Show Your Appreciation

By Alice Inoue Posted in: Go Ask AliceImprove

A couple’s home environment can definitely support the relationship, yet to truly live in harmony, expressing gratitude for each other is key

QUESTION OF THE WEEK: I found your column a few years ago and like what you have to say. I make it a point to read what you write every week. I’m writing this anonymously because I don’t want my wife to know I’m writing, as she reads your column too. I’ve been married for more than 30 years, and I am ready to throw in the towel. My wife is very critical of me, and the bottom line is that, after all I’ve done, and all we’ve been through, I don’t feel appreciated. Feng shui, from what I understand, is about balance. I know you are not a relationship counselor, but I would appreciate anything you can say, because this certainly does not feel balanced to me.

Yes, feng shui is about balance, but while the environment is a great place to create support, it is not everything.

What you shared is the reason I became interested in expanding my knowledge beyond the confines of astrology and feng shui. Within a few years of learning these two disciplines, I saw that no matter what the stars and planets said, and how “feng shui perfect” an environment was, if all individuals living or working within the environment don’t make some personal changes to move toward balance, balance will never occur.

Environmental balance

From reading the details you shared in your letter, I know it is much more than your environment that is at issue. (Note: Question was edited to minimize length.) Nevertheless, I’d like to start by sharing some basics of relationship balance in the environment.

To support relationship balance in an environment:

It’s important that the home balances “his” and “her” areas. The home should have areas that are put together with what the male wants, including his colors and preferred furniture, and the female should have hers. The shared areas should be a combination of both. Even if the man “doesn’t care” (which is usually the case), I insist that he at least express his desires in the areas where he spends the most time.

It’s important that some photos, furniture, other items or colors represent both people, especially in the bedroom. If I go into the master bedroom and can’t tell that two people share that room, I will tell the couple to remove photos of in-laws, children and friends, keeping the “couple energy” present and sacred by substituting items meaningful to their shared life together. Master bedrooms represent the relationship and should focus on the couple sharing the room.

More than just balance in the home

That said, going beyond feng shui, in personal relationships, we want to be appreciated for who we are and all that we do. In long-term relationships, however, we sometimes forget to appreciate our loved ones for who they are and notice only what they don’t do.

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Have you heard of Dr. Gottman?

John Gottman, a professor emeritus of psychology at University of Washington, identified certain elements of stability necessary in lasting relationships. In a 1992 study (Buehlman, K., Gottman, J.M., & Katz, L.), after observing couples’ interactions with each other, he was able to predict with 93.6 percent accuracy which couples would eventually divorce.

Understanding what types of interactions or patterns of behavior make a relationship vulnerable to divorce is a clue to where change is needed. When I read your letter, it reminded me that, according to Dr. Gottman’s studies, criticism is one of the four factors that lead to divorce. The others are defensiveness, refusing to interact and contempt.

Principles to follow, based on Gottman’s research

On the other hand, the study found that certain principles were always present in successful relationships, and one of them is showing appreciation for your partner. Couples function best when they appreciate most aspects of each other’s behavior and learn to live with the differences. Gottman’s studies show that expressing appreciation is crucial. Appreciation for each other often diminishes over time due to conflicts, resentments or taking each other for granted.

Conveying appreciation is important

Because communicating with your wife about how you feel about her criticism and lack of appreciation has not worked in the past, (and you haven’t thrown in the towel yet), perhaps you can try something new. Who knows? Maybe she hasn’t felt appreciated by you either all these years. You can use this opportunity to shift the old pattern and dynamic.

Even if you feel that you have nothing good to say to her, or your positive feelings are buried too deeply beneath 30 years of feeling the way you do, try starting with something simple. Positive thoughts lead to positive feelings, and the goal is to initiate a positive action, no matter how small, that will help you to hopefully bring something of value back into your relationship.

Use what you know about your wife; dig deep, and show appreciation for something. I know that it’s not easy to take the first step, especially when you are the one who feels “wronged,” but if you don’t do something, your relationship will have no chance to get better.

My hope is that your wife will read this, be reminded of the importance of appreciation, and feel the impetus to show her appreciation of you, even in a small way. I also hope that anyone else reading this will see the importance of appreciation in all relationships.

Alice Inoue is the founder and Chief Happiness Officer at Happiness U, a friendly educational establishment at Na Lama Kukui (formerly known as Gentry Pacific Design Center) on Nimitz Highway. At Happiness U, you’ll find dozens of inspiring classes all geared toward personal growth, helping you live a more purposeful and ease-filled life. Visit www.YourHappinessU.com.