This Thanksgiving, make the leap from “thanks” to deep, true appreciation.
Ever deliver a heartfelt thank you only to hear your words linger in the space between you and someone? When this happens, you can catch an essential key to any relationship in the recipient’s silence or body language. Sometimes thank you isn’t quite enough.
We’re taught that appreciation is the glue of a solid relationship. If our love, energy, and efforts go unacknowledged, we naturally want to invest less in that relationship. But appreciation alone doesn’t always hold up the way it should. Like any relationship gesture, it can be superficial, manipulative, or done from need rather than gratitude. In my own relationships, I’ve discovered three ways “thank you” can fall flat, and what we can do to foster deeper appreciation.
Baseline: Appreciating only what they do for you.
Next Level: Appreciating who they are.
We’ve all known someone who’s terrorized us with praise. Acknowledgement of our tidiness, cooking skills, or wild love acts can start to feel like pressure to become someone’s housecleaner, private chef, or sex slave. Now before you go saying, “That’s ridiculous! I wish my partner would acknowledge all that I do!” realize that I’m not advising anyone to stop thanking their partner for their deeds. Compliments, kisses, surprise gifts, love notes are all great. What I’m saying is that these are the baseline. Eventually, we’ve got to glimpse much deeper into who our lover actually is at their core.
While everyone wants to be loved for the little things they bring to the table, noticing your partner’s essence feeds them profoundly on an emotional level. Be on the lookout for unexpected instances when your partner does something that shifts your own mood without them even knowing it. It’s possible this shift might even make you a tiny bit uncomfortable. Peak behind the curtain at who your partner is being in that moment.
For example, when one of my previous partners would sing or play certain music on Spotify, I would drop into such a blissful mood it felt like I had wings. It was so unusual and definitely caught me off guard. At those times, his unique essence would permeate the room. It deserved more than just “thank.” I’d tell him something super-gooey to the effect of: “Every time you play music I feel like something is speaking to me, telling me what to do! It’s like you have this power to help me tap into myself with music.” That kind of appreciation goes to your partner’s soul.
Baseline: Treasuring their qualities.
Next Level: Developing your own treasure quality.
In my twenties, I had a boyfriend I thought I was going to marry. As I felt our relationship slipping away, I made endless attempts to appreciate every and any good thing about him. “You’re so good at taking care of me.” “Everyone really loves you.” “You’re so smart.” I hurled so many compliments at him that he began to meet them with eye rolls.
But here was the problem: I couldn’t even begin to guess his greatest gift because I didn’t intimately know my own. There’s no way I can honor the most distinguishing quality of another, that standout thing that makes them so unique and valuable as a human being, if I’m not paying attention to my own worth.
You can start to reveal what your unique treasure quality is by considering what deep-seated quality people most often compliment you on—and by deep-seated I don’t mean your fashion sense or sex appeal. Then commit to one tiny daily act to embrace and build up this muscle. For example, one of my friends has a quality I’d call “uninhibited joy,” and one of the many ways he strengthens it is by noticing all the places he holds back his joy to avoid making others uncomfortable. But the more he expresses is, the more he becomes a beacon of love and support for his hard-working partner, deflating her job-related stress and uplifting their relationship.
Baseline: Keeping things safe and steady with your partner.
Next Level: Really letting your partner in, even when it’s uncomfortable.
Last, but possibly most important, is being willing to be touched by our partner in the most vulnerable and squeamish parts of ourselves. That same partner I thought I would marry had a unique ability to gently open my mind, heart, and body. His mere presence seemed to put me in touch with my deepest desires and wishes. But that kind of vulnerability scared me, so I resisted him. I resisted by fighting, by becoming jealous, and in myriad other ways.
If you want your partner to feel valued in every cell of their body, you need to allow their unique, authentic self to reach every cell of your body. This means you will feel stuff—uncomfortable, gritty, sticky stuff that will challenge you to grow. Practice this ability to grow with one potent question: “What am I unwilling to experience right now?” Don’t expect to grow in your partnership until you are ready to grow as an individual.
Crossing this threshold of thank you into deep acknowledgement of your partner’s nature (and your own) brings profound depth to a relationship. We all want to be loved for what’s under the surface.
Nicole Casanova, the founder of Polished Personal Development, helps her coaching clients in committed partnerships to understand the true cause of their dissatisfaction and to build more meaningful and joyful relationships and lives.