By Dr. Steve
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Beautys in the Eye of the Beholder
Over the piano was printed a notice.
Please do not shoot the pianist. He is doing his best.
As you sow the seeds of appreciation for your partner, you will begin to reap a
harvest of love and kindness in return.
Ray, here, up here, Im in the office. Come on up, I want to show you
excitement in Jills voice told Ray that something was up. Jill had been acting
mysterious all week, however she wouldnt say what was going on.
today Jill had finally finished her secret project and now she was just waiting for Ray to
come home. She couldnt wait to show him the story she had written, having worked on
it for days while Ray was at work. Writing had been a long forgotten passion she had
promised herself she was going to get back to someday. Someday had rolled around last week
when she finally sat down at the computer.
was surprised at how good it felt. Thats what was so amazing about writing. The
sense of pride that came with creating something from nothing. Unearthing new nuggets
about herself from within. Shaping and molding those nuggets into cogent thoughts to be
shared with the world. Impacting even one persons life, it gave her the chills just
thinking about it.
the best feeling of all was being able to share her work with Ray. He was going to be so
proud of her. He was the one who was pushing her to start writing again. So, she
couldnt wait for him to read the story. There was so much in the story about her
that she wanted to share with Ray.
whats up? Whats all the commotion about? Ray asked, huffing and puffing
from running up the three flights of stairs.
saying a word, Jill handed Ray a folder that contained the twenty pages the story was
written on. I want you to read this.
tell me. You didnt! When did you do all of this? Jill, you finally... I cant
hugged Jill. He was so proud of her. He had wanted her to do this for so long.
ahead. Sit down and read it. I just finished it an hour ago. Im sure there are still
some typos. Promise me you wont feel compelled to point those out to me.
Never, he chuckled.
had already begun reading the first page. There was a smile here, a grunt there. His
forehead would furrow. Next, his face broke into a big smile. The next page brought
complete silence, steadied concentration. Page after page, Jill watched intently,
interpreting his every expression and sound.
ten minutes later, Ray put down the last sheet of paper. As he took his glasses off, Jill
noticed for the first time, there were tears streaming down Rays cheeks. Those tears
said it all for Jill.
Sacrifice. Talent. Ability. Worth. Value. Who doesnt want to feel appreciated for
what they do, for who they are? You recognize how good it feels when those longings for
appreciation have been stroked.
doesnt matter how big or small the project is. It can be something grand like
graduating from college or something seemingly trivial like cleaning out a closet.
doesnt matter how big or small the gesture is. It can be something grand like
throwing a surprise birthday party or something seemingly trivial like bringing your
childs forgotten umbrella to school.
doesnt matter how big or small the acknowledgment is. It can be something
grand like a testimonial dinner thrown in your honor for the years of service you provided
to your local community or something seemingly trivial like getting your dad an apron with
the words Worlds Best Chef printed on it.
appreciated by the people in our lives is an incredible tonic. Having who we are and what
we do acknowledged is a magical feeling. And Im sure you recognize the devastation
you feel when the craving to be acknowledged, to feel appreciated goes unmet. Criticism
stings. Being ignored altogether devastates. Yet, all too often people stop taking the
time to be kind to one another. The reasons may vary--indifference, being distracted,
spite, too many demands and too little time.
your appreciation can feel like an act of betrayal to your partner. See it from their
point of view. Giving so much of themself, yet you remain blind to those efforts.
course there are the times when things just get misunderstood. The excitement in
your voice isnt enough. The inflection is flat. The words dont match your
partners expectations. Or you dont know what to do or say.
the reason, no matter the justification, whenever appreciation is held back, however
its held back, the pain becomes forever etched in our soul. We dont soon
forget when that special investment in something near and dear to us goes unnoticed. We
keep a list. We check it twice. And believe me, that list becomes the source of much of
the turmoil and conflict if the hurt doesnt get expressed.
good news is, things dont have to stay this way forever. What experience has taught
me is that most people genuinely are appreciative of their partner. Most of us are able to
recognize the uniqueness of our partner. Most people have a good perspective of their
partners qualities that lend so much to the well-being of their relationship.
the problem is not being able to recognize those qualities. The problem is the many
misunderstandings that are created when we become angry at or disappointed in our
partners words and deeds. You see when that emotional energy takes over the
relationship, a different kind of climate takes over that perpetuates ill-will rather than
puts out the fire.
a climate of ill-will takes over, any feelings of appreciation go right out the window.
Once you see your partner as your antagonist, its impossible to keep the perspective
that your partner is a valued friend. When you get to that place where you lose
perspective about who your partner is, you need to find a way to balance out your feelings
of hurt and betrayal with your other feelings of attraction and appreciation. Let me show
you a couple of tools to reestablish equilibrium in order restore a climate of acceptance
Celebrate rather than evaluate your partner.
was bursting with pride as he walked into my office. He couldnt wait for me to sit
down so he could show me what he was holding in his hand.
look what I got last night, Mort said.
do you have there? I asked.
a chip, my thirty day chip. I did it. I got it. I finally got it. Thirty days straight
without using. Who da thunk it? Me going that long without a drink.
looked at the chip and then returned it to Mort. Hey how about that!
