The Guide to Couples Appreciation

Photo of Dr Katherine Hertlein
Reviewed by Dr Katherine Hertlein, written by `Blueheart
– published on December 23, 2022

Not feeling appreciated by your partner? Try This.

You cook the dinner six nights a week. You took their car through the car wash on the way home. You ran them a bubble bath. You took the kids out for a couple of hours on a Sunday afternoon so they could have a nap. But did your partner say “thank you”? Did they show you how much they appreciate what you do for them?

It probably depends on how long you’ve been together, how often you feel your partner neglects to say “thank you”, and how you’re feeling about the relationship in general. But one thing is for sure, appreciation is a powerful tool when it comes to building an emotional connection and healthy relationships.

Don’t believe us?

Quiz: How often do you show appreciation for one another?

You may appreciate your partner and everything they do, but how often do you show it? And do you feel that they appreciate you in the same way? Let’s take a look.

For each of the questions below, answer: 

A. agree
B. somewhat agree
C. somewhat disagree
D. disagree 

1. I understand how important mutual appreciation is in a healthy relationship.

2. I say ‘thank you’ to my partner every day.

3. I feel truly appreciated by my partner.

4. I find it easy to notice all the things my partner does for our family on a daily basis.

5. I believe that my partner understands how hard I work and notices the little things.

6. My partner knows the best way to show me his appreciation so that I hear it.

7. If I feel taken for granted, I feel confident to express this to my partner. 

8. I feel that even when it is not always spoken, there is mutual respect and appreciation at the core of our relationship.

Work out which letter you have answered the most times to find out what it says about how well you share your appreciation for one another. 

Mostly A
You recognize the importance of showing one another appreciation. And you’re pretty good at noticing and saying ‘thank you’ for the day-to-day, routine tasks that it’s often easy to take for granted. Be mindful of this and continue to build good habits. Read on for some ideas to help you keep appreciation at the top of the agenda. 

Mostly B
You both understand how important it is to say ‘thank you’ to one another often, but when you’re busy rushing around it can sometimes be left unsaid. Fundamentally, you know there is a mutual appreciation there, but perhaps it would be nice to work on ways to put it out in the open more often. Don’t panic, we’re sharing plenty of easy ways to get into the habit of appreciation later in this article. 

Mostly C
You know you appreciate your partner and you do try to make that clear, but you’re never quite sure if they hear you. And as for whether they appreciate you, too? Well, you’re pretty sure they do, but sometimes it can feel like a lot of what you do goes unnoticed. Maybe it’s time to have a conversation, explain how you’re feeling, and inject some more mindful appreciation into your relationship. Read on to find out how.

Mostly D
Appreciation? What’s that? You don’t remember the last time either you or your partner truly made the other one feel appreciated. Now is the time to make a few small changes. Read on for more about creating habits around appreciation and building rituals to deepen the connections between you and your partner. Why not try out a few ideas and share the ones that resonate with you? 

If you know that showing (and receiving) appreciation is an area that needs work in your relationship, no matter your result above you’ll find life-changing tips, tools, techniques, and practical advice on the Blueheart app.

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Illustration by Marta Pucci

Why doesn’t appreciation always come easy?

You’d think it was easy, wouldn’t you? We do lots of kind things for our partner throughout each day and, while we don’t do it for rewards, it would at least be nice to feel that our efforts are seen and acknowledged. Obviously, a small gift now and then is a lovely way for them to show their appreciation, but even a big smile, a hug or a kiss would help us to feel more appreciated. 

So it’s not that you don’t appreciate one another or notice the things you do for each other. Perhaps you just don’t notice the things you do for one another all the time. Those everyday tasks. The going out to work 10 hours a day, the bathroom cleaning, the juggle of after-school activities for numerous children. The things you do come rain or shine, week in week out. How often do you remember to thank each other for those?

The thing is, life is busy, we’re rushing around and fighting fires. We have a tendency to mentally divide things up and then expect one another to get on with it. And it’s quite natural that when we’ve been together so long that things become ‘the norm’, we no longer think about the thanks.

