Maybe your spouse has complained to you that he or she just doesn’t feel appreciated. Well, let’s just take that at face value today and work on this whole appreciation thing. It can only help, right?
One of my favorite Bible verses is:
“You must let no unwholesome word come out of your mouth, but only what is beneficial for the building up of the one in need, that it may give grace to those who hear.”
If every word we spoke in our marriages was tested by this verse, we would see some vast improvements!
What Does Appreciation Look Like?
There is a measurement tool used in research called the Appreciation in Relationships Scale which looks at these items:[i]
- Telling your partner that he/she is the best
- Telling your partner how much you appreciate him/her
- Not taking your partner for granted
- Acknowledging and treating your spouse like s/he is someone special
- Noticing when your spouse does nice things for you and saying thank you, even for the really small things
- Feeling struck with a sense of awe and wonder when you think about your spouse being in your life.
Basically, appreciation is any feeling or expression of gratitude for who a person is and what they do. When you perceive that your spouse sees you as valuable, you feel appreciated. This, of course, leads to a greater sense of security in the marriage and also the feeling that you can be confident of how your spouse sees you.
It’s difficult when you’re not sure what your spouse thinks of you. This may be why your spouse is saying that s/he doesn’t feel appreciated. For some reason, they may not actually be sure of what you think of them.
When you take these needs for appreciation that we all have and you bring them into your marriage what you’re doing is shifting your focus away from your own self-interest and really starting to include your spouse’s needs. This shift in thinking is fundamental to showing appreciation because you have to start to mentally position yourself around what you’re giving rather than what you’re getting from the marriage.
When this shift takes place, you’re now expressing behaviours that help to maintain and build up your relationship. This is the whole point of appreciation!
8 Ways to Appreciate Your Spouse
To help you get really good at this, we’ve created 8 Ways to Appreciate Your Spouse – some practicable, doable tactics to show appreciation. Incorporate these things into your marriage so that you can be an appreciative spouse.
How Appreciation Blesses Your Marriage
Here are five ways that appreciation benefits your marriage. We’ll show you why this works and what it does for your marriage so that you can really become intentional about putting this into place.
First, Appreciate Your Spouse and Your Spouse Will Appreciate You
A study from 2012 showed that “feeling appreciate by one’s spouse promotes one’s own appreciative feelings….people who feel more appreciated by their romantic partners report being more appreciative of their partners. In turn, people who are more appreciative of their partners report being more responsive to their partner’s needs.”[ii]
Appreciation begets more appreciation. When you appreciate your spouse, your spouse is more likely to appreciate you back. Appreciation starts a healthy cycle in your marriage – as one partner considers the other before self, the other partner starts to do the same, and the relationship as a whole benefits from this.
Second, Appreciation Leads to Commitment and Protects from Divorce
Further results of the 2012 study showed that people who are more appreciative of their partners are more committed and more likely to remain in their relationships over time.[iii] In this way, displays of appreciation are protective against divorce and separation.
Anything that contributes to the happy longevity of your marriage is really worthwhile!
Third, Appreciation Positively Changes How You View Your Marriage
Different research, from 2010, discovered that one of the benefits of expressing gratitude (which is just one way of expressing appreciation) positively changes how each partner views the relationship, specifically in terms of the communal strength of the relationship.[iv]
Gratitude is what you feel when you are aware of what you appreciate. Developing the habit of looking for and then giving words to what you appreciate is how you create gratitude.
Focussing on appreciation adds this powerful altruistic aspect to the marriage which in turn affects how you view your marriage. You feel it is stronger when you show more appreciation.
Fourth, Appreciation Improves Your Spouse’s Mental Health
A study in 2013 investigated how gratitude within a marriage impacted the mental wellbeing of each spouse. They used a depression scale (which is kind of like a Beck Inventory if you’ve heard of that) which is basically a questionnaire used to measure depression or depressive symptoms.
Here’s what they found:
- A husband’s gratitude negatively correlated with the wife’s depressive emotion. This means that there was an observable correlation: as the husbands showed more gratitude the wives experienced less depressive symptoms.
- “A wife’s depression would be relatively palliated if her husband was assigned to express appreciation to her and not share daily hassles.” (Palliated means you have relief of symptoms but not necessarily a cure.) So, a wife’s depressive symptoms would be relatively lessened if her husband was intentional about appreciation and refrained from dumping daily hassles on her.[v]
These findings are pretty neat, but why does this work?
One thought is that the husband’s appreciation could serve as mental resource: your positivity energizes me a little get through the day better. Also, receiving appreciation probably strengthens self-esteem and self-efficacy, meaning you feel more confident and more capable when you are shown appreciation.
Not only that but you also have a reciprocation dynamic that comes into play. The depressed spouse wants to return the gratitude which is another boost also.
Finally, Appreciation Leads to More Honest Marriages
Some researchers is 2011 observed how expressing gratitude in marriage led to more honest marriages in the fact of conflict.[vi]
Results of their study showed “a relationship between naturally occurring expressions of gratitude and comfort in voicing relationship concerns.”[vii]
The researchers believe that expressing gratitude increases positive perceptions of the romantic partner, which is the mechanism by which partners feel more comfortable expressing their concerns.
We’ve talked about this elsewhere, where having positivity in the marriage means that you also have the opportunity to raise issues without fear of a meltdown. That happens because you can more easily listen to your spouse point out a problem in yourself when you’re listening in the context of a marriage that is already affirming and safe and appreciative. Makes sense, right?
So that’s our challenge for you today: go and start making it a consistent practice to show appreciation in your marriage.
[i] Amie M. Gordon et al., “To Have and to Hold: Gratitude Promotes Relationship Maintenance in Intimate Bonds,” Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 103, no. 2 (August 2012): 257.
[iv] Nathaniel M. Lambert et al., “Benefits of Expressing Gratitude: Expressing Gratitude to a Partner Changes One’s View of the Relationship,” Psychological Science 21, no. 4 (April 2010): 574.
[v] Yen-Ping Chang et al., “Living with Gratitude: Spouse’s Gratitude on One’s Depression,” Journal of Happiness Studies 14, no. 4 (2013): 1431–42.
[vi] Nathaniel M. Lambert and Frank D. Fincham, “Expressing Gratitude to a Partner Leads to More Relationship Maintenance Behavior,” Emotion (Washington, D.C.) 11, no. 1 (February 2011): 52–60, doi:10.1037/a0021557.