Seeing The Good – Creating a Culture of Appreciation in Your Marriage


It is the month to be thankful, so it seems appropriate to talk about building a culture of appreciation in your marriage.  Sounds easy, right?  Hold on now, there are plenty of reasons why this is easier said than done.  Here are two big roadblocks to creating a culture of appreciation, and a few suggestions for removing them.

Build Up of Criticism and Contempt

Criticism and contempt are like poisons in a relationship.  Thankfully, these poisons have antidotes.  Criticism is describing a problem in terms of your partners personality and character flaws.  Statements that begin with “you always,” “you never” imply criticism.

Contempt is an attitude of superiority, putting someone down.  Talking to your partner from a higher position can convey that your are smarter, kinder, morally superior, etc.  Ongoing patterns of criticism and contempt (contempt especially) are two of the biggest predictors of divorce, according to research.

Stop The Negative Pattern

There are several reasons contempt and criticism build up over time.  I do a thorough assessment when working with couples to identify those reasons.  But one universal antidote to the poison of contempt is to build a culture of appreciation. The following tools come from the research of relationship expert John Gottman.  We owe a great debt to Gottman for his work with couples.


  Practice The Assumption of Similarity.  The assumption of similarity says:  if you find yourself attributing a negative trait to your partner, try to see some of this trait in yourself.  If you find yourself attributing a positive trait in yourself, try to see some of this trait in your partner.

The assumption of similarity helps us stop and think first before automatically seeing the negative in others.  It seems to me to be a more humble and gracious way of viewing your relationship.

  Share fondness and admiration.  The “I Appreciate…” activity helps here.  I have a list of 70 adjectives I hand out to couples that help identify positive aspects of their partner.  The list includes words like loving, thoughtful, considerate, patient, funny, an so on.  I encourage couples to use this list, add words of their own, and set time aside to circle words on the list that apply to their partner with specific examples.  This activity is a way to share fondness and admiration.

See the Spiritual

For many, working scriptures into this process will add a deeper meaning to building a culture of appreciation.  Scriptures like Proverbs 3:27 help: “do not withhold good from those to whom it is due, when it is in your power to act.”  This scriptures reminds us to scan the relationship for things to appreciate.

I hope these thoughts inspire you to see the importance of building a culture of appreciation in your relationship.  Good luck!

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