The first thing I have new couples do when I meet with them is to share something each partner appreciates about the other. Sounds simple right? All you have to do is tell your partner something about them that you are thankful for. Think about all the time you have spent together and pick one moment that stands out for you and share that gratitude. Eventually I’m sure you’d come up with a specific action like coming to counseling or taking out the dog or making dinner for them. This is a good start, ‘start’ being the operative word here.
You can try this at home. Over dinner, share one behavior that your partner did for you that you appreciate. Notice how it feels when you thank your partner. Is it purely an intellectual thank you or do you feel the emotion behind it?
If you’re on the receiving end of your partner’s gratitude, notice how that feels. Are you able to bring the appreciation down into your body and feel it in your entire being or does it goes directly to your brain and stay as a thought? Do you believe what your partner is telling you? Were you aware of the positive impact you have on your partner when you act this way?
As I mentioned earlier, identifying helpful behaviors your partner does is a good start. You can also add in behaviors that your partner is consciously not doing because you asked him to stop doing them. This might include no longer looking at his cell phone or TV while you’re talking to him or not leaving the dishes in the sink for you to clean up when you come home late from work.
Besides verbally appreciating your partner you can also express your gratitude nonverbally. Why not give your partner a warm bear hug? How about doing something your partner’s been asking you to do that you keep putting off or surprise them with something you know would bring them joy?
After you’ve mastered noticing and appreciating your partner’s actions, it’s time for you to go deeper. What do you appreciate about your partner as a person? Not what your partner does or doesn’t do but who your partner is. This can be a little more challenging because you have to see past their unloving behaviors which is why you agreed to come into counseling in the first place.
So, take a deep breath and look past their critical, defensive or controlling behavior. See your partner’s essence. The core of who they really are not the part of them that they learned to be. See the person you fell in love with.
Do you appreciate your partner’s kind heart? His generous spirit. His warmth, hopefulness, and playfulness? Do you feel blessed having someone in your life who genuinely cares about others and the planet? Someone who goes out of their way to help those who are less fortunate.
I can’t tell you how powerful sharing appreciations is especially when you make this a daily practice. Communicate your gratitude first thing in the morning or before you go to sleep. Text you’re a partner an appreciation during the day or call him with one during your lunch break. And if you can’t reach your partner then leave him a voice mail or send him an email. And throughout the day tell yourself how much you appreciate your partner, feeling the contentment and peaceful feelings that come along with doing this, and then send him positive energy.
Over time I see the transformation in my office that comes as a result of partners exchanging just one simple sentence with each other. Couples who initially couldn’t get past their disconnection and their hurt, frustration and resentment, become more thoughtful, compassionate and caring partners. Often, they’re holding hands and looking directly into each other’s eyes as they share appreciations straight from their heart. And it all started with a simple thank you!