Husband Appreciation Day was yesterday, but fortunately it’s never too late to brush up on your gratitude skills. When couples make appreciation a daily habit, it pays handsome dividends in terms of stability, longevity, and contentment. Yet even with such a great return on investment, many couples fail to incorporate appreciation into their routine.
Do you and your sweetheart acknowledge one another enough? To find out, take note of how many positive statements you exchange compared to negative. Clinical psychologist Dr. Deanna Conklin-Danao, a private practitioner in Northwest Chicago, cites research that couples in stable relationships make at least five positive remarks for each negative one.
The same premise can be considered through the lens of something called positive/negative sentiment override (PSO/NSO). A spouse experiencing PSO will most often attribute any negative behavior from her partner to stress, says Dr. Conklin-Danao. In contrast, when living with NSO, that same spouse will be ready to pounce on negative behavior, and will tend to miss positive gestures.
One surefire way to tell a relationship is suffering from a lack of gratitude is when partners find themselves keeping score. “When the couple dynamic becomes one of a quid pro quo and each partner is keeping track of what the other has done for them, this is a sign of an ailing relationship,” says Dr. Conklin-Danao.
How and why a relationship reaches this point is less important than what can be done to make it better. Individuals who have difficulty expressing their emotions, or couples that have fallen out of appreciation over time may feel a little awkward getting back into practice. But with commitment and regularity, acknowledging one another will come to feel natural.
Dr. Conklin-Danao recommends being precise in your praise. For instance, which would sound better to you? “Thanks for being considerate,” or “I really appreciated how you took the time to understand where I’m coming from about Johnny’s new daycare.” “The expression of appreciation should be specific for it to feel authentic,” says Dr. Conklin-Danao.
It may take a little time to work out the kinks, but as you get used to looking for positive traits in your lover, you’re likely to find that your overall outlook gets a boost, too. This, in turn, will enhance your ability to find nice things to say, improving that positive-to-negative statement ratio.
A lack of gratitude doesn’t necessarily mean a relationship is in ruins, says Dr. Conklin-Danao, but she considers it a good indication of how emotionally connected a couple feels. “Couples experience a higher quality of life when they feel connected and appreciated,” she says.
And aren’t those the reasons we want relationships to begin with?
Deanna Conklin-Danao, Psy.D. is a clinical psychologist in private practice on the northwest side of Chicago. More information about her practice can be found here.
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