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Building appreciation in your relationship

Author: Kat Thompson

If someone asked you what the culture of your relationship is, what comes to mind? If you’re honest, maybe words like complacency, stress, chaos, bickering, or even numbness come to mind. If so… you are not alone. As relationships grow and adjust through different seasons of life, it is common to lose the feelings of romance, spontaneity, and excitement that are commonplace in the beginning stages of your relationship. Though relationship dynamics ebb and flow naturally, one foundation to a lasting and successful relationship is building a culture of appreciation. 

Whether your relationship is struggling or you feel like you’re in a great place, focusing on building appreciation for your partner is one of the best investments you can make in your relationship. 

Here are some practical tools and ideas to help you cultivate a culture of appreciation with your partner: 

First, think small things often. Changing the culture of your relationship doesn’t have to take a huge demolition and gutting; you can work on one small renovation at a time. Relationship researchers John and Julie Gottman give these ideas for incorporating small things into your daily routine.

1. Before leaving for the day, share a kiss lasting at least 6 seconds

2. When you think kind and appreciative thoughts about your partner, say it!

Think: what’s something I love about my partner’s personality and when did they display it, catch your partner doing something right, and tell them, write a quick love note, send a text to let them know you’re thinking of them

3. Use loving touch by holding hands, hugging, holding, kissing

4. Implement routine date nights

5. Build an appreciation ritual into your day. Can you set aside 5 minutes at the start or end of the day where you share a few things you love or appreciate about each other?

Still not sure where to start? Here are some conversation starters to prompt appreciation and connecting conversations. 

Gratitude and Appreciation

  • “Thanks for supporting me when I talked about my ….”
  • “You are a great parent. I love watching you ….. with the kids”
  • “I really appreciate you being so affectionate lately.” (Give specifics)
  • “I really appreciated our conversation about…” 
  • “When you …. it really made me feel prioritized”
  • “I am really proud of you for…. “
  • “One of the qualities that I love most about you is…”
  • “You really helped me by…”
  • “Thank you for cooking…. I loved it”

Fondness and Admiration

  • “Something I find so endearing in you is…”
  • “What was your favorite date we’ve been on?”
  • “The first thing I noticed about you was…”
  • “I think you look great in this photo….”
  • “I really enjoyed …. With you”
  • Talk about the moment you decided to commit to the other person
  • Describe your favorite romantic relationship moment
  • Discuss the first time you met 

Connection and Discovery

  • “What’s a vacation you dream of?”
  • “Something only you know about me is…”
  • “I love watching you succeed in…”
  • “What’s something you want to do together this weekend?”
  • “What are your expectations about… (an upcoming event)”
  • “What’s your favorite way to spend an evening?”
  • “What turns you on?”
  • “What’s the best gift you’ve ever received?”
  • “What are you most looking forward to right now?”
  • Talk about your common goals
  • Talk about how to improve lovemaking

My hope is that you find these lists helpful to start thinking about new ways to build a foundational culture of appreciation within your relationship. As therapists, we know that relationships are hard, and if you find yourself wanting more support individually or as a couple, call The Refuge Center today to set up an appointment.

I challenge you to find a prompt that stuck out to you and do itMy hope is that in committing to doing small things often, the culture of your relationship will change to become more connective, supportive, and satisfying. 

More resources: The Gottman Card Decks app – click here to download; Small Things Often podcast – click here to listen

Gottman, J. M., & Gottman, J. S. (2017). Small things often: How to build a positive, lasting relationship. The Gottman Institute, Inc.