Week 5: Cultivation Appreciation

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We often create rituals around things that are important to us. For example, rituals could be around your health or finances, but have you ever thought about making a ritual around appreciation? This week, listen to what Cathryn and Rachel have to say about how creating rituals around appreciation will compound in your relationship over time.

Below, share one thing that you appreciate about your partner this week.


Cathryn (00:01):

As you spend more time with your partner, there's a tendency to start to see the negative in things. And the biggest thing that you can do is to combat this by having gratitude and appreciation. Both gratitude and appreciation can help shape your mindset to see the good in things, instead of always seeing the bad. So in this week's exercise, we'll be working on cultivating a habit of being grateful and appreciating the little things about our partner. So let's jump into why that is so important and why it could completely change your relationship.

New Speaker (00:38):

Alright, this week is all about cultivating appreciation. This is making a ritual and a habit of every day, putting a deposit into your partner's love tank so that things will just be better. Your week will go better and you'll be surprised how doing these small little things throughout the week will have you feeling much better about your relationship by the end. So, Rachel, super excited to talk about this today.

Rachel (01:04):

Same. In fact, at the end of every couples therapy session I do, one of the exercises is "What is something that you appreciated that your partner did or said today?" And that is how important appreciation is. It's like even within a smaller container, acknowledging it is massive.

Cathryn (01:21):

Yeah. And I think the more specific we can be, the better, so they can build up this manual of things that they can be doing. And actually that brings me to my first question, which: What difference does it make when we can be specific about what we appreciate about our partner?

Rachel (01:38):

The more specific we can be, the more likely it is that they will understand what they did that helped us feel that way, and then they can do it again. If we just say "It was so nice that you took care of food", that could mean a lot of different things. But if we were to say, "I really appreciated that you made me the turkey sandwich on Wednesday" and explain why or share why, then our partner not only understands the exact thing that we appreciate, but what it did for us and why we appreciate that so much. Right? We talked about this at the very beginning, our "why" drives us. And if we don't know why we're doing something, we don't want to do it. So if we know, "Oh, my partner is going to love this", it's exciting to do. And so the more specific, the more excited the other person can get about meeting that need or that deposit.

Cathryn (02:43):

And I think when you explain your 'why', you're also sharing, why something made you feel that way, that they could apply to other things that you haven't asked for. So they made you a turkey sandwich and you needed that because, "Oh, I was in calls all day and I was stressed and I didn't know when I was going to get lunch and you making me that, took a lot of stress off and I didn't have to think about it." And if they know that they're like, "Well, this day looks kinda like that day, maybe this would be helpful." And so it's kind of like a training system where you're just sort of explaining the methodology behind why you think a certain way, so that they can apply it to different things that would also make you feel appreciative.

Rachel (03:27):

Exactly. And then it feels so yummy when you hear your partner say like, "Hey, I noticed tomorrow you have 10 meetings. Would it be helpful for me to make lunch?" And you're like, "What?!" It's only after the very specific feedback that someone can do that. Right? That goes back to the mind reading thing. We think that they'll be able to do that without specific feedback, but nobody can.

Cathryn (03:56):


Rachel (03:57):

Like, it's impossible.

Cathryn (04:00):

So how do we make a habit out of doing these appreciation rituals and what have you seen with your clients or your experience to be the benefit of doing this?

Rachel (04:10):

So the benefit of any ritual, when in a relationship, is that it's reliable to fill up your cups or to make a deposit in your emotional bank account. So a ritual in a relationship needs to be reliable and consistent. And making it a daily thing, whether you set a reminder in your phone, or you sit down with your partner at the end or beginning of each day and ask them like, "How will you feel appreciated today? How can I help you feel appreciated today?" And at the beginning, there may be a lot of questions and back and forth and adjustments and "Hey, this was great. This part wasn't." And eventually you get to a point where you can show them appreciation and it happens all the time without you having to think about it. But at the beginning, creating a ritual, so maybe when you both come home at the end of the day, before you lay in bed, you share something, right? Like creating some sort of reminder to express that appreciation and to show them the appreciation is incredibly important at the beginning while the muscle memory's not there.

Cathryn (05:31):

Yeah. I think maybe bookending it with something you're already doing, like brushing your teeth and then going to bed, maybe it's that time when you can start the conversation or maybe it's over coffee in the morning. But you know, it's this idea of habit stacking. It was something that you're already doing rather than just trying to sort of put it in the middle of the day when you're not doing anything around it.

