During a recent counseling session in my office, Rachel, 40, and Tim, 42, who are married with two children, discussed the ongoing tension in their marriage. Rachel elaborated on the reasons why she feels Tim takes her for granted and doesn’t appreciate her.
Rachel put it like this: “I know that Tim loves me but I rarely hear a thank you from him. We just decided to purchase our first home, so we’re busy but I took the initiative to start a search since our lease is running out soon. Tim simply said something like “let me know what you find, but didn’t show appreciation for the hours that I spent surfing the web for a house in a tough market.”
Appreciation can be defined as telling your partner what you like about him or her. In order to do this, you can simply ask yourself, “What do I like about my partner?” or “What are their finer qualities?” By focusing on these questions and telling your partner what you like about them, you are showing appreciation. In addition, when you go through tough times with your partner you can draw on this reserve of appreciation and it will help you be less defensive and blameful toward them.
In a recent article for the website Lifehacker, writer Sam Blum takes on an issue all-too-familiar for couples with a light-hearted approach. The piece, entitled “Remember To Thank Your Partner, You Ungrateful Bastard,” advises couples about the benefits of showing appreciation for their partner in novel ways.
Indeed, a focus on the simple kindnesses in your relationship is as easy as being mindful enough to recognize — and appreciate — what your partner does and what it means to you. It’s a fact of life, particularly for those in committed relationships to take one another for granted. And while some might perceive that a lack of gratitude sets in because things have grown stale, there are simple and straightforward things we can do to show appreciation. And if you practice doing this, one day at a time, both of you will reap the rewards.
Instead of just saying “thanks,” it’s a good idea to introduce the element of surprise through a unique gesture that can break the monotony that bogs down so many couples, according to Blum. So, don’t just say the words — take action. For instance, write a note expressing your love and gratitude for your partner, leaving it in a place they’ll find it when they least expect it like their cosmetic case or shaving kit.
Research cited in a 2018 study in the journal Psychological Science, demonstrates that the feelings engendered in your partner when they find a note, are scientifically proven to lift their spirits and have clear “mood-enhancing effects,” and can make them smile.
Whether your partner is having a bad day, you’re in the midst of relationship strife, or just because you seek to manifest your feelings in a new and different way, the gesture itself is often times as important as the message. Or, more to the point, the gesture is the message.
Without a doubt, letting your partner know that you understand them and validating their perspective are powerful ways to preserve a marriage, according to Dr. John Gottman, who studied couples in his Love Lab for over forty years. This includes showing appreciation for one another by offering sincere and positive appreciation. In Why Marriages Succeed or Fail, he writes, “With a little effort and empathy, you can replace thoughtless complaints and criticism with thoughtful remarks.”
6 Ways to Show Appreciation to Your Partner
- Communicate to your partner what you appreciate about them by acknowledging their perception of a situation. Even if you don’t agree with their viewpoint, praise them for their ability to deal with a challenge or new event in their life.
- Make a list of your partner’s physical characteristics, personality traits, and behavior that you appreciate. Be sure to tell your partner what you appreciate in a specific, precise, and detailed way. For example, you can say, “I love the way you put flowers in our dining room and make sure it’s tidied up before you go to work each day. You’re such a thoughtful person.”
- Show appreciation by doing acts of kindness for your mate. For instance, arrive home early occasionally, cook your partner a homemade meal, and set an attractive table with wine or a special beverage. If you do not like to cook, invite your partner out to their favorite restaurant and make it a surprise invitation given in loving words or a phone message such as “I’d love you to join me for a dinner at Rocco’s 7pm on Friday night.” Please RSVP. Much Love!
- Practice acknowledging and validating your partner’s feelings this week. Tune in to what they are saying when they have a problem or come home feeling upset. Validate their feelings by saying something like “That must really feel bad …” or “I’m sorry you had to deal with that.”
- Start an appreciation ritual by sharing two things you appreciate about your partner each day before you go to bed. You can start with items from your list from #2 and build on it. The main objective of this ritual is to avoid negativity and to focus on those things that you love about each other. It is time to emphasize the good and lift one another up each and every day!
- Offer thanks in abundance and in front of others. The more you show gratitude, the better you will get at it and the more you’ll be helping your partner feel loved and valued. The more you show genuine appreciation to your partner the more you improve your feelings of love and belongingness.
Sometimes it’s the small things that can make a big difference in marriage. Because so much of life in a long-term relationship can become routine, putting in extra effort to show gratitude to your partner can be central to strengthening trust and happiness with him or her.
So, the next time the predictability of life — and your relationship — leave you feeling lacking, take the initiative and express tenderness through words, facial expressions, or actions. Most of all, enjoy showing appreciation for your partner and give love and acceptance abundantly!