How often do you feel your partner truly appreciates you and really sees everything you do for them? And how often do you remember to say ‘thank you’ for all the little things?
It’s important to make sure our partner realizes how special they are to us. And it’s important that we feel valued in what we do. So let’s talk appreciation – how can we give and receive it? And, importantly, how can we make sure it’s felt?
When you’ve been in a romantic relationship with someone for a while, it can be easy to start taking one another for granted. All the good things you do every day start to become the norm and you get side-tracked with fighting the fires of everyday life. Before you know it, you can’t remember the last time you said 'thank you' to your partner and really meant it.
The importance of appreciation in a relationship really can’t be overstated.
As human beings, we have an innate need to do good and to add value. And in order to feel this is the case, we need people to tell us they notice what we’re doing. This is as true in the boardroom as it is in our private lives.
Feeling appreciated helps us to feel fulfilled, it boosts self-esteem, and it gives us the confidence to believe in ourselves. Not only that, it also makes us feel happy and gives us a much-needed mental health boost. But it’s not just the receiver of the appreciation that benefits, there are also many positives to be found in showing appreciation.
Offering whole-hearted appreciation to someone helps develop trust and improves your relationship with that person. If you show appreciation to your partner, they begin to believe that you really care about them. Because you are taking notice of the little things and really seeing what they’re doing and the value you’re bringing to the home and to the family.
And even better, a culture of appreciation in a relationship can bring about a genuine mindset shift. When we start looking for and seeing all the good things, it brings about a more positive outlook on life. And that means we notice more things to appreciate. Appreciation is cumulative and contagious. And the positivity spreads, improving relationship satisfaction overall.
The question of what makes us feel appreciated is actually a different one to answer. It varies from person to person. For some people, a hug and some kind words will do you fine. For others, a more public show of gratitude might make them truly feel special.
Whether it’s a thoughtful gift, a little treat, a handwritten card or a kiss, what pleases your partner the most will depend on how they recognize appreciation. How do they really hear that they’ve done a good job?
And the best way to work that out is to observe their behaviors, and to think about past situations, both at home or at work. And to explore the idea of primary love languages.
The idea of love languages was coined by author Gary Chapman in his book The Five Love Languages: How to Express Heartfelt Commitment to Your Mate. In it, he suggests 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', suggesting 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 better express our love for one another and it be felt.
Briefly, the five languages of love are:
Quality time – prioritizing uninterrupted time with your partner. Phones out of sight, eye gazing mandatory. Show your partner they’re the most important thing.
Words of affirmation – be direct, be honest and find ways to say, “I love you and I appreciate you”. Your partner wants to hear it out loud.
Giving gifts – they don’t have to be expensive, just thoughtful. Something that says, “I saw this and thought of you.”
Acts of service – perhaps they notice the little things. The cup of tea taken to them in the home office, cooking to give them a break. Tell your partner you appreciate them by going out of your way for them.
Physical touch – if touch is your partner’s primary language, they’ll feel appreciation from a hug or physical closeness.
You’ll find more about love languages in our article Love languages – do you know yours?
Think about your current relationship, what makes your partner tick? If you notice that they beam with happiness when you give them a cuddle to say 'well done' on a great job getting the kids to bed, perhaps that means physical touch is the way to get your message across. But if when you offer heartfelt words of appreciation, they clam up and appear embarrassed, that could be a clue that this isn’t how they like to receive the message.
Come up with some ideas to test out the languages above and see how your partner responds. Leave little ‘thank you’s on sticky notes on their laptop bag, take something off their workload that you know is stressing them, or designate a week as ‘appreciation week’ and try to actively notice all the things you’re thankful for.
See what inspires your partner to want to do the same thing. Observe which ideas help you both to feel more connected with one another and which don't work so well.
If all else fails, just ask your partner. Tell them you want them to know how much you appreciate everything they do for you, and say you’ve been trying to show them but you’re not sure if they’ve seen. Listen to what they say. Which of your ideas do they mention, which ones helped them to feel good about themselves and which didn’t resonate at all?
You know those days, or weeks, when you feel like the weight of the world is on your shoulders: the kids are sick, the dog is behaving badly, your partner disappears out to work every day and you’re left trying to keep the whole thing afloat. And do they notice how hard it is or how tired you are when they get home?
If we start to feel like we’re being taken for granted, or we’re trying our best but no one seems to care, it can be a really disheartening place to be. We might feel neglected, undervalued or even start to doubt our relationship. After all, how can they not care that you’re struggling?
The fact is, most likely, they do care, they just haven’t noticed. So the best thing to do is be honest. Mention that things have been tough, that you don’t necessarily feel they have seen you and that you’re struggling a little. And then wait for their reaction. You’ll probably find it’s exactly what you need to hear.
It might feel like a difficult conversation to start, but we’ve got plenty of help and advice on the Blueheart app.