In truth, we start taking things for granted without even realizing it. And we rarely, if ever, think about expressing our appreciation outside of special occasions that remind us to, such as on an anniversary.

Does appreciation really matter?

We can’t overstate the fact: appreciation is key in all healthy relationships. There are so many ways we can show appreciation and gratitude to our partners and they're all in the Blueheart app, but below are some quick tips.

Saying “thank you”, and meaning it, shows others that they matter to you. It makes them feel that they are doing the right thing. And it really does deepen the emotional connection between people.

Giving your partner a hug shows that you feel close to them and that you care for them. The physical touch helps to strengthen your emotional bond, too. 

Buying flowers or a small gift for your other half is another way of expressing your appreciation. It tells your partner that you have made an effort to thank them for making an effort for you. And it shows them that you have gone out and looked for something that you think will make them feel special. 

Feeling valued is important in a relationship. Not only is it upsetting to feel that someone we love doesn’t notice the things we do, it can actually make us begin to doubt ourselves. Are we doing things right? Are we doing well? We have an innate need to succeed. And without feedback, how can we know whether we’re doing well?

It shouldn't be a surprise then, that if we begin to feel neglected or undervalued, it can lead to doubts about the relationship it can often result in petty arguments or disagreements.

But learning and concentrating more on appreciation is not only about each individual instance where we remember to say ‘thank you’. Appreciation is cumulative and contagious. When we are more mindful of appreciation, we naturally develop more awareness about what others are thinking and how they are feeling. And we create positive energy that stays not only with us, but also with the person we are showing gratitude to.

How to start practicing appreciation

It doesn’t matter how big or small your thank yous are, but there are a few things that do matter. Firstly, you have to mean it. There is no point in thanking someone for something if you are not being sincere. Your partner will pick up on it.

It’s important to begin noticing the little things your partner does for you and say “thank you” in a timely way. By that, we mean at the time the thing happens or soon afterward. There is no need to make elaborate gestures each time, of bouquets of flowers, massage vouchers and the like. We’re sure they would be well received, but actually genuine heartfelt words can be even better received and will likely have a greater impact than actions.

Getting to know your partner and learning how they would most like you to show them your appreciation is a great way to get some ideas. For some people, silent actions such as a hug, or a look that says “thank you, I appreciate you, I love you”. Can be just perfect. While for others, a more obvious show of gratitude or a gift will make them truly feel loved and appreciated.

You might even decide you’re better with the written word. How many times were you forced to write ‘thank you’ letters to relatives as a child? A really valuable way to express your gratitude is to do so on paper. Even if you decide not to share the finished article, it might be that you think of new things to appreciate your partner for. And it could be that you start to notice things even more once you set your mind to it.

Can rituals help to increase appreciation?

Adding some rituals into your relationship can help to make the more mundane parts of your day seem much more exciting. Rituals can help to make us more mindful of what’s going on so that we’re fully engaged in it. And yes, they really can help us to appreciate things more.|

Look closely and you probably already have some rituals in place in your own life. Do you like to make your coffee in a certain mug in the morning? When you watch your favorite sports team, do you always need to wear the same lucky t-shirt and drink out of the same lucky mug? Do you light an advent candle every day throughout December? Or do you have a skincare routine that gets you ready for the day?

Rituals can be soothing. They are designed to be symbolic or celebratory or to simply get you ready for action as you mindfully go through a step-by-step process.

Did you know that adding in some rituals for you and your partner to share can be a lovely way to build emotional intimacy with a romantic partner. Do it right and you’ll find they can help you build appreciation for one another, too.

For instance, instead of saving a meal out just for your anniversary, you could add the ritual of a dinner date every month where you say three things you're thankful for before the starters arrive. Or how about, instead of sending a text to your partner to tell them you love them, why not buy them a card sometimes and write a thoughtful message inside? Another suggestion is to always remember to kiss each other goodnight, so that you go to sleep knowing you are loved and appreciated.

