Is there anything more mysterious in the world than the formula to having a successful romantic relationship? As a divorced woman, I now marvel at those who are able to create passionate, loving, long-term relationships. From my studies with books and the school of hard knocks, I believe that one of the most important ingredients in relationships, of all kinds, is appreciation.

What is Appreciation?

Appreciation is like a much-needed rainfall to a farmer’s crops that have been withering in a drought. Just as the crops start to shrivel and die without water, human relationships also start to feel brittle without a steady application of the nourishing, even life-giving, impacts of appreciation.

The dictionary defines appreciation as “a favorable critical estimate,” “sensitive awareness” and “an expression of admiration, approval or gratitude.” When you appreciate someone, you are tuned into a positive quality of another human being and express your gratitude for it. How often do you take the time to express those sentiments to others or even to yourself? If you’re like most people, the idea of expressing appreciation to another person on a regular basis might seem quite novel. Another meaning is “an increase in value.” We often associate this idea with real estate, or fine art, but practicing appreciation to another we can notice and feel an increase of the value of that particular relationship.

How would it feel to wake up in the morning and be told how much you are loved? (Yes, without having to ask first!) How would it feel to tell your children each night five different ways that you appreciate them and let them do likewise? What if your ex-spouse thanked you for being so organized with the children’s schedule? Appreciation helps pave the way for a deep connection, intimacy, and honesty in our relationships.

Why Do We Need Appreciation?

There appears to be a drought of appreciation in our culture today. Most people aren't used to giving appreciation. Perhaps even more, people are not skilled at receiving appreciations. Let’s face it – most of us are used to criticism and judgment instead. When people hear themselves being appreciated by another, there’s often one of two reactions. The first is typically suspicion – “Well that sounds nice, but I wonder what they really want from me?” You then go on alert waiting for some kind of request or “reason” someone else is being nice to you.

A second reaction is simply to deflect the appreciation altogether – “Gee, thanks, but I really didn’t do much and don’t deserve your appreciation.” The “appreciation deflector” typically reciprocates the compliment without pausing to fully let the appreciation sink in. An “appreciation receiver” is willing to take the acknowledgment, feel it fully and simply say “thank you.” There is no need to deflect or reciprocate. Ask yourself honestly, how much do I express my appreciation to those in my life? How often do I appreciate myself? Do I feel comfortable with it or do I shy away from it?

Appreciation is a simple way to refresh ourselves, to add to our life-force and to open up heart-felt connections to ourselves and others. Appreciation is a recognized antidote to a major cause of relationship breakdown – criticism. Relationship experts estimate that it takes five appreciations to counter-balance the negative impact of even one criticism. Acts of kindness, such as appreciation, alter the brain chemistry in a positive way that elevates our mood and sense of well-being. This change is enjoyed not only by the recipient of the act of kindness, but also by the giver and even third-party witnesses to that act. One simple act can provide a big payoff to many people!

Many people who’ve been divorced suffer a major blow to their self-esteem and self-confidence. Appreciation is like a loving balm to those wounds of divorce, soothing the pain of the past and helping you move forward towards a brighter future. Appreciation enhances and enriches all kinds of relationships profoundly – not only in our intimate relationships, but with our children, our family, our work colleagues and beyond.

Author's Bio: 

Carolyn B. Ellis is the Founder of Thrive After Divorce, Inc. A Harvard University graduate, Carolyn is a Certified Master Integrative Coach™, Teleclass Leader and the first Canadian to be certified as a Spiritual Divorce Coach. She has also served as a Staff Coach at the Institute for Integrative Coaching at John F. Kennedy University in San Francisco, CA, and has been trained personally by its founder, NY Times best-selling author Debbie Ford. Her award-winning book, The 7 Pitfalls of Single Parenting: What to Avoid to Help Your Children Thrive after Divorce will be published in 2007. She is a member of Collaborative Practice Toronto. Her three amazing school age children and bouncy labradoodle dog are her daily sources of inspiration and joy.

Additional Resources covering Divorce can be found at:

Website Directory for Divorce
Articles on Divorce
Products for Divorce
Discussion Board
Carolyn B. Ellis, the Official Guide To Divorce