As I recently worked with a couple, one partner, River, expressed that they didn’t feel appreciated. River’s partner responded, “You have no idea how much you mean to me.” River’s response drives the underlying point of this blog home. River replied, “You’re right. I have no idea.”
Strong words do not ensure a strong reception. And words alone rarely remedy unclear actions. Admittedly, it sounds good to tell someone they cannot know how important they are to us—but it’s only words. In my humble estimation, we owe ourselves a higher standard than a poetic (and potentially cliché) expression.
Here are a few suggestions of how to help our partner feel our appreciation:
- Let’s tell our partner (with words) that we want them to feel appreciated.
There are countless examples of people who live lives together while resisting the humility needed to express their partner’s importance. We may be underestimating the beneficial effect this can have on them and our relationship. Let’s put ourselves on the record and be honest about our intention to invest in our partner. By saying this to our partner, we are also speaking to ourselves. We’re reminding ourselves of what we are up to and what is important. We are also telling our partner we can be held accountable for working toward this goal.
- Let’s change and adjust.
Showing someone how much they mean to us is like a conversation. We don’t talk to everyone the same way; we vary our tone and language. Our topic may change depending on whom we are talking to. We may express deference because of an age difference. We may sing together. Fuss. Fight. The varying dynamics run the gamut. The same variations exist as we work to co-create an appreciative environment. Just as we communicate differently, we have varied opportunities to show our appreciation. It’s really just another form of communication. Dr. Gary Chapman discusses these fundamental variances in how we show care and appreciation in The Five Love Languages. Give these efforts your heart, time, and serious consideration before and while delivering them.
- Let’s embrace servitude.
“I wish for you to feel as though I appreciate you, and I am committed to making sure that you do.” If we choose to embrace this sentiment, it means we are putting ourselves in a serving position. And let’s be clear: we don’t have to do this. To go hand in hand with that, our partner doesn’t have to feel appreciated, and they don’t have to work to help us feel that way either. We don’t even have to like each other! However, if we are invested in having an appreciated partner, let’s be clear that we are putting ourselves at the mercy of our partners. And that’s OK.
We have the beautiful opportunity to work with our partners to reach this goal. Let’s ask them how we can support them so they feel appreciated. However, keep in mind, ideally we will do more than ask for guidance. After all, there may be ways of showing our appreciation that our partner wants/ needs but isn’t aware of yet. This idea is discussed in my “I’m Not a Mind Reader” post. Let’s team up to create a loving culture in our relationships, starting with how we take care of our partner.
- Let’s suspend “unreasonable.”
Some of us believe that our partner is unreasonable or insatiable. They “can’t be satisfied” or “are never happy.” This is often a crutch that we use to let ourselves off the hook of going deeper and doing very hard work. There are unreasonable and insatiable partners, but these individuals do not exist in a vacuum. There is a reason they are that way. Let’s explore those reasons and be patient with our partner and their history. It can be a long-term exercise and project—yet a worthy one. Let’s put the possibility of our partner being unreasonable away for a long time and study them to figure out how we may be able to show up as a powerful force in their lives. Let’s support them as they work toward peace and as we work toward them feeling appreciated.
Unexpressed gratitude is a waste, and it doesn’t benefit either party. Instead of holding those feelings in and waiting for a time when we are on stage praising our partner—or at a funeral telling stories capped with “they have no idea how much they were appreciated”—let’s actively share how much we appreciate our partner, and other people who are in our life, today.
In short, show, don’t tell. Or better yet, show and tell!
Watch Frank Love’s presentation, “The Act of Caring.”
Frank Love coaches individuals who are in (or wish to be in) a relationship on ways to create a loving culture in their relationship. He is also the author of “Relationship Conversations You Don’t Want to Have (But Should Anyway)” and “25 Ways to Be Loving.” To schedule a free consultation, contact Frank at Frank@FrankLove.com.