How to build a habit out of appreciation

Whereas rituals are thought through and designed, habits develop without us realizing. When we’ve done things a few times – brushing our teeth, driving to the office, pouring a glass of wine while we’re cooking dinner or plonking ourselves on the sofa in front of Netflix each night – our brain switches into an automatic mode and we don’t even think about it. As we know, not all habits are good habits. And that autopilot means we may not even remember doing it afterwards. Ever got to work and realized you cannot remember turning your hair straightener off?

On the contrary, rituals are performed with purpose. We don’t do them solely to fulfill an action, like we do with a habit. We carry out a ritual because the process of it leads us to feel stronger or better or ready for something, or more connected to others.

Actors, public speakers and sportspeople often have symbolic rituals they perform before they set foot on stage or in the stadium. The process of carrying out the ritual is almost always as important as the endpoint itself and many rituals carry with them deep meaning for those who perform them.

That being said, they don't have to be long and complex to undertake. Simple is good, too.

What are shared rituals?

When we talk about shared rituals it’s easy to think of cultural, spiritual or religious rituals. The 13 folds of the star-spangled banner, the pomp and circumstance behind the changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace, or even the act of sitting down with the family to eat turkey on Thanksgiving.

Shared rituals build connection and bring people together. But they don’t have to be anywhere near as grand as those mentioned above.

In our own committed relationship, we can create simple rituals that are just for us. Special things that only we do. And they can be as ridiculous or serious as you like. No screens Taco Tuesday, for example. Running a bath to share each Friday evening, complete with specially selected bubbles and a glass of something cold. One final, special birthday gift given in private each year. Or sticking on your rain boots when the trees turn in the fall, so you can go out kicking the leaves together.

Rituals can be very simple. In fact, one study published in 2019 (1) found that it’s not about the specific rituals that couples perform, instead it’s about a mutual recognition of the symbolic nature of a ritual as opposed to a shared routine or regular chore.

“Our results demonstrate that common psychological mechanisms, namely, increased commitment and positive emotions, underlie the effectiveness of rituals in enhancing relationship satisfaction.” They went on to conclude that, “couples that engage in relationship rituals are more satisfied because they experience more positive emotions and are more committed to their partners.” They go on to say, “Rituals may be a tool for maintaining long-term relationships.”

In summary, it doesn’t matter what rituals you choose to create, the benefit is found in you both considering them as such and finding them meaningful and fulfilling. These kinds of rituals of connection offer a way to deliberately prioritize your partner, sending signals that you love and appreciate them and want to build a deeper connection.  

Illustration by Marta Pucci

Love Languages

In the context of appreciation, the love languages conversation is an important one, too. 

Relationship experts believe that learning about our own and, more importantly, our partner's love language can be a great way to improve our romantic relationships and give us a deeper understanding of what makes our partners 'tick'.

Love languages can help to explain why sometimes we think we're doing a nice thing and it falls down while other times, the simplest little thing can make your partner happy.

What are love languages?

Love languages are the brainchild of author Gary Chapman. In his book The Five Love Languages: How to Express Heartfelt Commitment to Your Mate, he puts forward the theory that different people have different ways of receiving and expressing love in a genuine and heartfelt way.

Based on his own experience as a marriage counselor, he identified five distinct 'languages', those of quality time, words of affirmation, gift giving, acts of service and physical touch. Chapman suggested that by understanding how we perceive the love of our partner best, as well as how we naturally try to express our love, we can love them in the way they love to be loved.

Interestingly, you may find you like to receive love and appreciation in a different language to the one in which you best express your love for your partner. In this way, multiple different languages may resonate with you. Your love languages will also change over time, due to factors such as becoming parents, feeling grief or struggling with work pressures. 

If your partner’s love language is… Quality time

If your love language is quality time, you crave uninterrupted time with your partner. You build a deep and meaningful connection from leaving your phones in another room and simply spending time together. You likely enjoy plenty of eye contact, so you know your partner's attention is on you. 

