Simply being appreciative of your partner’s good points, however modest, improves the relationship, research finds.
People who recognised their partner’s efforts to be more patient and loving had a happier and more secure relationship, psychologists have discovered.
On the other hand, those who believed their partner could not change had worse relationships, even if their partner was making a real effort to do better.
The trick is to convince yourself that change is possible and to appreciate any steps in the right direction, however small.
Dr Daniel C. Molden, a study co-author, said:
“A secret to building a happy relationship is to embrace the idea that your partner can change, to give him or her credit for making these types of efforts and to resist blaming him or her for not trying hard enough all of the time.”
The conclusions come from a study in which couples rated how much their partner was trying to improve the relationship.
Did they, for example, make an effort to be a better listener or try and show more understanding?
After three months they rated their relationships again.
The results showed that people who appreciated their partner’s efforts to change were happier with their relationship.
Even sincere efforts to improve the relationship are wasted, the study found, if they are not appreciated.
Dr Molden said:
“If you don’t believe that your partner is capable of changing his or her fundamental characteristics, even when he or she is working hard to try to improve your relationship, you can actually end up discounting these efforts.”
It is common for people in relationships to be sceptical about their partner’s efforts, however hard they are trying.
Don’t let that happen to you.
Dr Chin Ming Hui, the study’s first author, said:
“Many of us tend to under appreciate our partner’s efforts to improve the relationship, simply because we do not have enough faith in those attempts.
When we see those efforts in a positive light, we can enjoy our relationship much more.”
About the author
Psychologist, Jeremy Dean, PhD is the founder and author of PsyBlog. He holds a doctorate in psychology from University College London and two other advanced degrees in psychology.
He has been writing about scientific research on PsyBlog since 2004. He is also the author of the book “Making Habits, Breaking Habits” (Da Capo, 2003) and several ebooks:
- Accept Yourself: How to feel a profound sense of warmth and self-compassion
- The Anxiety Plan: 42 Strategies For Worry, Phobias, OCD and Panic
- Spark: 17 Steps That Will Boost Your Motivation For Anything
- Activate: How To Find Joy Again By Changing What You Do
The study was published in the journal Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin (Hui et al., 2011).