I regularly write about relationships for Psych Central. And one of the most important themes or tips I hear from relationship experts centers on appreciation.
Focus on what’s going well in your relationship. Focus on what your partner is doing right. Tell your partner what you love about them. Thank each other.
That’s because in the midst of the everyday — with its rigorous routines and small and significant stressors — you forget the good stuff. You especially forget the good stuff if you’ve been together for many, many years.
You might compliment your partner less, or stop thanking them altogether. Your dialogue might consist more of tasks, chores and criticisms.
As authors Harville Hendrix, Ph.D, and Helen LaKelly Hunt, Ph.D, write in their new book Making Marriage Simple: 10 Truths for Changing The Relationship You Have Into The One You Want, “Negativity is toxic to your relationship.”
They define negativity as “any words, tone of voice, facial expressions, or behaviors your partner says feel negative to them.”
One way to counteract the negativity is for partners to express their appreciation for each other every day.
In their book, Hendrix and Hunt, also founders of Imago Relationship Therapy, feature a valuable exercise called “Ritual of Appreciations.” It helps partners shift their focus from the negative — what you don’t like — to the positive — what you do like about each other.
“As your focus shifts, you’ll both start seeing more and more of the things you like – and each of you will be inspired to do more for your relationship.” And it makes sense: When the bad seems to outweigh the good, the last thing either of you probably wants to do is work on your relationship.
The exercise consists of two steps to be done by both partners:
- Make a list of everything you appreciate, admire and love about your partner.
Include everything from physical attributes to personality traits to behaviors. For instance, you might write that you love your partner’s eyes, their sense of humor, compassion and that they read to your little one every night, according to the authors. You also can include general affirmations. Hendrix and Hunt gave this example: “I can’t believe I’m lucky enough to be married to you!”
- Every night share three appreciations from your list or something you noticed that day.
Your list is a great reference. But don’t neglect to pay attention to the everyday. For instance, maybe your partner’s behaviors were especially sweet and thoughtful. Maybe they cleaned the house, brought you flowers, made dinner or helped your son with his homework. Also, try to mention different appreciations every time.
This is an easy exercise that doesn’t take much time or effort. But focusing on what your partner is doing right can be very powerful for your relationship. As Hendrix and Hunt write, “The more you focus on the good, the more good there will be to focus on.”