Rachel (05:54):

Totally. And where I have seen most of my clients struggle when implementing this, is just figuring out what, this is really interesting, what ways they receive appreciation. So appreciation feels different than love, and it feels different than sexual love. And it feels different than a lot of other types of attention we may get from our partners. And it's a very specific thing and so I really wanna encourage you to think about what being appreciated means to you and what do you want to be appreciated for. And how does that translate in your relationship and sharing that with your partner and understanding that from your partner as well,

Cathryn (06:41):

Have you seen any fun ways that, you know, in your experience with couples, fun ways that they've added this sort of ritual to their life?

Rachel (06:51):

Yes. So lots of different fun ways. I had a couple once, that each week they wanted to try something new in their relationship. So it was a new sex toy and a new way of appreciating each other every week. And they paired those two together because the sex toy piece had to be so intentional that we knew as we came up together, that they would not forget the other thing if it was associated with like, you're purchasing a new toy or trying a new toy.

Cathryn (07:27):


Rachel (07:27):

So we paired those together and what ended up happening is their sexual relationship actually increased significantly because we started associating in the brain, appreciation with sex, which was a total unintentional, win for all of us. But that was a really fun way. Another fun thing is like, you know, if you have a favorite TV show that you like to watch with your partner, do it in the middle of that show. Do it at the commercial break of that show where you're already in like a yummy, connected space, you're already doing something together and it's like taking up, you're making use of time that's already there.

Cathryn (08:12):

So I know that some people feel awkward giving affection or maybe expressing appreciation. What does it take to be able to express yourself freely in a relationship and how does this impact your closeness with your partner?

Rachel (08:29):

Whew, that's a loaded one. You need six hours for that one.

Cathryn (08:34):

Alright. Cliff Notes.

Rachel (08:35):

Yeah, exactly. It really comes down to feeling emotionally safe. So in order to express yourself, you have to feel safe in that container, right? That's what feels scary about sharing our emotions, is that someone is going to shame us or ostracize us, make us feel wrong, out of the group. That's the scary feeling. And so if you're feeling awkward or uncomfortable expressing that affection or expressing appreciation, my question to you is what aspects need to be put in place inside of a container for you to feel safe to express yourself. So if that means that there are no phones, that means there are no phones. If that means that when you're talking about your feelings, it's not during TV time and it's unrelated to sex. Great, do that. It's about looking inward and asking yourself, "How can I feel safest to express myself?" and then communicating that to your partner, to set up that type of environment for you.

Cathryn (09:53):

Now, how do you express appreciation if you're in a mood with each other or, you know, you know that you have to do it every day, like in the exercise it's like, appreciate something every day, but you just got into an argument over something small, and now you're not in any mood to appreciate.

Rachel (10:15):

So this is where one of my favorite concepts comes in and that's the concept of 'and'. We often go to this binary of 'or' like, we're either good or bad or things are, you know, I'm frustrated with my partner or I'm not frustrated with my partner. You can be frustrated, let down, disappointed "and" appreciate that they picked up the laundry. You can be angry that they spoke to you in the tone that they told you that they're working on not speaking to you in "and" appreciate that they made the bed when you left. Finding that "and" and letting those co-exist, allow us to be human. Because we are walking around as giant "ands". Most of us are not "ors". We live in the gray, everything is messy, but we want to put things in the binary. So it's actually wonderful to be able to find, what do you appreciate about your partner from today, even though you got into a 20-minute fight.

Cathryn (11:24):


Rachel (11:24):

What else do you appreciate? Because those 20 minutes, that hour or whatever, that doesn't dictate the rest of time and we don't want it to negate other things. Like, if Kyle cleaned the whole house and then I let one thing get in the way of showing appreciation for that, that would suck for him. Instead, I could say, you know, "I so appreciate that you cleaned the whole house and in this moment I'm really hurting from our conversation."

Cathryn (12:05):

And I think also-

Rachel (12:07):

And both of those- Sorry.

Cathryn (12:09):

No, I was going to say, and I think the idea of remembering something you appreciate actually dissipates some of the annoyance that you feel about other things, because if you force yourself to think of, okay, let me think of, you know, not just one thing, several things that I appreciate, then the argument sort of, it's like, it's loud at the start and it lowers the volume a little bit because you're now not looking at this and/or, or you're not looking at this or "I'm like really bothered." You're thinking, "Oh, this was good. So maybe like, I need to relax a little bit."

