I heard a cute joke the other day, a couple is hanging out together when the woman turns to the guy and says, “Honey do you think I’m beautiful?” “Mmhmm,” the guy agrees. “Do you feel lucky to be loved by me?” she continues, “Uh huh,” he nods. “Oh darling,” she gushes, “you say the nicest things.”
To some of you this might sound like cheating – I mean you can’t just tell your partner how to love you well or what makes you happy – or can you?
If you listen to an ‘in love’ couple you will hear them using a powerful tool. “Oh my gosh Jane are so amazing, you are so sexy when I came home the other day and you greeted me in just that cute little apron and nothing else I thought I’d died and gone to heaven.” or “Oh honey I loved it last night when you took me out to that little Italian restaurant – it was such a nice surprise after a long day at work.” These are not planned responses – simply an overflow of good feeling and the honeymoon drug phenylethlamine (check out next week’s post for more on this). However Appreciation is a powerful relationship tool that can be used consciously to improve your relationships.
Appreciations work because they tell your partner how they got it right in the relationship. Given that your partner loves you it is likely that they will be encouraged to do it again. Who doesn’t like to be a success in their relationship? In my practice the first skill I teach couples is an Appreciation Dialogue. This exercise often takes the couple by surprise I mean they came all prepared to tell what a sorry excuse for a human being their partner is and now they need to appreciate them – what’s with that?
However as I watch something magical tends to happen. I typically get the guys to start and a common appreciation is, “I appreciate what a great mother you are for the kids” I gently lead him to expand and create a picture of a moment in time, “I liked coming home last night and the kids were all at the table and you were bringing out this pot of your lanb stew and I thought this is what being a family is about.” At this point the woman often has tears in her eyes and we go on from there. An even bigger surprise for the couple often occurs when the woman responds, again the most common appreciations are being a great Dad or working hard. In my experience this is often even more powerful. In my experience men are starved for appreciation and approval. Women can often get topped up from their friends but when was the last time you saw a bunch of guys standing around appreciating each other, “Hey Bob your top looks great”.
Often this simple exercise can be enough to turn a relationship on the brink of divorce into something that has a sense of hope and possibility. Those couples who go home and practice it everyday come back to the next session in a radically different place.
So today appreciate someone you love . . .
P.S. I hope to do a series of posts on Appreciation and share these along with a video demonstrating what the Appreciation dialogue looks like.