Women and men both need appreciation. Real appreciation is a gift of love straight from the heart, an acknowledgement of another’s greatness, and a way of showing your partner that you really care.
Many men need specific kinds of appreciation. And you as a woman need to find out by asking him. Here’s an example:
The Super Appreciator
Joanna fancied herself a great appreciator. She knew the importance of positive words and made it a point to appreciate Thomas as much as she could. In a couple’s session with the two of them, Joanna pointed out the beauty of his soul, his caring and generosity, how loved she felt by him, even how attractive he was to her. Thomas, when it was his turn, appreciated how hard Joanna works taking care of the children and doing the absolute best for them.
We noticed, however, that Thomas looked sad, and pointed this out to him. He said Joanna’s appreciations were so much more important than his. She pointed out the depths of his soul, and he could only acknowledge what she did. He wondered what was wrong with him. Yet he loved Joanna, and was committed to improving their relationship.
“Thomas,” we asked, “is there some way you need to be appreciated that Joanna is missing?”
After a moment’s hesitation he spoke, “This sounds petty, but Joanna seldom appreciates what I do. She focuses on the more important things, the spiritual things.”
“Thomas,” we interrupted, “you have a right to be appreciated and recognized for what you do. Your accomplishments are part of your beauty. Tell us the things you do well, the things you do for Joanna and for yourself.”
“Well… I work hard at my job. I make the money, so Joanna can be with the kids at home. Then, when I’m home, I take care of the house, fixing, cleaning, and stuff. Joanna mentioned one time that the old birdfeeder was broken, so I went out to the garage and spent about an hour fixing it. I filled it with bird seed, hung it up, and it’s been over a week. She hasn’t said a thing. But I understand. She’s busy with the kids and probably hasn’t noticed it yet.”
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We stopped him again. “Thomas, you deserve to be appreciated for fixing that birdfeeder.”
Joanna reached over and took Thomas’s hand. She looked like she was about to cry, “I’m so sorry. I did notice the birdfeeder, but it didn’t even occur to me to appreciate you for that. I didn’t know it was important to you.”
At that, Thomas’s eyes welled up with tears. “My parents never appreciated me either for the things I did. Once, I got the highest grade in the class, a B, and my mother criticized me for not getting an A. Or the first time my dad allowed me to mow the lawn, he criticized me for missing a few areas. It seemed like nothing I did was good enough.”
We held his hands and spoke softly, “Thomas, there’s a little boy inside you who still craves acknowledgement for the things he accomplishes.”
We glanced at Joanna and gave her a nod urging her to speak to Thomas. Through her own tears she spoke, “I guess I’m not the great appreciator I thought I was. I didn’t even know what my own husband needs the most. If I were your parent, I would be so proud of you for that B, for mowing that lawn, and for all the things you do in your life. By the way, the birdfeeder is beautiful…”
Thomas put up his hand to stop her and said, “You don’t need to do this…”
But Joanna interrupted, “Please, let me. The birdfeeder IS beautiful. You did a great job fixing it. You can’t even tell it was broken. I’m so sorry I haven’t appreciated you the way you need. You work really hard so that we can live comfortably. And you never complain. I find that incredible. I vow to you right now to make it a point every day to appreciate what you do for us.”
Thomas leaned toward Joanna and they hugged.
Love Expressed In Everyday Ways
I so appreciate my husband’s love expressed in everyday ways. I see his love in the way he shows up on time at the airport when my son and I have been away. He doesn’t complain that we’ve gone on a trip without him; he just arrives at exactly the right time to bring us home, having parked the car and come into the airport, waiting at the foot of the escalator so that Zachary sees his daddy right away. I see his love in the way he reminds me to stop working and get to bed at a reasonable time most every night. I see his love in the way he drives my elderly mother to a meeting so that I can stay home and put Zachary to bed. I see his love in the quiet ways, for he is not a man who likes to speak of love. He just lives his love. Oh, we have our tussles. We argue over silly things; we try to change things we don’t like in the other, but I am a better person for being in a relationship with this man, my husband. –Ellen M. Wilson, El Paso, TX
Remember, this doesn’t mean that all men need to be appreciated mainly for what they do. Just find out what kind of acknowledgment means most to the man in your life. Another example:
Find Out What He Needs
How does he most need to be appreciated? You may be surprised. Then make it a practice as much as you can to offer this specific appreciation.
Please don’t get the idea that men don’t also need appreciation for inner qualities of being. We have met many couples where the man was appreciated for what he did and as a lover, but he really needed to be seen and acknowledged on the level of his soul, for qualities like compassion, generosity, integrity or trustworthiness. He needed to be appreciated for who he is, more than what he does.