Rachel (12:48):

Yes. Yes. The "and" will help usually around you. Cause acknowledging that both things can be going on at once is really freeing.

Cathryn (13:01):

Why is criticism so detrimental in relationships? And why is that we fall into this trap with our partner?

Rachel (13:12):

So criticism, I wanted first to say the type of criticism we're talking about. We're not talking about the type of criticism where it's, you know, "Hey, I would really like it if this were different" or "I know you're trying your best cleaning the dishes, but like you're kind of bad at doing dishes." That's not the type of criticism we're talking about. The type of criticism that is damaging, like, really damaging to relationships are criticisms about the person and using statements like "you are" and saying things like, you know, "You're lazy" or "You're a shitty partner." It's these statements directed at our partner in a mean way. "You're overdramatic, you're too sensitive", these are the criticisms we're talking about. And you can even like, I can see in your body language, Cathryn, just by me saying them, it's different than when I was saying the other things and I'm not even talking to you.

New Speaker (14:18):

We really, we tense up when we hear those types of statements and we cannot receive any more from our partners. If we're receiving criticism, our defenses come up because we're perceiving an attack, because we are being attacked. And we become defensive which is, based on research, just as detrimental for relationships as the criticism itself. So then you're each doing something that is tearing down your relationship and you're miserable. So if you have a criticism for your partner, ask yourself where it's coming from and try to phrase it as feedback with an ask. Right. You know, "Hey, I noticed that when we talk, your emotions take over and it's really hard to communicate with you. I'm wondering if that's something that you would like to work on." That's different than like "You can't manage your emotions."

Cathryn (15:25):


Rachel (15:27):

Right? So that's the type of criticism that we're talking about. And that's why it's so detrimental is that, you know, we don't speak that way to our people we love. It's mean, it's mean, it's not nice.

Cathryn (15:42):

And I think actually, that's specific. We're going to get to something in a later video around like, the light and the shadow of the same features but I think some of it falls into this idea of what we're initially attracted to versus then what annoys us. And so I'm not going to spoil that for the next one, but I do believe that part of it comes from that idea. Now, the last question I want to get into is, why in a relationship, do we feel that we have the right to be critical with each other?

Rachel (16:17):

We think that we're giving our partner feedback to be a better partner. And we become really comfortable the longer we're around them. So it starts to be this awful combination of them becoming our family in the way that we would talk to our sibling when we're fighting, and trying to give feedback through this, like, resentment lens.

Cathryn (16:46):


Rachel (16:47):

It doesn't... It... No.

Cathryn (16:49):

Well, there's that saying, "You hurt the ones you love." Like, the ones that are closest to you, deal with the most because you're so comfortable with them that you feel that you can be that way. And oftentimes I've heard, you know, if you work very critical of yourself and you will often be more critical of others also because you talk to yourself with the same critical voice. And so if you talk to yourself like that, why wouldn't you talk to the person you love like that? Because you're treating yourself as horribly as you're treating other people.

Rachel (17:19):

Totally. And I think it's important to note here that there's been a lot of research done on what types of communication motivates behavior change. Like, a lot of research. And none of it supports that criticism or punishment or negative reinforcement does anything. In fact, it's the opposite. It defeats people. Our mindsets get completely pushed down and we feel defeated and we don't want to try anymore. Instead of being met with, "I know you're trying really hard, this missed the mark. And as your partner, I want to tell you that because I want to hit the mark with you." Like, so different than "You're overdramatic."

Cathryn (18:07):

Oh, so much to learn. But if you have watched to the end of this video, I hope that you walk away and you start creating those rituals around cultivating appreciation. Because even though it might seem small in the moment, it will compound over time and make a huge impact on your relationship and how you speak to each other.

New Speaker (18:27):

As we get ready to jump into Week 5 of your Relationship Journals, take a moment to tell each other right now, how much you appreciate that you've committed to working on your relationship for 13 weeks. And for bonus points, add in why you're appreciative of them for something that they did this week. So many relationships sink, and the fact that you're both here and you're willing to do the work and dedicate time, should be appreciated. And it's so important that just that commitment is appreciated and noticed by you and your partner. Alright, we'll see you next week.