When you’re in a relationship, it’s easy to get in the habit of focusing on the negative. We all have expectations for our life and relationship and when we feel like those expectations aren’t being met we can begin to fixate on them. We may start to nag our partner, complain that they aren’t doing enough for us, criticize them for not carrying their weight around the house, and eventually end up in a cycle where our disappointments create distance and dissatisfaction in the relationship.

When working with couples in my private practice, I often find that an important task in getting a relationship back on track involves creating a culture of appreciation. Too often I see well intentioned couples caught in the negativity dance. With busy lives and many “balls in the air”, spouses can get in the habit of talking only about the balls that get dropped, missed, or not taken care of well enough.

As important as it is to give feedback and learn from our mistakes, it is also important to praise, acknowledge, and reinforce the good. On any given day, it is likely that both you and your partner are putting forth efforts that will benefit your marriage and life together. From small actions like taking out the trash to larger to more global behaviors like working hard to ensure a sense of security at home, it’s important that the good is seen and acknowledged.

So, your challenge for the next week and moving forward in your life together, is to create a culture of appreciation. Start by shifting your focus at home and instead of pointing out everything that isn’t happening or the little things that aren’t being done “right”, praise, reinforce, appreciate, and acknowledge everything that is happening.

If this feels challenging, it’s ok to start small. Catch the little behaviors your partner does (empties the dishwasher, acts loving towards the kids, takes in the dry cleaning, pays the bills, etc). As this becomes more comfortable it will be easier to identify everything that you truly appreciate and value in your partner.

TIP: A good way to ensure that you acknowledge your partner every day is to leave them a little note on their bedside table before bed. If you start making this a daily habit, you will be forced to identify one positive behavior your partner did that day and express it to them. Not only will this shift how you feel about your relationship before you go to bed and in the long run, but it will make your spouse feel loved, seen, and appreciated. What could be better??