Aaron and Suzanne get through the days together. They wake up, take care of the kids, go to work, come home from work, take care of the kids, maybe watch TV, maybe make love, go to sleep.
As with so many relationships, there is nothing terribly wrong.
Yet, something is wrong. They both know it. Something is missing. But what?
Dysfunctional relationships take many forms
We all know about destructive relationships. Some relationships fail because the partners are at each other’s throats. They tear each other apart and do not seem to be content unless they finish the job.
Such relationships often fail because they are so destructive. It is like the partners are at war. Unless they have a war story, in which love is war, they are both unhappy.
We also know about dead relationships, whether or not we use that term. Those are once-vibrant relationships that somewhere along the line gave up the ghost.
The partners may or may not know the relationship is dead, but it is dead.
The partners may stay together for any of a number of reasons, such as children, finances, or shared property, but utility holds them together, not love.
Many of us also are familiar with living-lie relationships, ones that stay together only so long as the partners lie—to each other and often to themselves.
The relationship is somewhat fraudulent, but the fake relationship holds together with fake glue. When the fake glue gives way, so does the relationship.
At some point, someone realizes that the whole thing is, well, a fake.
But there is another kind of relationship that we often neglect—the relationship in which the light is dim. Lights can be dim for various reasons, but today I would like to focus on one—faint or vanished praise. Praise lights up a relationship, but in these relationships, it is faint or absent.
When we meet a potential partner for a serious relationship, we usually compliment them a lot. But as time goes on, we may become less complimentary.
Perhaps the relationship has deteriorated.
Perhaps we forgot.
Perhaps we got busy.
Perhaps our interests moved elsewhere.
Perhaps, perhaps, perhaps.
Everyone needs positive reinforcement
But relationships, like gardens, die when they are not tended to, whether or not partners have a garden story--the story that a relationship actually is just like tending a garden.
Everyone needs “positive reinforcement”—rewards.
And in a relationship, people especially need positive reinforcement to know they still matter to their partner.
Below you can download a quiz. Try it to get you started!
Use it to see whether there are things you can do to improve your relationship.
Can you use the quiz to increase how much and how well you reward your partner, just by telling them something nice about themselves?
If you increase your compliments, your relationship will improve. Ready? Set. Go!