The Sweet Ritual That Keeps Happy Couples Bonded For Life

Fondness and admiration grow when you feed them.

Couple embracing each other in the bark Tim Samuel | Pexels

If you’re a woman in a relationship who’s on the brink of demise, listen up. I’ve got a revolutionary fix for your heart-crushing, relationship-ending problems.

The best part of this solution is you can stop focusing on your relationship issues, struggles, and frustrations. Let me restate that in a different way…

To save your relationship, you must stop focusing on your problems!

I mean it. Put a kibosh on those never-ending conversations between you and your partner. You know, the ones where you talk (and talk and talk) about everything that’s wrong with them. And with you. And with your relationship.


Shift your focus 

As a therapist who focuses on queer relationships, I approach this technique uniquely, as I see so many lesbian relationships weighed down by couples focusing on trying to communicate better. But the popularized advice of using “I” statements, paraphrasing, and other pro communication tips isn’t keeping your relationship from taking a nose dive. 

The single most effective thing you can do to save your relationship is to re-instate the “admiration” system you likely neglected after the early phase of your relationship.

RELATED: How To Get Your Partner To Change For The Better




Rebuild your 'mutual admiration society'

Remember how you were your partner’s secret admirer for a while before you ever went on your first date, maybe for just a few minutes or weeks in school or at a party? You admired them from afar. And even though you didn’t know them yet, you told your BFF all about this new awesomeness in your life.

Then, for the first year or two of your relationship, you and your partner had quite the “mutual admiration society” going. Your friends were always commenting about how in love you were. And they’d say things like, “You two are so cute together. And so sappy!” Remember how good that felt?

Let me ask, "When did you stop admiring one another? When did you stop noticing all the little things about them that made you feel so fond and proud of your beloved?"


Unless couples work on keeping the fondness and admiration alive, it naturally declines after the initial falling-in-love phase.

Love and relationship experts call this the limerence phase, which usually lasts about a year.

Limerence is that lovely, initial euphoric period in a relationship characterized by involuntary love hormones flooding your body. Do you remember the phase where your brain and body were captivated by near-obsessive infatuation, irresistible attraction, and overwhelming admiration?

But all phases come to an end, even in LGBTQIA+ love relationships.

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The 'fondness and admiration' technique 

Instead of allowing fondness and admiration to be short-lived, one of the simplest ways to keep your relationship happy and healthy is to sustain a practice of mutual admiration.

If your partnership is barely holding the ledge of survival, it’s time to build what Dr. John Gottman calls a “fondness and admiration system.”

In Gottman’s plan for how to build a happy and secure relationship, his second layer to building a solid relationship structure is called Share Fondness and Admiration. By focusing on this step, you will be able to get your relationship back on solid ground fast.

How the fondness and admiration system works

The main concept is that you’ll purposefully search for what you respect and appreciate about your partner. This is done by looking for what they're doing right.


First, you’ll note what they do that you’re fond of. These are the things you like about your partner. The things about them you’re attracted to, impressed by, and feel proud of.

Try this… Think of your partner, then take a minute to fill in these blanks:

I like how you ___________________________________________.

I’m attracted to your _____________________________________.

I am so impressed that you _______________________________.

I’m proud of the way you _________________________________.

Make it a point over the next couple of days to say these sentences out loud to them.

You might believe your partner already knows this stuff, but I guarantee they'll enjoy hearing you say it. And it’ll make you both feel closer.


Decide to make this a habit that you practice every week. It’ll become a solid foundation for your post-limerence love.

blue light couple one rests chin on others shoulder

Photo: Beatriz Vera via Shutterstock

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The second part of fondness and admiration 

The second part of the “fondness and admiration” system is for you and your partner to show appreciation to one another. In this case, it’s not just about saying “thank you for what you do for me,” but expressing gratitude for “who you are.”


In his book, The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work, Dr. Gottman shares an exercise he calls “I Appreciate…” which goes like this:

Think of three words that describe positive attributes that you think are characteristic of your partner. Then, for each word you chose, briefly think of an actual incident or situation that illustrates this characteristic of your partner. Write about it in a notebook or on a piece of paper.

For example, you might write:

Characteristic: I appreciate how thoughtful you are.

Incident: Yesterday when you brought me lunch, it meant a lot to me. I admire your thoughtfulness. That’s one of the things that I love about you.


Make a list of three characteristics and corresponding incidents. Then, share your list with your partner. Let them know what it is about these traits you value so highly.

It is time for you to start ignoring your problems. Really!

Instead of dwelling on and nit-picking every little thing your partner is doing wrong, start intentionally noticing what they are doing well. And be sure to tell them what you notice — what you appreciate and value about them.




Focus on what you want to grow 

Research shows that what you pay attention to the most is what you will feel more.

If you focus on negative things, you feel negative emotions. So, shift your focus off the negative (the problems) and onto the positive.

The simple act of putting your attention on things you like and appreciate about your partner will cause you to pay less attention to the things that are making you feel bad. You’ll feel more loving and connected, and your relationship will turn around.


Instead of focusing on the negative things about your partner and your relationship problems, pay attention to what you fell in love with in the first place. Then, sit back and watch how your feelings improve. You’ll get back to being a happy couple!

Then, commit to practicing the fondness and “I appreciate…” exercises every single week to keep your relationship happy and healthy.

This practice will help save your relationship.

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Lynda Spann, Ph.D., LMFT, is a relationship therapist and coach. For more information, visit her website.

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