If there’s one thing Black women are known for in relationships, it’s going all in. We give, give, give and give, and do everything we can for the person we choose to love. While that’s admirable, sometimes our kindness is taken for granted. We end up feeling unappreciated.
“He doesn’t appreciate all I do.” “Dang, a thanks would be nice sometimes.” “Why even bother? She won’t appreciate it anyway.” Any of that sound familiar?
And before anyone tries to tell you otherwise, yes, appreciation is a big deal.
Appreciation in a relationship is like the healthy soil that allows a plant to flourish, says Blessing Uchendu, a licensed clinical social worker and founder of Freshwater Counseling & Consulting in New York City. It’s foundational to a healthy relationship and is what keeps it going despite challenges, she explains.
Without appreciation, the opposite occurs. “Lack of appreciation allows bitterness and resentment to grow, things that can lead to the death of a relationship,” says Uchendu.
Don’t hide your feelings or be passive-aggressive (like making snarky comments or no longer ironing your partner’s work clothes until they realize you’re mad and ask what’s wrong). Talk about it.
So if you feel your honey is slacking in the gratitude department, address the issue ASAP. Counseling pros say these steps can help you communicate your needs and get the appreciation you deserve.
Speak up. Don’t hide your feelings or be passive-aggressive (like making snarky comments or no longer ironing your partner’s work clothes until they realize you’re mad and ask what’s wrong). Talk about it. Your goal is for the conversation to be positive and productive, says Cornelia Gibson, Ed.D., a licensed marriage and family therapist at Agape Counseling Center and Network in Fairfield, California. That means having the discussion when you’re calm with no ultimatums or saying things you don’t really mean.
Skip fighting words. Use “I” statements instead of “you” statements, which can come across as blaming and make your partner defensive, says Dr. Gibson. The same for broad generalizations like “You never …” and “You always …,” Uchendu advises. So, rather than saying, “You never show me appreciation,” try, “Babe, I’ve been feeling unappreciated lately, and it makes me feel sad.”
Give examples. Even if you’ve been dating for eons, you can’t expect your person to read your mind. “Don’t be afraid to tell your partner exactly what you need and what you’re looking for,” says Dr. Gibson. What makes you feel valued? Is it when they wash the dishes after you cook a big meal? Receiving “just because” flowers? A soothing hug after a hard day at work? It also helps to remind your partner of things they’ve done before that made you feel appreciated, says Dr. Gibson.
Ask for help. If you feel unappreciated because you do the bulk of the household tasks, have your significant other and kids pitch in. That will help you feel less overwhelmed or resentful.
Show yourself love. You know you’re awesome, right? Appreciate yourself. “Spend quality time with yourself, speak kind affirming words to yourself and care for yourself in the way you desire your partner to do,” says Uchendu. Then, any appreciation coming from them is icing on the cake, she adds.
Give to receive. Research shows people who feel appreciated by their partners tend to be more appreciative of their partners. Model the behavior you want to see. Acknowledge and thank your love when they go above and beyond — and for the little things.
Praise your partner’s efforts. When your babe shows you appreciation, resist the urge to make comments like, “It’s about time,” or ,“You only did it because I made it a big deal,” says Dr. Gibson. Instead, consider it a win. “You communicated your needs, demonstrated how to meet those needs and got what you wanted and deserved,” Dr. Gibson says. Kiss your significant other and say thanks! Positive reinforcement may help keep the appreciation train going.
Know your worth. What if you’ve talked and your person’s still stingy with gratitude? Therapy (either couples or individual) may help you work through the issue, says Uchendu. However, if you’ve discussed this multiple times with your partner and they’re still not making any effort, it might be time to reconsider the relationship, she adds. Remember, appreciation is an important aspect of a healthy relationship. And you’re worthy of it.