If your partner’s love language is… Words of affirmation

Some people hear their partner's love best when it is spoken. You like words of appreciation and gratitude. You like to be told, directly, that you've done well and that your partner loves you and cares deeply about you. Perhaps other signals are too subtle and only the words "I love you and care about you, thank you for everything you do" will leave you feeling truly valued and appreciated. 

If your partner’s love language is… Gifts

Gift-giving is your love language if you feel your partner's love best when they come home with a present that says "I missed you today", or "I saw this and thought of you." To these people, it's a symbol that they've been thinking about you while you were gone, and that means the world. 

Of course, the gifts don't need to be huge or expensive to be well received. A wildflower in your favorite color, plucked from a meadow on the way home or a silly fridge magnet that makes you both smile. This really is one time where the thought, or rather the thoughtfulness, counts more than the gift itself. 

If your partner’s love language is… Acts of service

Acts of service can be small or they can be large. It might be simply making your partner a cup of coffee and taking it into them while they're hard at work. It might be taking their shirts to the dry cleaners, or it might be putting the hot water bottle down into the bed for them a little while before bedtime.

If you like to show your love through acts of service, there's no limit to the number of little things you can find to do for your partner. And if you receive love best in that way, you'll truly appreciate it every time your partner goes out of their way to do something for you.

If your partner’s love language is… Physical touch

The fifth love language is physical touch. For some people in romantic relationships, only physical contact will do. They like to hug and kiss at every opportunity and sit wrapped around their partner on the sofa. Without touch and physical intimacy, they may feel they're losing their connection to their partner. 

Using love languages to improve your long-term relationship

Understanding love languages and putting the theory into practice in your relationship can take time and effort. But when you find you are more clearly able to express your love and appreciation to your partner, and they truly hear it, it can be game-changing. 

So how can you begin? If one of the brief descriptions above resonates with you and your partner, that's great. You already have a better understanding of each other. But if you don’t yet feel this is working, don't give up. Watch your partner's behavior and become more mindful of your own as a result. You may need to ask your partner to consider this as well, and we talk about this more in the Blueheart app. 

How does your partner express love to you? Do they touch you often or do little things to make you happy? Or do they simply tell you how they feel? And when you notice these things, how do they make you feel? Which makes you feel more loved? And which leaves you nonplussed?

Trying out different ways is also nice, as we can all experiment with different things. Feeling regimented about our love languages can lead us to miss out on a whole host of relationship goodness.  

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The difficulties of speaking your partner's love language

Of course, knowing your partner's love language and learning to speak it are two different things. Perhaps your partner needs words to tell her how much you love her, but you get stage fright as soon as you even think about declaring your feelings out loud. Or perhaps you like your partner to show love through physical touch, but they are not one for public displays of affection. 

You see, when you begin to explore which love languages resonate with you the most, you're quite likely to find that you are not on exactly the same page. That is not necessarily a problem but may require a little creative thinking. 

In the first example above, your words don't necessarily have to be spoken out loud. They might be whispered, sent via voice text or even written down on a postcard. Start with simple phrases. "Thank you", "I'm so glad you're here", "I love you", and go from there.

And in the second example, agree with your partner what they find acceptable, holding hands perhaps or rubbing legs under the table, for instance. Show respect to their feelings and talk to them about the reasons they feel unsure and what you could do to help them work through that. 

It's not necessarily easy to identify the love languages we speak and receive, but even sharing information and discussing the idea with your partner can be a great way to gain a deeper understanding of one another's needs.

In fact, if this is something you feel makes sense to you and you're interested in pursuing, why not download the Blueheart app to help you work things out and connect better through shared love languages?

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1.  Ximena, G., Sezer, O. and Norton, M.I, 2019. 'Rituals and Nuptials: The Emotional and Relational Consequences of Relationship Rituals.' Journal of the Association for Consumer Research , vol. 4, no. 2, pp.185–197.