I often recommend Dr. John Gottman's most famous book, Seven Principles of Making Marriage Work, to any of my clients interested in improving their relationship, married or not. In today's blog post, I discuss the key ingredients in creating fondness and admiration, Gottman's second principle for happy, healthy relationships.
Building Feelings of Fondness and Admiration for Your Partner
Any good relationship can turn sour. The person you fell in love with can become the person you can't stand anymore. Turning the tides of negativity may be difficult, but it isn't impossible. And even if the atmosphere of your relationship remains positive, it always stands at risk if you don't work hard to maintain "that loving feeling".
So how do you do it? You have to be intentional. Work to recall what made you fall in love with them. Dig to unearth the positive emotions you once had for them. Build "fondness" and "admiration". Remind yourself of the things you like about your partner. Look for what you like about your partner. Focus on that--not what you don't like about them.
When a couple starts to lose the "fondness" and "admiration" for each other, it's like a cancer has started forming. This is when "contempt" has entered the relationship. Thankfully, rebuilding fondness and admiration again is perfect antidote for contempt.
Liking your partner is a wonderful buffer against stress. Knowing you're going home to someone you like can feel like an safe harbor from any storm. But developing a fundamentally positive view of each other takes work.
If your current situation seems caught in a negativity spiral, the therapist may want to look to the past for positive times/basis. Fondness and admiration prevents the ‘four horsemen’. Without Fondness and admiration, the relationship has little if any basis. Increasing discussions (acknowledging and open discussion) of the positives of the partner will help the fondness and admiration.
The first step to take towards improving the fondness and admiration in your relationship is to know where your relationship stands in this critical area. The following questionnaire is a self-assessment you can take in order to determine the current state of fondness and admiration in your relationship.
Fondness and Admiration Questionnaire
Answer the following true false questions:
1. I can easily list the three things I most admire about my partner. T or F
2. When we are apart, I often think fondly of my partner. T or F
3. I will often find some way to tell my partner “I love you.” T or F
4. I often touch or kiss my partner affectionately. T or F
5. My partner really respects me. T or F
6. I feel loved and cared for in this relationship T or F
7. I feel accepted and like by my partner. T or F
8. My partner finds me sexy and attractive. T or F
9. My partner turns me on sexually. T or F
10. There is a fire and passion in this relationship. T or F
11. Romance is definitely still a part of our relationship. T or F
12. I am really proud of my partner. T or F
13. My partner really enjoys my achievements and accomplishments. T or F
14. I can easily tell you why I want to marry my partner. T or F
15. If I had it all to do over again, I would. T or F
16. We rarely part from each other without showing some sign of love and affection. T or F
17. When I come into a room, my partner is glad to see me. T or F
18. My partner appreciates the things I do in this relationship. T or F
19. My spouse generally likes my personality. T or F
20. Our life is generally satisfying. T or F
Scoring: 10 and above is good while 10 and below shows room for improvements.
Three Simple Exercises To Improve "Fondness & Admiration" In Your Relationship:
1. I Appreciate…
List things that you appreciates about your partner.
For each item, be specific about a specific example when you recall your partner showing this positive quality. Then share this list with your partner.
2. The History and Philosophy of Your Relationship
Take some time to remember the positive history in your relationship. Then share this with your partner.
Recall the loving feelings, and all the things that brought you together as a couple. Then share this with your partner.
3. Intentional, Daily Thoughts and Actions
For at least a month, schedule to rehearse having positive thoughts daily about your partner, whether you share them aloud or not. Take notice when they do something or say something you like or appreciate.
For at least a month, schedule to rehearse daily tasks which make you feel positively towards your partner. For example, hug your partner every time you reunite at the end of the day. Make them coffee. Tell them one thing you love about them. The options are limitless.
Too cheesy? Well, too bad. That’s what I tell my clients. You can do what science has proven works, or you can keep clinging to your own discomfort with something that seems “too cheesy”. Put your pride aside, and invest in your relationship!