Exercising the Appreciation Muscle
Joyce: I love to appreciate Barry and have always enjoyed this. When we were first married, I would appreciate him and there would be nothing coming back in return. He would smile at me, but remain silent. I realized that Barry’s lack of verbal appreciation of me was not because he did not love me, because I knew he did, and he showed me in abundance with his non-verbal affection and caring. Spoken appreciation was just not something his family did, so he hadn’t developed the skill.
I decided that I would keep on appreciating him and perhaps, in time, he would feel how good it felt and return the appreciations. This may sound strange, but I was all right with this. It took four years for this pattern to change. Remember, we were also very young and he was in a challenging medical school program at USC, so there was not a lot of time to practice.
After four years he started appreciating me, minimally at first and the appreciations were not that deep. It was like developing a new muscle in which the strength came slowly. But once that muscle was finally developed, he exercised it to the max. I would say that now he appreciates me as much if not more than I do him, and his appreciations are very deep. It took determination on my part to not give up, and just keep appreciating him. It has been well worth it, for my life is filled with appreciation from him now.
Barry loves when I appreciate his sexuality. I tell him on a regular basis that, if all men could learn from him about how to please a woman sexually, this world would be a better place. I feel that he is the most wonderful lover and I want him to know that, so I take every opportunity I can to tell him.
I also appreciate him for his spirituality and this is important for him to hear. I appreciate him for being my best friend and for bringing so much laughter, adventure and fun into my life. I appreciate him for being so wise and being such a good partner in our work together.
The Light in the Darkness
But the very hardest appreciations, and perhaps the most important, are when I am not feeling so much love for him because we are not getting along. At these times, which occurred more often when we were younger, it feels as if the darkness is closing in around us. During these dark times, the appreciation is most important as it helps to bring back the light.
This always reminds me of our wedding. Barry and I were married on the coldest, darkest night of the year. December 21, 1968 had subzero weather with a blinding snowstorm. We said our vows on that solstice eve in a darkened church with only the light of two candles held between us. Though it was dark, the light of just these two small candles gave warmth, hope and radiance to our spoken words.
After the ceremony, many said it was the most beautiful wedding they had witnessed. ”The light was so bright,” they remarked with enthusiasm.
How could two small candles create so much light? We were only twenty-two years old and rather naive. We didn't know about the symbolism of the darkness and light at the time of the winter solstice. We picked that time because Barry was free from medical school. We picked the dark evening of the solstice because it was the only time the church was available.
Yet, over the years, I have often reflected on how perfect it was for us to be married in the dark coldness of winter. There have been many times in our marriage when the darkness seemed to be crowding in, almost suffocating our love. There were times when the cold darkness between us made us feel we didn't want to try anymore. It was during these dark times in our marriage that we would remember the blinding snowstorm on the black night of our wedding, and how two small candles had brought so much warmth and radiance. The light of these candles represented our simple love and appreciation of each other.
So, surrounded by the darkness of our minds and emotions, we would once again speak simple words of appreciation to each other. The powerful act of appreciation fanned the smoldering embers in our covered-over hearts, which then glowed brighter as more and more kind words were spoken. Soon there was enough of a flame and warm radiance to allow for the deeper expressions of love.
The darkness was still all around us. It hadn't gone away, just like the darkness outside the church so many years ago. Yet the candlelight of our open hearts gave vision, hope, understanding and a safe haven from the shadow areas of our relationship. Simple words of appreciation and love can light the way in relationship and are a beautiful way to love a man.
To Really Love a Man
by Joyce and Barry Vissell.
HOW DOES A MAN REALLY NEED TO BE LOVED? How can his partner help to bring out his sensitivity, his emo-tions, his strength, his fire, and at the same time allow him to feel respected, secure, and acknowledged? This book gives tools to the readers to more deeply honor their partners.
About the Author(s)
Joyce & Barry Vissell, a nurse/therapist and psychiatrist couple since 1964, are counselors, near Santa Cruz CA, who are passionate about conscious relationship and personal-spiritual growth. They are widely regarded as among the world's top experts on conscious relationship and personal growth. Joye & Barry are the authors of 9 books, including The Shared Heart, Models of Love, Risk To Be Healed, The Heart’s Wisdom, Meant To Be, and A Mother’s Final Gift. Call 831-684-2299 for further information on counseling sessions by phone/video, online, or in person, their books, recordings or their schedule of talks and workshops. Visit their web site at SharedHeart.org for their free monthly e-heartletter, their updated schedule, and inspiring past articles on many topics about relationship and living from the heart.
Listen to a radio interview with Joyce and Barry Vissell on "Relationship as Conscious Path".
More books by these authors