We love our partner, and that partner loves us – that is the ideal, of course. But sometimes we expect them to know it, and feel it, just because we assume it’s obvious – and it’s not.
Hurt feelings and misunderstandings happen when communication falls on the sidelines, and a strong cause of that could be when we are not showing appreciation toward our partner, and they, in turn, are not feeling that appreciation, themselves.
Oftentimes we think that showing appreciation toward your partner has to be a big, grand gesture: Buying flowers, whisking the partner away on a fabulous vacation. But life is full of the smaller, moment-to-moment stuff. “That’s where showing appreciation can also have a significant impact. Successful couples show appreciation for one another in these little ways, all the time,” said Hillary Call, LMHC, a licensed mental health counsellor based in New York City.
Appreciating our partner is so important, for both partners. “When we see, hear and understand them, we deepen our connection,” said Kathy Taberner MA, PCC, a certified executive coach.
Our partner feels good because they are visible to us and we want to understand them, and this makes us feel good too.
What does that look like? “Paying attention to your partner’s story about work or friends, and really engaging with questions, good eye contact, an “um hmm..,” said Call. Be generous with compliments, such as, “That’s a nice shirt,” “It was nice to spend time with you this weekend” or simply, “I like being with you.” Hold your partner’s hand.
There are many different ways to show appreciation to your partner, beyond the sexy stuff! A few examples I have given clients are below.
- Leaving a handwritten note to them on WHAT they have done recently to make happy or feel loved.
- Go out of your way to do a task they normally do, without being asked! “This can include doing laundry, cleaning the kitchen, or anything else they may do often but that you can do to lighten their load,” said Laura F. Dabney, MD, a relationship psychotherapist.
- Plan a night out just the two of you for no reason at all except to be together.
- Tell them! “Literally tell them how much you appreciate them, sometimes actions speak louder than words, but sometimes they want to hear the words!” said Dr. Dabney.
- Listen! “Sometimes your partner may need to talk or vent, be there for them. Do not offer advice, or try to fix their problem, just listen and ask what you can do to help,” said Dr. Dabney.
- Show that you know them and their favorite things! For example, one day you can bring home their favorite snack food or candy. “Something small like this shows them you were thinking of them and wanted to do something for them,” said Dr. Dabney.
- Be present to ABSORB what your partner is saying. “Focus our attention on our partner as they speak, notice their body language, their tone of voice, stop multitasking and paraphrase back to them what we have heard,” said Taberner.
- Listen with a focus on them that is open and non-judging. “If you hear that little voice in your head saying things that begin with ‘you should…’ or ‘I would never do….’ you are judging your partner from your perspective. This means you are not listening to them and will not understand their perspective,” said Taberner. This makes one feel invisible.
- Ask open questions (begin with who, what, where, when or how). “Questions that cannot be answered with a ‘yes’ or ’no’. These questions create possibility and lead to deeper understanding. Shifting from telling your partner what to do to asking open questions messages respect, valuing their opinion or perspective,” said Taberner. Telling them what to do doesn’t.
- When we are curious in conversations with others, we know they will appreciate being valued and we will feel good too.
These smaller gestures mean a great deal, as the good feelings they create add up.
Looking to try something new with your partner? These 5 real couples tried Moxie and told us all about it!