By Susan Winter on November 27, 2013
Thanksgiving is a holiday founded on “giving thanks” for what we have and those we love. It’s a time we’re asked to remember all that is good, rather than defer to the human tendency of noting what is wrong or missing in our lives.
The profound nature of this concept extends to the realm of our romantic partnerships. Demonstrating gratitude and appreciation create a powerful template for a relationship’s ongoing growth, and love’s continuance with our partner.
I remember attending a lecture on this subject a few years ago by Dr. Jeffrey Zeig, Ph.D. As a psychologist, author, lecturer and founder of the Milton Erickson Foundation, this world-renowned relationship expert stressed the profound power of appreciation when applied to the arena of love and partnership.
The act of appreciation dramatically amplifies the love, that does exist. A love that has been wounded or frozen will revive when met with appreciation. In honoring of the human within your lover, they feel safe to come forward and respond in the same way with you. Stagnant relationships begin to flourish. Partners who were shut down begin to step-up and show affection. All humans need to feel ‘okay’ in the eyes of their lover. You can kick-start that flow of validation through appreciation.
The key to this success formula is founded in demonstrating daily ‘small acts’ of warmth towards your mate. To express what is good and right in your partner, is the fuel that keeps the fire alight as it awakens passion and reciprocity. It’s not the splash of grand gestures, but rather the consistency of smaller meaningful moments that creates the magic of this gift so universally sought. A vibrant relationship thrives on littler forms of consistent, positive reinforcement. This is the cement that allows for your love to weather the storm of everyday problems and challenges.
Those small, seemly insignificant moments of appreciation are powerful. You may choose to express your appreciation through an approving smile, a warm touch, or by listening to your mate with interest. This foundational output forms the bedrock upon which relationships survive and grow.
Having worked intimately with the most brilliant minds in this industry, Dr. Zeig cited the “5 to 1 Ratio Principle.” Based on research done by colleague Dr. John Gottman, humans have been proven to need at least 5 positives experiences to bear the weight of 1 that is negative. That means, for every one upsetting situation you and your partner meet, there must be the balance of five other positive events to erase its negative impact. “This is the constant,” Dr. Zeig stated. And if you’re wondering about the credibility of Dr. Gottman’s work, Zeig continued, “He can predict divorce within 97% of his clients.”
How does one reboot a stagnant relationship? Look for the good in your partner. By focusing on what’s wrong with your partner you can’t see what is good. Attention to the negative only reinforces noticing more of what’s negative in another. Actively looking for the positive in your partner is a form of mental reconditioning. The application of this effort is small when weighed against the tremendous results it garners.
Concrete research has documented that “feeling appreciated” is key to the survival of a marriage and other partnership formats. Being attentive, appreciative and seeing the best in your partner creates the needed bond to withstand the vicissitudes of real-world living. In the simple act of being willing to see more of what is good in your partner, that good increasingly becomes evident.