Every time we express appreciation to our spouse it:
- Builds Trust
- Creates Intimacy
- Opens up Communication
- Supports Mutual Sharing
The Problem with Appreciation
Appreciation is recognizing the great qualities in someone. But, there’s a problem with appreciation. Unless you tell someone what you appreciate about them, it’s ONLY A NICE THOUGHT. When you tell someone what you appreciate about them, that action becomes a force, enricher, and influencer in the relationship that can change the overall theme and direction. It’s proven time again in Mike’s practice, our work with married couples, and even our marriage. When you tell your spouse things you appreciate about them, it changes the rhythm of the relationship.
Ways to Do It
Couples, especially those who have been together for a long time, can get lazy with their expressions of appreciation. Many couples assume their partner knows the “stuff” they like about them. The phrases, “I really appreciate __________ about you.” or “Thank you for being the kind of person who _______________” rarely get spoken in the average relationship. Many of us believe that it’s unnecessary to tell our spouse, “I love you.” After all, I live with you and put up with your weird ways and crazy habits every freakin’ day. Doesn’t that show that I love you?
There’s an old relationship quote that says,
“I told you I loved you on the day we got married. If anything changes, I’ll let you know.”
Mike and I joke about this quote, but it plays out in many relationships, even in ours. We can find ourselves on autopilot and not thinking about how our numb-brain, mindlessness, is affecting our most valuable relationship. We can get into a comfortable rhythm with the status quo state of mind and forget to tell our spouse all the beautiful ways we appreciate them.
What they DO! – Action Based
Expressions of action based appreciation,
- I appreciate that you take the trash out every other day.
- I appreciate that you take such good care of the kids.
- Thank you for making dinner for our family three nights a week.
Who they ARE! – Character-Based
The next level of appreciation isn’t about what they do, but who they are. It’s a character-based appreciation that reveals deep qualities you admire about the person they are. This might sound like,
- I love the way you nurture our kids by playing games with them regularly and encouraging them to be helpful.
- Your kindness and generosity overflow when you serve at our church and help others in their Next Steps.
- Thank you for showing our family and friends how important your work is to you. Your financial provision and leadership in our family help me feel secure.
See how you can appreciate your spouse on two different levels. Both of these types of appreciation are important. We want our spouses to keep doing the stuff we like, but we also need to reach deeper and appreciate who they are as a person. Their life-map (also called valid reality) is an essential part of who they are as a person. That life-map includes all the experiences we have in our lives. It consists of the family of origin, education, jobs, relationships, home town, spiritual beliefs, and so much more. Appreciate them for all those great qualities they bring to your marriage.
By appreciating them often, you’ll be less likely to focus on the aspects and character traits that you don’t find as attractive. Keeping your thought process on the positive track will give your marriage a brighter, healthier look overall.
CHALLENGE: If you can’t remember the last time you said, “I appreciate…” to your spouse, send them a text right now! See if it opens up a conversation. If you have, Great Job! Keep sending the good vibes.
And – Download our Appreciation Worksheet – a 1-page list of over 50 attributes to appreciate.