A Journey of Fondness and Admiration
What distinguishes happy couples from unhappy ones? How do couples who are in a happy, successful relationship maintain their connection? During his decades of research, Dr. John Gottman found that successful relationships foster an atmosphere rich in positivity, a skill focused on in the second level of the Sound Relationship House.
Nurturing fondness and admiration encompasses partners' ability to recognize and express the things they appreciate about each other. Developing a mindset of fondness and admiration involves consciously focusing on your partner's positive contributions to the relationship rather than dwelling on their mistakes.
To build an atmosphere rich in positivity, intentionally look for what your partner is doing right and convey your fondness and appreciation for the aspects of their character, actions, or efforts that you observed.
Couples who nurture an atmosphere of fondness and admiration for each other are more likely to feel supported, understood, and loved. These couples also report higher levels of friendship and are better equipped to handle conflicts or challenges that come their way.
How to Nurture Fondness and Admiration
Appreciation and Gratitude
Show appreciation and gratitude for your partner by acknowledging and expressing thanks for both the big and small gestures they do that contribute to the relationship. Even if it is something that your partner is "supposed" to do, express gratitude for it. This serves as a powerful recognition and affirmation of their efforts and creates a supportive atmosphere in the relationship. And really, who doesn't like to be appreciated?
Focus on Strengths
For some people, it can be easy to fall into criticism, noticing and pointing out areas where other's are "missing it." This does little to build feelings of admiration and respect in a relationship and can create a sense of overall negativity and emotional distance.
Consider this simple example of focusing on perceived flaws or shortcomings. Suppose it's your night to clean the kitchen, but you have a work project to finish so you ask your spouse to take on the task. Afterward, you walk in, look around, and, in a disapproving tone, remark "Why didn't you wipe off the backsplash?" Do you think your spouse feels appreciated for their efforts?
Instead, recognize and celebrate your partner’s strengths and positive qualities. Replace dwelling on and pointing out flaws, with focusing on the aspects of your partner that you cherish and respect, and communicate that admiration to your partner. In the above scenario, this would look like, "It was really thoughtful of you to agree to take on the kitchen tonight. I really appreciated the extra time to get my work project finished."
Display affection, both physically and emotionally, to let your partner know that you love and care for them. Simple gestures like hugs, kisses, or holding hands can go a long way in promoting fondness and connection.
Verbally express your admiration for your partner. Compliment them on their achievements, personality traits, and the way they handle challenges. Let them know that you admire and look up to them. This can look like:
"You have such a fun sense of adventure. I love the little road trips you plan for us."
"I love your playfulness. You can always make me smile."
"I really appreciated how calm you stayed when the plans changed because I felt really anxious."
Relive Positive Shared Memories
Recall and share positive memories from your time together. When couples reminisce about positive shared experiences, they tap into the emotional connection formed during those moments. Revisiting these memories can recreate these positive emotions and strengthen bonds.
Nurturing fondness and admiration involves being intentional and maintaining ongoing effort. By consistently nurturing fondness and admiration, you can create a strong foundation of love, respect, and emotional connection in your relationship. This, in turn, can help you navigate conflicts and challenges more effectively, leading to a more fulfilling and satisfying relationship.