You may have noticed that not feeling appreciated was a big issue for both of you long before the infidelity—this is more common in couples than you might think.
When we meet a man for the first time, one of the first things we ask is what they do for a living. This makes it sound as if we appreciate his accomplishments more than who he is as a person.
For women, being appreciated is an emotional reminder that they are accepted. You don't have to tell her that you love her every day, but why wouldn't you want to?
You can never tell a woman that she is beautiful often enough — not because she's shallow and needs compliments to feel whole, but to help her feel accepted by you.
In this way, men and women are the same. No one likes to feel criticized. Appreciation is a way to show our partners we notice them and they are important in the world.
You don't have to wait until one of you has an affair or you're both on the brink of divorce to appreciate each other. Showing your appreciation every day can only help your relationship, so do it every day.
Tell your partner the things you appreciate about him/her and focus your comments in a way that shows you notice. (You could say, "I really appreciate how thoughtful you were to bring my coffee to me this morning.")
Appreciation can be broader too. You can also say, "I really appreciate what a good father you are to our children.") Coming up with ways that show you see what your partner does, that you notice that your partner is trying, can begin to shift your relationship onto a new path to recovery.
In a daily list of neverending to-do's, expressing appreciation can come at the bottom. When that list grows longer and your partner doesn't seem to be helping to lighten the load, resentment can build.
Whereas it used to be a daily expression of delight, appreciation may now be merely a bone tossed for good behavior when one of you completes a chore around the house.
If you don't feel appreciated (or worse, if you feel criticized) you will be vulnerable to anyone outside of your relationship who makes you feel special or valued. It can be very tempting to move toward someone who flatters you when you feel your partner only points out what you do wrong.
Remember, monogamy takes practice.
What do you need to practice in your relationship to have what you desire? As you explore this question, you'll learn—from your partner and yourself — how you can create a more loving, connected and fulfilling relationship for the both of you.
For more information on creating your new monogamy and a new relationship together, go to www.drtammynelson.com.
Dr. Tammy Nelson is a world renowned sex and relationship expert and the author of The New Monogamy and Getting the Sex You Want. She can be found at www.drtammynelson.com.