Recently I posted a piece titled “Appreciation.” I almost didn’t write it because I thought it might be trite—so obvious that readers would be bored. Well, I’m glad I did write it because it brought more enthusiastic response than any other piece posted this past year.
“Appreciation” focused on something simple and fundamental—direct expression of appreciation to your partner for the things they do that you genuinely appreciate. Like all fundamentals, when practiced consistently it brings good results. This is true in music and sports, as well: the great opera singers and baseball hitters all have coaches whose job it is to keep them focused on the fundamentals, not the fancy stuff.
Couples in counseling often believe that they must solve deep problems if they want to successfully save their marriage. Although deep problems may be there, the basics provide a path to solving them. You can’t argue your way to success or cajole the other to change their behavior, and if you wait for the other person to change spontaneously as a demonstration of love or test them to prove their love, . . . well, dream on. Those tactics just don’t work.
Focusing on the basics, however, is a clear, concrete, and doable means for most of us if we are willing to try, and when we do try, our partner experiences our intentions and effort, which does change the emotional climate. This genuine effort in and of itself makes a big difference.
What are the basics? There is no comprehensive list and I’m reluctant to offer one for fear of creating a misleading formula. Essentially the basics are less a how-to than about intentions, effort, and common sense practiced consistently. I’ve reviewed the past year’s posts at “Thinking Out Loud,” to focus on some of the basics I think are important. Here’s a summary:
Appreciation: Expressing gratitude for the day-to-day things your partner does for you and others. Click here to read this post.
The Five Percent Rule: Although you know a great deal about your spouse, you will never know everything. Stay open-minded and interested in learning and understanding more. Click here to read this post.
I’m Right, You’re Wrong: It’s so easy to get caught up in proving how right you are and how wrong your partner is. This is never a good formula. Click here to read this post.
We’re All from Mercury: Beware of conventional beliefs about how men and women communicate differently, which inadvertently causes stereotyping. Click here to read this post.
Misunderstanding: Be realistic about what it takes to have successful communication. True understanding doesn’t come through one conversation. Click here to read this post.
I Stopped Talking and Started Listening: When you think you’ve listened enough, keep listening and asking questions meant to further your understanding. Click here to read this post.
I’m planning a series of posts later this fall focusing on the basics. If you have thoughts, ideas or suggestions, please write and let me know.