11/25/2014 06:35 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Pop Quiz: Are You Grateful or Critical in Love?


Spice up your relationships with gratitude: Here's the simplest yet most powerful tool for transforming any relationship.

Which kind of relationship do you have? Abundantly appreciative or constantly critical?

With Thanksgiving around the corner, there is no better time to ask yourself this question.

Appreciation is the most powerful way to inject fun, passion and vitality in your relationship... but most couples spend more time blaming and criticizing each other.

Be honest now, and ask yourself the following questions:

  1. How many times a day do you criticize your partner?
  2. How many times a day does your partner criticize you?
  3. When was the last time you told your partner why you love and admire him or her?
  4. How often do you give love and appreciation to yourself?

If you are like most people, you fall in the category of "I feel criticized all the time" and NOT "my partner loves and appreciates me."

That means criticism is running your relationship. It's become the pattern of relating to each other, and it will destroy your relationship over time if you don't stop it right here, right now.


Why Criticism Destroys Love

Critical comments don't just get you down. Over time, the habit of criticism sets off a chain of negative interactions that can actually erode the love you and your partner share. Here's how:

Passive-aggressive behavior: When you feel criticized, you build up resentment towards your partner. This constant bubbling of anger makes itself known in all sorts of ways: you become snappy, you criticize back, or you "forget" to do things your partner has asked.

Detachment and distance: If you feel as though you're always doing something wrong in your partner's eyes, you'll probably start shutting down. You might shut your partner out in various ways -- either by spending less time together or by "checking out" emotionally.

Loss of intimacy: When you're criticized, you don't feel accepted as you are. And acceptance is critical to intimacy. You simply can't get close to someone you feel rejected by.

Plummeting passion: Criticism is one of the biggest mood killers we know of. You're not going to be turned on when you feel judged. And this loss of connection in the bedroom in turn becomes fuel for more criticism in other areas of the relationship.

As we hope it's now clear, the habit of criticism needs to be stopped. But how?

One word: appreciation.


The Anti-Criticism Injection

Research findings tell us that thriving relationships have at least five times more spoken appreciations than critical comments.

Any time you tell your partner how grateful you are for something they do or for who they are, you raise the positive energy between the two of you.

And appreciation is contagious. The more you get, the more you want, and the more you want to share!

It only takes 10 seconds, but the effects are miraculous. Here's how to do it:

  1. Pick out something your partner does that you're grateful for.
  2. Get very specific and descriptive about it.
  3. Tell them, and gush even if they blush!

A few examples:

"I really appreciate how much you care about our friends, like the way you helped Teresa with her project the other day. You really take the time to listen to people and find out what they need."

"I love the way you just moved. You're like a dancer! It reminds me of when we first met, and all you had to do to turn me on was to walk into the room." Note: I (Gay) have used this one on Katie, and she swooned!

"You know, you really make me feel safe in our relationship, both physically and emotionally."

Giving and receiving appreciation takes a little practice. First, you may have been so focused on noticing what's wrong with your partner, that you might feel a little phoney at first when you appreciate him or her instead.

And here's the interesting flip side: Often it's even harder for us to receive appreciation than to give it! Hearing something wonderful about ourselves may feel uncomfortable. We're just not used to soaking up that much love!

The great news is that once you and your partner go on a steady "appreciation diet," it becomes easier and easier to dish out the appreciation, and it becomes addictive to receive it.

So this holiday, we challenge you to pay attention to how many critical comments vs. spoken appreciations you share. Gratitude can celebrated every day, and it will open more joy and connection in your relationship than you ever dreamed possible.

Katie and Gay's free relationship e-newsletter, Hearts In Harmony, explores the challenges and glories of lasting love. Based on the tools they've developed throughout their 30+ year marriage and taught to thousands, you'll learn powerful insights and practical techniques you can start using today -- whether you're in a relationship or eager to attract one.

Read our eBook now