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Creating a Cycle of Love: The Impact of Gratitude and Appreciation in Relationships



In the Torah portion, Tzav, we delve into the rituals and practices of the priests in the ancient Temple. While the focus is often on the physical acts of sacrifice and service, there is a deeper theme running through the text – the importance of expressing love and appreciation. This theme is relevant in the spiritual realm and has profound implications for our relationships and overall well-being.

 

We can apply this principle in our lives by expressing our love and appreciation to those around us and meaningfully and intentionally offering our words of love and gratitude to those who are significant to us. The benefits of doing so can't be overstated.

 

John Gottman, a renowned psychologist and researcher on relationships, has conducted extensive studies on what makes relationships thrive (the "Masters") or deteriorate (the "Disasters"). One of his key findings is the importance of expressing appreciation and gratitude towards one's partner. According to Gottman, a healthy relationship requires a balance of positive interactions to negative ones, and expressing love and appreciation is a crucial part of that positive balance.

 

When partners fail to appreciate each other and show it often, the relationship can suffer. Over time, feelings of resentment and unfulfilled emotional needs can build up, leading to distance and conflict. Without regular expressions of love and appreciation, the bond between partners can weaken, leaving them feeling disconnected and unfulfilled.

 

Whether it's a simple thank you, a heartfelt compliment, or a gesture of kindness, small acts can nurture our connections with others. Humans have an inherent need to feel valued and appreciated. We are hard-wired to offer gratitude, but we must also be on the receiving end. Receiving expressions of love and appreciation from our partners boosts our self-esteem and reinforces our sense of worth. This positive reinforcement creates a cycle of love and gratitude, fostering a healthy and strong relationship.

 

Conversely, when partners fail to appreciate and acknowledge each other regularly, it can damage the relationship. According to Gottman, couples with a ratio of positive to negative interactions less than 5:1 are more likely to divorce. This highlights the importance of consistently showing love and appreciation to maintain a solid and lasting bond.

 

So, Let's Get Practical.

We must be authentic - words of love and appreciation must be genuine and wholehearted if we expect to deepen the bond with our loved ones. But it can be complicated. In this fast-paced world with many distractions, it's easy to overlook the importance of expressing love and appreciation to those closest to us. But even if we want to, not everyone can find the right words, and opportunities are often missed that would light up those around us if only we knew how to do it. With a simple tool called "I Appreciate…," John Gottman helps us connect the dots.

 

The "I Appreciate" Exercise

 

Here is a list of fifty attributes to choose from. Feel free to add as many traits as you want. For each round of this exercise, pick three traits that are characteristic of your spouse (this works for any relationship). Even if you can only remember one time that your spouse was like this, it's OK to choose it.

 

Kind-hearted, Generous, Intelligent, Patient, Understanding, Supportive, Compassionate, Empathetic, Reliable, Trustworthy, Honest, Hardworking, Funny, Loyal, Optimistic, Adventurous, Romantic, Thoughtful, Exciting, Good communicator, Great listener, Creative, Organized, Curious, Respectful, Independent, Calm, Charming, Good sense of humor, Empowering, Nurturing, Open-minded, Caring, Enthusiastic, Responsible, Flexible, Problem-solver, Sensitive, Warm, Sophisticated, Attractive, Innovative, Playful, Motivated, Admirable, Insightful, Resilient, Mature, A great parent, A great partner

 

Then, for each trait you chose, think of when your spouse displayed that characteristic. And write about it as follows:


1. Characteristic:

___________________________________________

Incident:

___________________________________________


2. Characteristic:

___________________________________________

Incident:

___________________________________________


3. Characteristic:

___________________________________________

Incident:

___________________________________________

 

Now, share your list with your spouse, child, sibling, co-worker, etc. Let them know what traits you value so highly and how you saw them put these qualities into action. Add as many details as possible, letting the person know how their behavior impacted you.

 

The beauty of Gottman's approach is that it is specific and meaningful rather than vague and broad. It shows that you're paying honest attention. And the bonus is that when we become attuned to noticing the good in people around us, we will see more of it.  It's simple: Being more attuned to the positive aspects of those around us prompts us to be more mindful and observant in our interactions. This, in turn, allows us to cultivate a deeper sense of gratitude and connection, ultimately strengthening our relationships and creating a more positive environment for all involved.

 

It's the Ultimate Win-Win.

 

Expressing love and appreciation is a basic human need transcending time and culture. When we express gratitude and appreciation through words, actions, or rituals, we uplift others and nurture our sense of fulfillment and purpose. By expressing our appreciation regularly, we strengthen our relationships and cultivate a deeper sense of connection and love.

 

The Hebrew word for sacrifice is "Korban," which means "to come close." Just as the ancient Israelites offered sacrifices to come closer to God, expressing love and appreciation in our relationships can bring us closer to our partners. The sacrifices were not a bribe to God to get something in return but a vehicle for connection and closeness. Similarly, in relationships, expressing love and appreciation should not be seen as a transaction but as a genuine desire to connect with and strengthen the bond between partners.

 

Whether in our relationships, communities, or spiritual practices, let us express gratitude, acknowledge the efforts of others, and celebrate the connections that enrich and sustain us. In doing so, we deepen our bonds, nurture our souls, and pave the way for a more compassionate and harmonious world.


Interested in creating a stronger bond with your partner based on John Gottman's 7-Week Course in Appreciation and Fondness? Contact me at hanna@shalombayitproject.com, and I will send you a free download.


 

 

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