“There is more hunger for love and appreciation in this world than bread.” ~Mother Teresa
I’ve been in a relationship with my boyfriend for over four years. We’ve had our fair share of great times and not so pretty moments, but this summer our relationship was put to the test.
During that time, I went through some major transitions with my career and personal development, all things that needed to happen for me to be the best version of myself.
Those months were filled with long hours of working and being alone, solely focusing on creating the future I wanted. I was in deep, chasing my dreams, and wouldn’t let anything get in my way.
As time went on, I noticed that my partner was slowly slipping away.
It wasn’t that he wasn’t coming home or was nowhere to be found. He was responding to the fact that I had lost focus on him.
I was failing my partner in the following ways:
- I didn’t say thank you for all the little things he did for me.
- I didn’t ask him how his day was. Instead, I was eager to share how my day went.
- When I faced an obstacle with my goals, I would be rude and short with him.
- Instead of greeting him with a smile when he arrived home, I treated him as if he was a burden getting in the way of the work I needed to do.
- Rather than planning and spending time with him, I would work late into the evening.
- Lastly, I wasn’t present with him. When I did spend time with him, all I did was think about work.
My actions and behaviors were so self-centered that I stopping thinking about how he was doing, how his day went, and what he needed support with.
The end result: he withdrew.
At first I thought he was no longer interested in me, but I eventually came to realize that I wasn’t even close to meeting his needs. And what he needed was simple: appreciation.
He had hinted at it several times in his own way, but I’d had blinders on.
After months of neglect, my boyfriend and I sat at our kitchen table making small talk and slowly tiptoeing into the conversation of what was and wasn’t working in our relationship.
He said, “All I ever want is for you to appreciate me. I don’t need you to cook for me or get all dressed up or buy me things. All I want is to be appreciated.”
His honest and vulnerable declaration brought me to tears. I realized then that I had been causing my partner significant pain and suffering for no reason.
So, with my heart on the table, my eyes swollen from crying, and a common ground of love to move forward on, I told him this: “From now on, I will appreciate you—the big, the small, the silly, and imperfect. I will appreciate it all. I may not be perfect in my practice of appreciation, but I am committed to it, so much so that I have added it to my morning routine.”
Much like the gratitude journal I write in every morning, I now have a journal dedicated solely to all the things I value about my partner.
Every morning I set aside time to think of three things I appreciate about him. I do this even when I’m not feeling up for it. I take my time and feel every emotion that comes up as I write down my list of three items.
I also make an effort so show my appreciation in action. My partner’s love language is “acts of service,” meaning actions speak louder than words. He feels loved when I do things for him coupled with expressing my feelings for him, so I now strive to show him that I love him with acts that require planning and thoughtfulness.
The Value of Appreciation
I never thought that simply reminding myself how much I appreciate my partner would cause a ripple effect in how I interact with him, but it has.
Since starting my appreciation practice…
I easily forgive his mistakes, such as forgetting to do something I ask him to do to support me, or not being sensitive enough and open to my feelings when I feel overwhelmed. I’ve grown to love his mistakes because they remind me of what it is to be imperfect. After all, I’m not perfect, and I can’t expect him to be either.
I appreciate his faults and quirks. Like hitting the snooze button when he needs to get out of bed. And forgetting to eat throughout the day because he’s too busy teaching college students. And running behind schedule most of the time. We all have faults. His reminds me all over again why I fell in love with him. In all reality, we complement each other nicely.
I appreciate his smile and his one of a kind laugh.
In recognizing all that my partner does for me and my future, I feel a love so powerful that just thinking about it brings me to tears.
My partner feels appreciated and cared for. He is more eager to engage with me, and more willing to be open and expressive with me. And he talks about the future more than ever.
What Happens When You Don’t Appreciate the People in Your Life
When you don’t appreciate others, your relationships suffer in the following ways.
- The other person feels unimportant and may withdraw from you.
- When your partner feels unappreciated, any talks of the future will be met with resistance. Would you want to build a future with someone who doesn’t appreciate you?
- Animosity may build up in the relationship, on both sides.
- The person feeling unappreciated may find other places, things, or people to seek appreciation from.
- Being unappreciated can lead to unnecessary arguments and resentment.
- Lack of appreciation may completely ruin and end the relationship.
How to Start Appreciating the People in Your Life
If you’ve recognized that you could make a little more effort appreciating the people in your life, dedicate a notebook solely for this purpose. Start your day by jotting down three things you value about this person. At the end of thirty days, give them your notes of appreciation. Rinse and repeat.
But appreciation doesn’t just live within the mind. Sure, it’s wonderful to think about all the things you value about someone, but when you don’t vocalize or show your appreciation, it means nothing.
You can start appreciating others in your life by:
- Leaving them notes thanking them for who they are and what you appreciate about them.
- Saying thank you and acknowledging the little things they do every day.
- Giving specific examples of what they have done and how that has enhanced your own life.
- Appreciating their flaws and quirks. The little imperfections are what make people unique. They may feel insecure about them. Let them know how you appreciate their imperfections, and why.
- Giving someone a hug when they help you out or put a smile on your face.
- Doing something unexpected; brighten their day by buying them a cup of coffee, or stopping by to let them know that you love them and appreciate them for being in your life.
Like Tony Robbins said, “Trade your expectations for appreciation and your whole world changes in an instant.”
Appreciation strengthens the bonds you have with others, no matter the relationship. It replaces a mindset of not having enough with being grateful for everything you have. And most of all, it creates space to be thankful for the little things in life.