Studies have shown that healthy relationships are characterized by 5 positive to every 1 negative interaction. Of course that then begs the question, “how do I make my relationship more positive”? You could wait for your significant other to do something nice for you (say cook dinner for you), but you could end up becoming more bitter as wait (if your relationship is in a bad place). You could do something fun together (like going bowling), but a couple having problems might not be able to have fun together in the first place. A final option is to say or do something for your significant other that shows that you appreciate them.
One study found that participants who felt appreciated one day were more appreciative of their significant other the next day. So, it seems appreciation creates more appreciation. It also creates more action. Participants who felt appreciated were also more likely to engage in “relationship maintenance,” acts that are meant to benefit the relationship (like helping the other person out after a long day). Interestingly, relationship maintenance was more related to feelings of being appreciated than overall relationship satisfaction. So, it seems as though there is something special about appreciation. Perhaps most importantly, those who felt appreciated were also more likely to still be in their relationships 9 months later.
How Does It Work?
The beauty of showing appreciation is that it creates a positive upward spiral that grows over time. So, say you cook dinner for your wife one night. This likely will cause her to feel appreciative and she’s then likely to reciprocate by saying or doing something positive for you. This act, in turn, makes you feel more appreciated and makes it more likely that you will show appreciation again in the near future. And on and on… See chart below:
The lead researcher described the process as follows:
If [a woman] is trying to decide whether to tell her boyfriend of 6 months that she loves him, she has to weigh the possibility that her boyfriend will reply with an awkward and humiliating “thanks” or perhaps will say nothing at all, against her more hoped for outcome—that he will say he loves her too. What information does she gather to help her decide whether the time is right to profess her love?… feeling positively regarded by a partner (i.e., perceiving that a partner sees positive qualities in the self that are worth valuing) provides people with a sense of felt security necessary to engage in relationship-promoting behaviors. In Bella’s case, if she feels confident that her boyfriend sees her as having valuable qualities, she will be more likely to take the risky step of saying “I love you.
As you can see, small acts of appreciation can lead to large positive changes in a relationship over time.
If your relationship has lost some of its spark, showing appreciation is probably the single best way to kick it back in gear. If your relationship is already going well, showing more appreciation could take it to new heights. Either way, there’s no better excuse to show a little appreciation than today!