is doing.
This sounds like such an obvious one. Don’t we all ask how the other person is doing when we meet after work? The problem is not that we don’t ask, but that we don’t listen. Why? Because we are tired. It is always the same answer. We are focused on our problems. When you arrive home you may just want a drink and have no patience to listen to how her day went.
Here’s a little trick to prepare yourself for this encounter. Don’t come straight home from work. Take a few minutes to go for a short walk, listen to music in the driveway, meditate, whatever. Just take some time for yourself to shed the stress of the day before you walk into the house. This will put you into a better frame of mind and make listening much easier. It may also change how you reflect on the day as well.
I don’t mean listen while watching TV or using your computer. I mean that you stop everything and turn your focus towards your partner. Look her in the eyes and let her know that you are listening. This is a powerful action to take and can dramatically affect, not only the immediate situation, but your entire relationship.
So many couples complain to me about how their partner does not listen to them. Everyone wants to be heard, truly listened to, and understood. That is one way we feel connected. It is also an act of intimacy. If you have heard your partner say that she wants more intimacy (and you know it is not sex he/she is talking about), take the time to listen. When you do this she will feel valued, appreciated and respected. Which leads me to the next item . . .
Gottman, in his research, talks about the importance of respect in a relationship. It is so important that he can predict with a high degree of accuracy if a relationship will succeed or not based on the level of respect between the partners. Low respect by one partner towards another is a high predictor of relationship failure.
Respect, or lack thereof, can creep into a relationship over time. We take the person for granted, we are in a foul mood and take it out on our partner, or we are having issues in the relationship, and we are nasty fighters.
If we are not careful, we may initiate a pattern of disrespect for the person we say we love the most. If you find yourself in this situation an immediate response is required. It may be a long talk with your partner to discuss your behavior and desire to change. It may be a trip to the marriage counselor or religious leader. Whatever you decide, prompt action will be required because a loss of respect doesn’t get better on its own.
5) Finding out your partner’s love language.
This one is a gem. All too often, we show our love to our spouse in the same way we were taught to show love, not realizing that our partner may be blind and deaf to the way we communicate love. Gary Chapman identifies five ways, or love languages, we use to demonstrate love. They are words of affirmation, acts of service, gifting, quality time and physical touch.
There is nothing worse than showing your love to your partner and it not landing. In the past, I took this as a personal affront and wondered what was happening. When I discovered that my wife was touched by acts of service, I then understood why my words of affirmation went over like a lead balloon. Likewise, when we discussed these concepts, I realized that her acts of service were how she demonstrated love to me, and I finally got it. Wow! She must love me a lot because she is always doing stuff for me.
Taking the time to figure out your partner’s love language has two benefits because in the process you also find out what is your preferred way of giving and receiving love. You will now be able to give your partner love in a way that makes sense to her and request the type of love you appreciate the most. I cannot overemphasize the positive difference this discovery has made in our relationship.
6) Doing things together.
I know, sounds rather obvious. I mean, isn’t that why you got together in the first place – because you liked to spend time together? Yet, over time, it is easy to move in different directions, or find new activities that our spouse is not into, or spend so much time with the kids that there is no couple time. Whatever the reasons, you must guard against these tendencies, as your relationship must be fed in order to grow and flourish.
Of course, you will have your own separate activities, but it is important that you have ones you share as well. My partner and I love going out for meals, dancing and watching action/sci-fi movies (I know, I’m a lucky guy). And you are never too old to add to the list of what you can do together. I am an avid skier and tennis player. Four years ago, in order to spend more time together, she learned to ski and play tennis. She was fifty-seven at the time. Now, we go on ski holidays and experience each other in a novel way.
As Esther Pearl of Mating in Captivity suggests, novelty is essential for eroticism, and I agree. Speaking of which . . .
7) Make love.
I mean this in the broadest sense of the word. Whatever intimate activity touches and connects the two of you in a loving and heartfelt way, is making love. It may include sex or walking hand in hand on a deserted beach at night. Whatever the both of you define as love-making, it is critical to include in your practice of showing that you appreciate your partner. Again, I cannot overemphasize the value of this behavior. Taking time for love-making demonstrates the importance you place on being connected. And if you engage in the other six ways of showing appreciation, the likelihood of love-making increases exponentially.
There you have it. Seven ways of showing your partner appreciation. Which one are you going to use today?