Congratulations! How does it feel?
cant tell you how good it was to finally get this. It has taken me six months to put
together thirty straight days of clean time.
was so happy for me at the meeting last night. Thats what made it so special--the
feedback they gave me.
do you mean? I asked.
one dwelled on how long it took me to get my thirty day chip. I was scared to go to the
meeting last night because I thought I would have to replay every mistake Ive made
over the last six months. I thought for sure that everyone would offer some remembrance of
how I had messed up over and over again.
guessing that it didnt happen that way, I offered.
it was the strangest thing. People congratulated me. But they also told me how much my
coming to the meetings every week for the last six months meant to them. Some people said
that knowing me made a difference in their lives. Can you believe it? Me making a
difference in somebody elses life? Now theres a switch!
felt as if they were telling me that I mattered to them. No one ever tells me that. All I
ever hear is how I screwed up, but these people actually made me feel as if Im all
right no matter what I do or how I do it.
rather than evaluating a person. Affirming who they are rather than focusing on how well
they do something. You tell me, what feels better to you, being affirmed or being
you see the shift that might be made? Let go of all the hurtful ways you evaluate your
partner. Dont confuse who a person is with the actions that person takes. You know
the saying, Hate the sin, love the sinner. That means you need to surrender
the need to make you partner out to be good or bad, right or wrong, your way or no way.
you ready to make such a shift in your relationship? Are you ready to celebrate the
uniqueness of who your partner is? Your partner is going through life the best way they
know how. Evaluating that process merely conveys your judgments. Being able to celebrate
how that process enables your partner to express the essence of who they are enables your
partner to feel appreciated by you.
Create an energy of gratitude rather than disappointment towards your partner.
could never see it before, Mark said.
what? I asked
what you meant, see how I burdened Shirley with how deprived I felt, how I was always
disappointed in her. I just couldnt look at it any other way. I felt like I
wasnt getting what I wanted. I wanted more of her, her attention, her love, her
more I felt deprived, the more let down I felt, the more I demanded what I wasnt
getting. I didnt see the damage it was doing to our relationship, Mark sighed.
did you finally realize? I asked.
finally saw how I was sabotaging Shirley. All I could focus on were the things that our
relationship wasnt. I never stopped to think how dumping all that energy on Shirley
actually made it harder for her to be there for me.
saw how she was constantly backpedaling from me. I thought she was punishing me, but I
finally realized she was just trying to protect herself.
course by then, she was so angry at me, she felt like everything she did was wrong, there
was no way she was going to reach out to me, Mark said, shaking his head at the
sheer futility of it all.
is twenty-twenty, I said.
thats when I finally decided to try what you suggested. So I sat down and made a
list of things that I was grateful for, you know all the wonderful things that Shirley
was, all the things I had because of our relationship. The funny thing was, I didnt
have to think hard about that at all. I didnt realize how much I had to feel
after making the list, every day for the next three weeks, I thanked Shirley each night
for bringing to my life one of the items from my list.
did that work out for you? I asked.
gotta tell you, it was hard at first. I felt funny doing it. I would do the exercise every
night before we went to bed. But I felt so self-conscious. You know, I couldnt talk
to her without turning out the lights first, Mark said with a sheepish grin on
okay. Did it help? I asked.
little. It still was awkward. And Shirley didnt really trust me at first. She
thought I was trying to trick her, I guess.
you know what? The funniest thing was that the more I expressed my gratitude, little by
little, I didnt feel so disappointed in her anymore.
mean, it was weird. Shirley started paying more attention to me. She would do things with
me, for me, without me asking. Before, it seemed like if I asked, that was the one way to
insure that things would never happen.
the moral of the story is? I asked.
expressing gratitude for the fruits of what my relationship bears, I can fill some of the
holes that my relationship needs filling.
you understand what is being suggested? There are two feelings that impede your
willingness to create an energy of appreciation and gratitude in your relationship.
Entitlement and disappointment. When you live with the mindset that youre entitled
to what you want when you want it, the only possible outcome of such an attitude is
feeling disappointed and deprived.
those two feelings begin to consume you, you likely dump those feelings upon your partner.
Then you devise all kinds of schemes to get what you want from your partner.
of those feelings--entitlement, feeling let down, disappointed, resentful. Do you realize
that all those feelings that you experience and express are energy? How does being
consumed with that energy affect you? How does expressing that energy to your partner
you make demands upon your partner that they are either unwilling or incapable of meeting,
how does the energy from the resultant tug of war color your relationship? Can you see how
the energy can transform your relationship into a war zone? And, I hope you realize by
now, if the underlying issue--how unappreciated you or your partner are feeling--goes
unnoticed, then the war will most likely continue.
let me suggest a shift for you. This shift will completely change the energy that flows
between you and your partner. By making this shift, you can expect three things to change
immediately. First, your partner will feel appreciated by you rather than condemned by
you. Second, your partner will feel more open to addressing your concerns. Third, your
energy will shift, leaving you feeling more fulfilled and less disappointed.
shift goes something like this: transform your feelings of hurt, resentment, and
disappointment by expressing appreciation for who your partner is and what it is they give
me walk you through this. First, make a list of what it is youre feeling
disappointed about with your partner. Write down how this sense of disappointment makes
Now, write down the things that you appreciate about your
partner and the things that your relationship does give to you.
Third, create a plan with your partner to discuss the items on
your list. I suggest that you do this slowly, perhaps discussing only one item per day.
is the key ingredient for this skill to be effective. Feeling unappreciated leaves long
lasting scars. Healing comes with time and consistency as you and your partner begin to
trust the genuineness of what each of you is expressing. But rest assured, you can bring
healing to the wounds that exist between you and your partner if youre willing to
use the simple tools we talked about in this chapter.
chemical dependency and its toxic impact on family members. Raise your
children to choose to be alcohol and other drugs
free. Learn how
to in Dr. Frischs, Psy.D. Recovery book series.