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Relationships: We must remind ourselves to focus on the good… be thankful!

By Dr Edrica D. Richardson

With the holidays just around the corner, the common message spoken this time of year is thankfulness. So what are you thankful for in your relationship(s)? There are so many incentives to being in a relationship and many of these are taken for granted throughout the year.

Dr Edrica D. Richardson is Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist in multiple states in the US; and an AAMFT Approved Supervisor. Her clinical specialties include relationship issues, stress management, family conflict, and life coaching, to name a few. She works with adolescents, couples, and families in The Bahamas and the US. Visit her website at www.dredrich.com

But when you get relationship advice, you’ve probably heard plenty of don’ts. Don’t nag. Don’t stonewall. Don’t blame. Don’t leave the toilet seat up, don’t squeeze the toothpaste tube from the middle, and definitely don’t assume he’s that into you when he’s just not. Well, don’t listen. The happiest couples focus on Do’s, not don’ts. Positivity has a way of shifting our perspective; while negative emotions shut us down, positive emotions open us up.

Let’s take a moment to stop, look at your partner and be thankful. Here are a few ideas to consider or acknowledge about your partner all the time.

1. Be grateful- remembering to thank your partner seems simple, but gratitude may provide the everyday dose of hope that keeps you glued together over the long haul.

2. Appreciate them for their efforts. If your partner works extra hours, cooks dinner, brings home groceries, or otherwise demonstrates their effort in providing for you, make sure to thank them for their time spent taking care of things. Even if they happen to mess something up while trying, still shower them with love and appreciation to demonstrate your gratitude for their efforts.

3. Capitalize on good news – we expect our partners to provide us with a shoulder to cry on when times are tough – but how couples behave during good times might be even more important. Partners who respond enthusiastically to each other’s successes – asking questions, paying compliments, and cheering each other on increases relationship happiness.

4. Notice what’s new about your partner- letting your partner surprise you is vital to sustaining excitement in your relationship. But in order to be surprised, you first have to pay attention. The problem is that most of us get so familiar with our partners, we stop really noticing them. “But the fact that you stopped looking doesn’t mean they’ve stopped changing,” so pay attention.

5. Put it in writing – so next time you think fondly of your partner, write those thoughts down. Don’t forget how romantic a quick text or classic love letter can be.

6. The day-to-day. Many of us get into a routine and it works. Both you and your partner contribute to this routine to make the day or tasks successful. We begin to expect these contributions to happen and we in turn depend on them for our daily successes. Do you notice all of these details given by your partner every day?

7. Intimacy. The busyness of life tend to lead us to being robotic in our intimate relationship. The quick kiss and “I love you” as you walk out the door get taken for granted and part of the routine. This isn’t wrong or negative, but stop and realize even though these intimate moments become routine, think about what they mean to you.

8. Memories. Stress and routine seem to get in the way of reflecting on the good times. Spend some time with your partner and/or family to reflect on the good moments of the past year or years. Turn off technology and have a conversation about the fun moments.

9. Praise them, both privately and publicly. Giving praise to your partner is wonderful in private, but it’s also perfect in front of other people. Even if your partner is a bit shy, they will appreciate the fact that you’ve made a bold statement about them while among the company of others. Your loved one wants to feel that you are proud of them when it’s just you together and when you have other people around.

10. Consistency is key. Most of us are capable at showing gratitude from time to time. The real value lies in being able to display your gratefulness on a consistent basis. Know this: he or she loves you with their entire being. The willingness to show your appreciation for them is well worth the effort. In fact, you’ll likely see some form of gratitude coming right back at you.

These are just a few ideas to acknowledge, reflect on these and others; just remember to be thankful in the moment and for the great times of the past and of the hopes of the future. The opportunities to fill your happy relationship reservoir are out there. Don’t miss them!