As a relationship progresses and life stresses build, it is easy to focus on what we feel we are lacking. This can include targeting what your partner did not do, or did not do to your liking. When we choose to focus on what our partner has not done or is doing wrong, we do not notice or affirm the positives that are also present.
In a 1975 study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, Birchler, Weiss, and Vincent found that unhappy couples did not reward the loving behaviors of their spouses. In contrast, happy couples reinforced loving behaviors by either approving, smiling, or providing positive physical contact. Further, distressed couples punished more by being quick to criticize, complain, interrupt or turn away from their partner. By not rewarding loving or positive behavior and overly punishing their partner, distressed couples created an unhappy relationship. Subsequent studies confirmed these findings. Follow these three tips that build upon these findings, to help build a positive relationship by rewarding your partner’s behaviors.
Show Appreciation or Gratitude
One of the most important things you can do for your partner and relationship is to show gratitude for their positive efforts. When your partner does something nice for you, however small you may think it is, make sure to share your gratitude. This will make your partner look forward to doing things for you because they will now know you appreciate it. They will also learn from your positive communication and be vocal when you show an act of kindness to them.
Praise Positive Behavior
If your partner does something for you that you like and you would like them to do it again in the future praising that behavior will make it more likely to happen again. For example, your partner takes out the trash during the week but forgets to take it out during the weekend. Inside of focusing on the negative of your partner forgetting to take the garbage on the weekend, try offering praise for doing it during the week, something like “thank you so much for taking out the garbage this week, when you take out the trash it really helps me and makes me feel cared for”. This type of positive reinforcement will increase the likelihood that the positive behavior will occur again in the future.
By punishing someone we are holding on to a grudge which prevents gratitude, communication, and affection. Punishment exacerbates disconnection and pushes you and your partner further apart. It is important to learn when and how to let your partner make amends for mistakes. Sometimes bigger mistakes may take more time, but it is important to focus on forgiveness. If you are finding that you or your partner are having trouble getting over a misunderstanding, argument or mistake, you may need professional help, including a couple’s therapist.
Rewarding a partner is important for not only relationship satisfaction, but also for partner validation. Partners behave in different ways to get each other’s attention. When a loving behavior is ignored it may cause resentment. When your partner is being nice or thoughtful, make sure you praise and thank them for their thoughtfulness. Something as simple as offering positive reinforcement or gratitude can go a long way in helping to create a happy and fulfilling relationship.
If you are having difficulty connecting to your partner and want to build healthier dynamics in your relationship, Contact Us at The Relationship Suite.
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