Most humans are hardwired to scan for what isn’t right, what needs to be fixed, and what could be better. In fact, it’s part of our survival wiring to look for perceived “threats” to our physical and emotional well-being.
There are places in life where this could be handy (like if you work in quality control or are scanning something for safety hazards). However, in your relationship, it’s definitely something to train yourself out of.
And, fortunately, thanks to neuroplasticity and the power of choice and self-awareness, it’s something you can absolutely shift!
Otherwise, what ends up happening in relationships (when you scan for what’s wrong) is that you are more likely to get the opposite of what you’re really looking for. In fact, you end up training your beloved to not do the very thing you want.
Let us explain using the analogy of the beloved family dog.
If a dog did an amazing trick but didn’t get it exactly perfect, you’d still give them a treat and tell them “good job!” Wouldn’t you?! Your dog would probably be pretty confused if, after that cool trick, you yelled at them. In fact, it would probably train your dog not to do the trick at all!
Our mates are the same in this way. If your partner fixes dinner, and you then talk about how it wasn’t ________ enough, you are actually training them not to prepare food for you.
If your beloved spent time picking up the house before you got home, and you then walk in the door and point out the pile of clothes on the couch that didn’t get done, it’s probably not going to inspire them to go through all the effort they did go through.
Or if your sweetheart bought you a gift, sent you a note, helped your child with their homework, took you out on a date, and so on, and you jump right into what they could have done differently or better or didn’t get right, you just dramatically reduced your chances of whatever good was there to grow.
Instead, we encourage you to be passionately committed to appreciation. We love the research of Dr. John Gottman that suggests we say or do 20 POSITIVE things for every 1 negative. In our relationship, we are constantly appreciating each other and pointing out all the things each other did well. And you know what happens when we do that? We are inspired to do even MORE of it!
So if you have bought into the myth that we need to criticize our partner (or anyone) into change or if you think you shouldn’t have to appreciate someone for something they “should” be able to do without being appreciated for it, we think you will be pleasantly surprised by how much easier, more effective, fun, and bonding it is to appreciate each other freely, to become masters at scanning each other and your lives for everything that is wonderful. As you do, the amount of wonderfulness will just keep expanding, and everyone will be better for it.
Of course, there are moments to give each other compassionate feedback and make requests. We just find that couples do way too much of that and way too little of appreciating each other and everything we are doing well. Again, ideally, you want to only be giving constructive feedback 5% of the time and giving positive feedback 95% of the time.
In essence: be sure to positively reinforce the good (no matter how big, imperfect, or small) in order for the good to grow and continue!
If you dream of finding new ways for both of you to get your needs met, if you’d love to learn lots of tools that are fully-tested and work effectively, time and time again, when it comes to creating a thriving relationship, we would LOVE to have you in our next Thrive in Love couples retreat! It’s an amazing weekend of breakthroughs, connection, and joy! You can learn more about our counseling and coaching HERE and our Thrive in Love retreat HERE.
Thank you so much for being on this journey with us, for inspiring us, for all of your efforts to grow individually and together, and for bringing more love into the world!
Infinite Love and Joy,
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