Five Benefits of Expressing
Appreciation to Your Partner
May 24, 2015
A powerful and simple tool to strengthen your relationship is to share appreciations. This is a practice I incorporate into every couples session. It has enormous value to couples working to enhance emotional intimacy.
One way this can be done is as a regular reciprocal practice, in which you set aside five or ten minutes a day to each express and receive an appreciation. Some couples prefer to share appreciations more spontaneously. Either way, try to do it daily.
In the appreciation, acknowledge to your partner either something they have done recently that you feel gratitude for (like doing the grocery shopping), or a quality in them that you’ve been reminded of recently that you value (their sense of humor, their lovingness as a parent, etc). The act or quality you’re appreciating can be something of great import, or seemingly insignificant. Look into your partner’s eyes as you say it. Let it be something wholly positive – not something with a negative subtext. Even if appreciating on the fly, pause, slow down, and try to be aware of your experience as you share it. Similarly, when receiving your partner’s appreciation, try to give your full attention to listening to it, and really notice how it feels to hear their words.
Trains you to look for the positive
As psychologist Rick Hanson’s work addresses, the human brain evolved to have a “negativity bias.” We survived as a species, in part, through recognizing danger, risk, and threat. Our brains are primed to notice what is wrong with the picture rather than to notice what is right. It takes some conscious thought to develop patterns of looking for the positive. This is especially true in troubled relationships. Having a daily practice of looking for something to appreciate in your partner changes the lens through which you are looking (and can also change your brain).
Gives your partner information about you
Every time you share an appreciation, you’re letting your partner know about something important to you. This gives them information. It’s a kind of behavioral reinforcement, but more. It lets them know what you value, what is important to you. It tells your partner more about who you are. Knowing more about who you are helps them connect with you.
Strokes your partner
When you reflect the positive in your partner, it feels good to them. It lets them know they are seen and valued, and this affirmation lights up the pleasure centers of their brain. Every act of positivity you contribute to the relationship is significant.
Invites your partner closer
When you share from the heart, it invites your partner closer. As renowned relationship expert John Gottman notes in his popular book The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work: “Fondness and admiration are two of the most crucial elements in a rewarding and long-lasting romance.”
It feels good!
Experiment with it. Many people enjoy the expressing part as much as being on the receiving end. It feels good to connect with people in a positive, giving way. Sharing appreciations is a form of generosity, which has been identified as a contributor to happiness.