Attention — 19 August 2006
Voicing appreciation for small acts creates greater intimacy

She often thought with tenderness and appreciation about all the small acts of kindness he showed to her. Though she felt very blessed, touched and loved she rarely told him how grateful she felt. They had a good relationship and talking about these emotions was too personal for a somewhat reserved lady. Then he died suddenly and her heart has ached doubly ever since. She missed him terribly and wondered: “Did he really know how much she loved and valued him?” “Why did she withhold her loving appreciations?”

It need not take a tragedy to realize that all people benefit by being appreciated and valued. It is heartwarming and intimate to hear how one’s small acts of kindness and consideration truly facilitate the partner’s life and enhances his/her sense of wellbeing.

One of the reasons that people often fail to comment about how touched they are by what they receive is that they feel that these behaviors are expected in a good relationship. Both mates do help each other regularly, cooperate, do projects together, raise the children and share the duties, so why should they express appreciation for expected tasks? Actually, voicing one’s gratitude even for the small, day-to-day chores is pleasing to the listener, facilitates the ease of repeating them and creates a warm, loving exchange.

Another frequent rationale for withholding appreciations is the absence of hearing them. “Why should I tell my partner that I value what s/he does, when s/he never tells me how valued I am?” One should be appreciative because it is the decent respond to kindness. Caring behaviors are gifts to be acknowledged with gratitude. Also practically, any task accomplished by your mate, frees you to do more of what you need or choose to do.

Aside from duties, many partners initiate helpful behaviors that come from consideration of the mate’s needs. When, for example, a parent who is out offers to pick up the child from a friend’s house. Though it was not preplanned it lightens the other spouse’s schedule. This is a considerate and helpful act that if commented upon, can lead to greater closeness for the mates.
An important way to become appreciative is to notice any kind, considerate or helpful gesture, process its significance and articulate your feelings about it.

The way one appreciates the small and seemingly insignificant acts of kindness by a partner is most important. A thank you may suffice as a formal and polite response, but it does not spell out the significance of the behavior to the receiving mate. A statement such as: “It meant so much to me when you offered to change your plans so I can get time away with my friends. I felt loved and valued and I admire you for your kindness”, is a message that is likely to increase the mates’ intimacy.

Kindness begets kindness. If a person feels appreciated, s/he is likely to feel greater closeness and warmth toward the other and seek additional ways to be pleasing. It is also an incentive to the receiving mate to reciprocate with attentive gestures as well.

Children learn about loving behaviors by observing their parents’ interactions. By modeling gratitude, youngsters learn better tools for intimacy for their adult lives.

Being appreciative also rewards the doer through his/her internal sense of self-assessment. Being acknowledged for kind deeds further strengthens one’s self esteem and wellbeing.

• Wake up daily thinking of how you can make your partner’s day better. Being grateful is one way.
• Remember that many small kind acts add up to a pattern of a loving person who is likely to be valued by him/herself and the partner
• It is the moral way to be considerate, attentive and appreciative. It is an active, not reactive response.
• To be intimate, people require safety. Feeling acknowledged, appreciated and accepted as good people creates the safety necessary for deeper intimacy.
• Love and intimacy do not just happen. They are created through a series of behaviors and feelings of mutual appreciation and tenderness.
• There is no excessive amount of appreciation, as long as it is sincere and authentically expressed.
• Withholding appreciation is of no benefit to a loving relationship.
• Express your appreciation often for a more bonded and emotionally pleasing connection.
• Random acts of kindness are more than a bumper sticker and acknowledging them can strengthen and enhance a loving relationship.

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About Author

Offra Gerstein, Ph.D. is a licensed psychologist in clinical practice in Santa Cruz, California for over 25 years, and specializes in relationship issues for couples and individuals for improved quality of life. Her work includes: mate selection, marriage, long term relationships, gay and lesbian couples, work relationships, parenting issues, family interactions, friendships, and conflict resolutions. Offra has lectured extensively to various groups, conducted support groups for several organizations, and has been writing a weekly column "Relationship Matters" for the Santa Cruz Sentinel since 2001.

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