Today on The Gottman Relationship Blog, we would like to continue Wednesday’s discussion on Fondness and Admiration, which are two of the most crucial elements in a rewarding and long-lasting romance. Remember: The antidote to contempt lies in building a culture of fondness and admiration.

Although happy couples may feel driven to distraction at times by their partner’s personality flaws, they still feel that the person is worthy of honor and respect. Even though sharing fondness and admiration is crucial in a relationship, these positive sentiments often dwindle overtime through conflict, resentment, or simply the absentmindedness that can come as a result of life’s many distractions.

Sharing fondness and admiration in your relationship is not complicated, and can be done even if you think those positive feelings are buried too deep beneath recent conflicts. Positive thoughts invoke positive feelings, and the goal is to turn both into positive actions that help to heal and bring companionship back in your relationship.

Showing your appreciation for your partner can be done in little ways throughout the day. In our research, we found that the masters of relationships displayed a way of scanning their environment to find ways of appreciating their partner. When you take the time to notice what your partner does that makes your life easier, makes you smile, or reminds you of why you were attracted to them in the first place, let them know! People seek validation for the things they do, because we love for our actions to be accepted and appreciated. Filling your relationship with fondness and admiration also goes beyond appreciation – it involves using the things you know about your partner to show that you care and want them to be happy.

Using Love Maps to express fondness and admiration shows your partner that you not only make the effort to know things about their life, but that you also love and admire them. Showing affection and appreciation through the use of your Love Maps can take many different forms. Here are some examples to help you understand the concept:

1) Mary knows that her husband Phil has been working on a very demanding and stressful project at work. Because of this, he has been coming home late and has been more tired than usual. One night as they’re getting ready for bed, Mary takes Phil’s hand and tells him how proud of him she is and how much she appreciates his hard working-nature and everything he does to support their family. Phil visibly relaxes and tells her how nice it is to hear her say that – he had been afraid that she would be mad that he hadn’t been around the house enough and that he is glad that she understands that he is doing this for his loved ones.

2) Earl has a favorite mustard potato salad recipe passed down from his mom, but his wife Peggy grew up with her mom always making traditional mustard potato salad. So every time Earl makes potato salad, he makes a special bowl of potato salad just for Peggy. This simple act means much more to Peggy than potato salad should, because it shows her that he knows what she likes and cares enough to continue this tradition just for her.

3) Fred has always been very self-conscious about his body, but in the past few months he has worked out really hard and is close to his goal weight. His girlfriend Suzie knows that weight is something Fred has struggled with for years. She has always loved his body, but she gives special attention to letting him know that. When she hugs him she makes remarks on how strong his arms are getting, when he’s walking around she lets him see her long glances and tells him how attractive he is to her, and when she sees him on the scale she tells him that he gets handsomer everyday regardless of what he’s gained or lost. Suzie’s affectionate remarks reassure Fred, giving him the confidence that his own self-esteem is lacking, as well as letting him know that she loves him no matter what his body looks like.

4)  Emma has wanted to spend more time with her husband Matt, but in his free time he’s been golfing a lot with his friends, something that Emma doesn’t know how to do. So one afternoon when they are both free, she asks him to take her to the driving range and show her proper form. He’s surprised at first because she has never expressed an interest in golf, but when she tells him that she knows how good of a teacher he is and that has always been impressed by his talent and his commitment and love for game. He is delighted to know that she wants to be a part of something so important to him. This show of admiration and affection fills Matt with good feelings for Emma and makes him excited to teach her.

Showing that you care is a simple and important part of sustaining friendship and positive emotions in a relationship. Each of us seeks to be understood and loved, and it is essential to a relationship to receive affection and appreciation from our partners. 

Letting your partner really feel your fondness and admiration for them takes a certain measure of selflessness, as well as a conscious effort to become truly involved in your partner’s life and to understand their needs. When your partner is worried about a personal situation at work, letting them know how proud you are of them and how much you support them will have a deeper effect than telling them how good they look in their new outfit. To build support and trust between yourselves, keep in mind that the two of you are a team. Show your partner that you are on their side! Use what you know about your partner in order to let them truly understand how much you love and respect them.

Making plenty of deposits into your emotional bank account by expressing fondness and admiration for your partner this weekend! Have a great one.

PS: Don’t forget to enter the “Let’s Stay Together Giveaway” here by Sunday, May 19th. Win a copy of Dr. Gottman’s The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work, an autographed copy of What Makes Love Last?, and more!

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Ellie Lisitsa

Ellie Lisitsa is a staff writer at The Gottman Institute and a regular contributor to The Gottman Relationship Blog. Ellie is pursuing her B.A. in Psychology with an emphasis on Cognitive Dissonance at Reed College in Portland, Oregon.