Who doesn’t love to feel appreciated? Hearing words of thanks for our actions, of praise for our work, and of admiration for our qualities is balm for the soul. We are more likely to give freely and forgive genuinely when we feel appreciated.
Demonstrating your appreciation of your partner on a regular basis is one of the fastest ways to build trust, create resilience, and reinforce intimacy. It’s true for any relationship, really, but after the first blush of infatuation dissipates, we tend to forego the small yet significant ways of showing our partners how much we appreciate what they do and say.
For many of us, we get into the mindset of “Of course, my partner knows how I feel,” and that is probably true. Yet, those feelings can get lost in the day-to-day grind of household logistics, kids and pet care, work demands, extended family needs, and trying to have some time for myself, thank you! It’s easy to put our relationships on auto-pilot and rely on the momentum of the big moments to get us through the small hurdles. What happens over time, though, is that we get more and more caught up in making the big moments BIG. We plan an elaborate anniversary dinner or a surprise birthday party and then point to those events as evidence of our appreciation and love. Yet it’s the ongoing small moments that reinforce the bigger gestures and build long-lasting trust, creating relationships that are resilient in times of crisis and challenge.
To help get into the habit of adding in smaller shows of appreciation, I’ve learned to think FAST. These simple actions help weave that web of intimacy that holds us up through the mundane moments that make up much of our lives. It is in these small spaces that we can make a huge difference in the foundation of our relationships.
Fun — You can make anything fun by the attitude you bring to it. Who says you can’t wear a mask or funny hat to do dishes? Who will know if you dance your way through a room just to get a laugh? Laughter builds bridges, and being goofy reminds us that we can be vulnerable which shows our partners that we appreciate them for loving us just as we are and trust them with our child-like selves.
Admiration — We don’t often get to see ourselves through another’s eyes, and negative self-talk can make us forget who we really are. By taking the time to tell your partner what you admire about her/ him, you bring their strengths more clearly into focus. Think of the qualities that drew you to your partner. What is it that they do, say, or embody that you admire? Then say that!
Sensuality — Touch is our earliest language. Being touched by someone we trust is calming, nurturing, and healing. Sensuality is not limited to the sexual realm (though I do advocate making time for sexual touch, as well!), and when time is limited, being touched can amplify appreciative words as well as reinforce the energetic bonds of intimacy.
Trust — When we feel appreciated we more easily trust ourselves and others in relationships. Trust engenders intimacy and confirms our partnership bonding. Trusting another person expands our ideas of what we can do and be, helps us to be brave in the face of challenges, and that also makes us more appreciative of that person. It’s a win for everyone!
By thinking FAST, you and your partner can keep filling the energy bank of your relationship with moments of connection and appreciation to keep your relationship strong and supple. Couples who have many points of connection are more resilient in times of stress and are able to grow in intimacy and support each other through life’s changes. And, by starting the practice of appreciation today, you’ll notice more and more to appreciate. That’s where the magic happens!
Rev. DiAnna Ritola is an interfaith minister and spiritual counselor specializing in relationships and personal growth. She is the author of the forthcoming book Mis-matched Luggage: Secrets to Unpacking Your Sexual Baggage and Lightening Your Journey of Intimacy. She knows that we are all doing the best we can in each moment, and that we can love all our broken pieces back into the fullness of our Self, much like the art of kintsugi in which cracked and broken pottery is repaired using gold lacquer making each piece even more beautiful. diannaritola.com