These 2 Words Are The Keys To A Happy Relationship

No one ... including your partner ... has to do anything for you. Remember that.

smiling couple Dean Drobot / Shutterstock

"Thank you." Two simple words that feel SO good to hear. 

So, why do so many couples use them so infrequently? 

William James, the great American psychologist, said, "The deepest principle in human nature is the craving to be appreciated."

Appreciation is a gift we give others that costs us nothing! And giving just a little bit of it through effective communication goes further toward improving our relationships more than any overpriced "thing". And we all know this. So why are so many of us stingy when it comes to showing appreciation?  


Are we too busy? Too self-important? Too entitled? Or simply too stubborn and emotionally ungenerous? 

Sure, you can say "Well, s/he's supposed to do that." Right. Possibly. But does that mean people in your life don't deserve acknowledgment? After all, I'll bet you'd have something to say about it if those things didn't get done (or that kindness and affection weren't shown to you). 

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At home, we don't appreciate — we expect!

We say things like, "If you really love me, you would ______." Expectations are delivered in a bartering mode.

Where is the appreciation for our loved ones? Do you expect the garbage to go out and the dishes to be put away? Why? Because it's their "job"? Well, in life we get paid for doing a job, so how about paying them with a "thank you"? Everyone craves recognition for their efforts. I'm sure you do, too.

So, show a little appreciation. It's a very easy habit to acquire.

Transform your relationship with your teenager.

Ever lived with teenagers? It's pretty hard to motivate them, right? Or is it? The easiest way to engage a teen is to catch them doing something right. That means recognizing and rewarding the behavior you want to see more of. Saying "thank you" is an easy way to do that.


Tell them what you like about what they're doing, thinking, and wearing. And skip all the criticism about what you don't like. 

Simply look and you'll find many things each day worthy of acknowledgment. Try it for a month and watch their attitude (and your relationship with them) transform.

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Repeat. Repeat. Repeat. 

Once you make a point to acknowledge the contributions of your family and partner, remember: once is not enough. Each time they take the trash out, bring you your coffee, or extend themselves on your behalf, say those powerful words — "thank you".


Know what to overlook. 

There is another side to showing appreciation. It is as equally important as verbal recognition. Knowing what to compliment is one thing ... but knowing what to overlook is also a way of showing love.

Ah! That's worth thinking about, isn't it?

William James once said: "The art of being wise is the art of knowing what to overlook." He was right. 

When things don't go according to our expectations, we start pointing fingers. Tempers flare and nitpicking escalates. 

A wise person takes a step back and looks at the whole picture. They put their needs and wants aside for a moment and make space to see the other person's wants and needs, as well. They ask themselves: What is happening here? What do we truly want to happen?


Whether at home or at work, this is the time to focus on appreciation and then follow it with conscious problem-solving.

When you feel things getting tense, pause and reflect on a time you felt appreciated. More importantly, ask yourself when was the last time you actually found something to appreciate in another? This helps diffuse the anger, frustration, fear, or hurt that you are feeling and allows you to refocus your energy on good communication.   

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Start with yourself.


Demanding to receive respect or appreciation when the other person is feeling deprived of it will only escalate the conflict. Whoever is most sane at the moment, in any relationship, is the one responsible for bringing that relationship back to a positive connection. Let that "sane" person be you.

Appreciation is never wasted.

Find things to acknowledge. Notice what others do well. Catch them doing things right. Notice what others do for you. Offer your thanks. You'll feel better. 

And, very soon, it will come back to you. I promise.

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Rhoberta Shaler, Ph.D., The Relationship Help Doctor works with committed couples who know they love each other and want their once-great relationships back, stronger, closer and more. Get valuable insights by subscribing to her twice-monthly tips for relationships.