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Get Straight A's with your partner

Janna Becherer -
Flickr Photo by riaskiff

There are three A's worth their weight in gold and they apply to all of our relationships: Acceptance, Appreciation and Affection. When you receive these on a regular basis, you feel loved and well-cared-for. When you give these to your partner every day, s/he will be happy coming home to you. I first heard these from former radio host, Dr. Laura (Laura Schlesinger, author of The Proper Care & Feeding of Husbands). She emphasizes how important they are to a successful relationship and I totally agree with her about this (although I disagree with her a fair amount, too, but that's a different post.) Acceptance means that you fundamentally accept your partner as a person. Deep down, you like him or her. It shows up: in the way you look softly into those eyes, in your calm, not harsh, tone of voice, and in your bemused smile when s/he indulges in that quirky habit. In her book The Divorce Remedy, Michelle Weiner-Davis says this often occurs in the fourth stage of marriage, "That's just the way my partner is." We don't get as upset about things that used to frustrate us, we accept the other's flaws knowing that they put up with ours. Appreciation makes your partner feel good and conveys that you notice positive things about the other's looks, words and behaviors. You say, "Gosh, you're pretty!" or "Thank you. What a nice thing to say" or "I appreciate your emptying the dishwasher/folding the laundry/buying milk without my asking you." It's a compliment, an awareness, and a verbal hug all rolled into one. And you probably don't need me to tell you that when you make your beloved feels good, s/he just might return the favor. Affection encompasses actual hugs, cuddling, just thinking about you texts/emails and holding hands in public. It's that smile across the room when you're at a party or a shared "do you believe he said that?" look when you're at a family gathering. Showing affection meets our basic human need for touch without any strings attached. This distinguishes affection from foreplay, although at times it can be a precursor to sex. If you only use affectionate touch when you are hoping for sex, you may discover that your partner backs away or freezes. That's because you are still using teenage methods with a grownup partner: your technique needs to catch up. What to do? Try thinking about it as a ratio. For instance, maybe "Jane" needs 5 affectionate hugs to every 1 foreplay hug. It's worth experimenting to figure out the ratio that meets your partner's need and you will know by the response you get. Some of you may claim that you are just not affectionate or good at approval or appreciation either. While that may be true now, it shows up as a big gap in your relationship skill level. It may take practice, practice, practice. I hope you will practice because these are necessary skills to get even a passing grade, let alone straight A's.

Flickr photo by riaskiff
Wednesday April 6th, 2011