Amidst the “everyday” of our relationships, we sometimes get too caught up in the whirlwind of life to remember to take time to show appreciation for our partners.
Do you show your appreciation for your partner? Have you shown your appreciation lately?
In our latest book, The Heart of the Fight: A Couple’s Guide to Fifteen Common Fights, What They Really Mean, and How They Can Bring You Closer, we talk about establishing the “rules of engagement,” fighting fair, and using conflict to bridge the gaps in your relationships.
If you’re sensing some distance lately, here are the first steps to getting your relationship back on track.
Accentuating the positive is an important component of the rules of engagement. It’s about assuming goodwill on the part of your partner and approaching your partner from a place of love, understanding and positivity. Most of the time your partner isn’t purposefully distant from you or purposefully misunderstanding you. Most of the time our partners have our best interests in mind.
Accentuating the positive isn’t about some happy-go-lucky false positivity you have just because you’re “supposed to.” It’s about creating new connections, building new neuropathways in your mind, and finding constructive ways to engage in conflict.
It’s also very much about understanding where our partner is coming from and expressing that in a meaningful and understood way. In relationships, we often have different expressions of appreciation and affection, and different needs when it comes to our own yearnings.
This isn’t about typical romantic, Valentine’s Day fluff. It’s about seeing the truth of the person you love and understanding your partner as a person. Appreciation comes from defining the foundations of your own and your partner’s personalities (whether you/your partner is a Cooperator, Analyzer, Regulator or Energizer) and understanding how these personality types shape the way you interact with each other. Seeing your partner in the reality of who he or she is in the here and now can help you fully express appreciation in a way that meets your partner’s needs while assuring you’re also meeting your own.
When your partner has a triumph, how do you express your congratulations? Energizers might need more than a simple expression of appreciation, whereas Regulators might prefer to see the way things are getting done and move forward. Analyzers may be immune to expressions of appreciation and may just want to know they haven’t made mistakes, whereas Cooperators want to understand how they matter and know that they’re an integral part of the relationship and that they’ve successfully contributed to the success of the win.
Once we understand these personality styles, we have an easier time expressing gratitude to our partners and giving out the form of praise they need to meet their yearnings. There are different balances between any personality types, so we must find middle ground and a spot where the two of you are expressing yourselves with equal give-and-take and working together to bring the relationship forward.
In the beginning of most partnerships (and sometimes for years), there’s a great struggle for control. As we learn how our partners express their needs and where they can give and take, conflicts can and will arise as you both find your footing. This is a positive time of growth and learning as you start to understand each other and engage more fully.
Sometimes our partners can seem downright hostile because they feel the only way to be heard is by yelling. If we are truly listening and opening ourselves up to an emotional connection—letting the person we love know they’re heard—he or she will soften. Happy people aren’t attacking people (in most cases). Of course, it’s a two-way street and it takes practice.
It’s nearly impossible to flip a switch overnight and suddenly meet all of our partner’s needs, while still being true to our own. Just like any good practice, it takes recognition, realization and understanding—and then application.
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Dr. Bob Wright is an internationally recognized visionary, educator, program developer, leadership and sales executive, best-selling author and speaker. He is a co-founder of Wright and the Wright Graduate University.
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Blog post image courtesy: Flickr user ekelly89.
Wright Living is a division of the Wright Foundation for the Realization of Human Potential, a leadership institute located in Chicago, Illinois. Wright Living performative learning programs are integrated into the curriculum at Wright Graduate University.