Did you know that there is one element of all relationships that, if it’s gone, the Gottman’s research shows it’s time to pull the plug on the relationship? And it’s not some of the things you might expect. It’s not sex, it’s not shared values, it’s not even communication.
Don’t get me wrong — all of those are essential to a healthy relationship. But if they disappear, there are ways to come together and bring them back again. Once this element disappears, it can be almost insurmountable to sustain the relationship.
That element, according to the Gottman Institute, is known as “admiration and fondness.” This seems so basic, and it is — it is an absolutely basic need for any relationship to survive. Thinking well, thinking fondly and admiring your partner, is key to working through any other problem you may have. Which is why it’s so important that we work on building admiration and fondness in our relationship any chance we get.
Here are a few ways to do just that.
1. Remembering good times. They say not to live in the past, but making the occasional visit can do wonders for fondness. Think nostalgically of the good times you’ve had together, dates you’ve been on, trips you’ve taken, your first home together or your first kiss. Let your mind wander, and take time to wonder at the beauty of your relationship’s history.
2. Think of what you love about them — and say it. If you’re a journaling type, write it down. Let your mind dwell on the things you love about your partner, then make sure to say it. Say it to your partner, say it to your friends, say it to whoever is nearest you right now. Say it and explain why you mean it.
3. Write love letters. Take all your thoughts around #1 & #2 and write it out into a love letter for your beloved. This will give them something to look back on fondly when they’re stressed. This will remind them how much you care. There’s something very visceral about seeing those precious words written down; it becomes a treasured keepsake. Or, leave post-it notes around; these may be somewhat more ephemeral, but they can add a spot of joy, whimsy, and fondness to your partner’s day.
4. Remember your partner when they were younger. Think of your partner when you first met them. What were they like when they were younger? What was bright-eyed about them that drew you in? Think of them as a child, even if you didn’t know them then — what did they love? Who were their best friends? Remember that we were all children once helps us to build empathy and fondness, especially if we’re feeling tense.
5. Give unsolicited affection. What’s your partner’s love language? Drop that kind of affection on them randomly, without explanation. Just pepper affection throughout their day. This builds fondness in both of you, growing your connection and appreciation of each other.
Fondness and admiration are the building blocks of any relationship — every other healing path grows from there. So make sure you’re investing in just that, every day.