The Road to Happy Destiny: Living in Appreciation
Research shows that happy couples view each other through a glass half-full.
Posted Mar 10, 2019
“The deepest principle in human nature is the craving to be appreciated.” —William James
Research shows that healthy partners consider each other through a glass-half-full perspective rather than a half-empty one. In other words, they tend to appreciate each other’s positive qualities rather than their negatives. Everyone has issues: there is no perfect person. In the practice of appreciation, the partner’s flaws are not the focus. Instead of grimacing about her husband’s workaholic ways and being grumpy about his paunch, a happy wife sees a man who is providing beautifully— in other words, a winner. Instead of zoning in on his wife’s moodiness and complaining about her not wanting enough sex, a happy husband sees a warm, funny minx that lights up his life.
Happy couples give their partners the benefit of the doubt when they do something that is disappointing or hurtful. Instead of mean-spirited criticism, rejection, or attack, they often see good or simply uninformed intentions underlying what their partners do or say. In unhappy couples, the partners can never win. Even when one spouse tries to be nice, he or she is greeted with paranoia; the other spouse is suspicious about underlying intentions and thinks that the loving act is simply a setup to be disappointed and hurt once again. This makes it hard and, in the end, almost impossible to simply take in a gesture of love. There are few such barriers for healthy couples.
Research also clearly shows that gratitude is the royal road to happiness. Studies have shown that healthy couples practice appreciation, which leads to gratefulness. Because they’re focused on blessings, they enjoy their lives together much more than those who focus on what’s wrong.
When you are busy counting your misfortunes, it is next to impossible to make yourself or your partner happy.
But You Need to Be Appreciated
I know, I know, YOU need to be appreciated, cherished, and loved up. You may be dealing with a partner who is clueless, mean, distant, or perhaps even acting like an a-hole right now. I know that you may feel resentful, rejected, lonely, disappointed, abandoned, or emotionally abused. You are TOTALLY RIGHT in feeling upset. I have definitely been there many times myself. So when you go in to find something to appreciate about your partner, it may be very difficult to see anything that is positive right now. I get it.
So what to do with the upset?
Here’s what: For your own sake I want you to set it aside for just a few minutes each day for this week. Let your resentment and upset go for a moment. Do this as a gift to yourself first and foremost. I want you to do a simple journaling exercise that just might put you on the road to happy destiny.
Being self-righteous and angry is like pouring poison into your brain—you are the one who is suffering. Not your partner. So take a break from “being right” so that YOU can be happy. Just a few times a day.
Four Questions to Consider in Your Journal
Take a look at the definition of “appreciation.” Most dictionaries give four different meanings. Here they are, with questions to ask yourself about your partner— in the spirit of real honesty. As you read this, write down your answers in a diary or journal.
1. Recognition of the quality, value, significance, or magnitude of people and things.
- Which of your partner’s qualities did you fall in love with?
- What value does he or she bring to your life?
- What is the magnitude of his or her wisdom or contribution to your well-being and happiness?
2. A judgment or opinion, especially a favorable one.
- If you were a perfectly loving parent to your partner, how would you judge him or her?
- How do your partner’s best friends perceive him or her?
3. Awareness or delicate perception, especially of aesthetic qualities or values.
- What is the most alluring or beautiful thing about your partner?
- What is the most delicate attractive quality in your partner?
- What is something you used to be crazy about in your partner that you take for granted now?
4. A rise in value or price, especially over time.
- How have things gotten better in your relationship? (Even if you feel like you might break up—there could be newfound appreciations.)
- How could your love and passion deepen and improve in the coming years?
- If your partner kept growing as a person, what would he or she be like in a year? Five years?
As you write down your answers, pay attention to the positives on your list. Can you imagine how great life with your partner would be in one year? Five years? If you kept growing in appreciation and gratitude for all the small and big things in your relationship, what would you be like in a year? Five years? Puts a smile on your face, yes? Keep looking at this list and writing down more answers until you feel a positive shift in your mood.
Putting our attention on our partner and our relationship is the first step in moving into a state of appreciation and gratitude. You cannot appreciate something unless you notice it. Giving attention to your partner and who she or he is and can become is the bedrock of love.
This post is excerpted in part from my newly revised and expanded book, Love in 90 Days.