People often fall in love and bask in the glory of happily ever after. But at times, even with the best intentions at heart, we fall victim to complacency and begin to lose sight of what we have, and in the process, neglect the critical core value of appreciation. It’s always easy to admire someone we just met and with whom we feel a strong chemistry. For some of us, this initial intensity of a new romance persists for an extended period of time. But for others, we start to take our partner for granted. We don’t talk as often. We don’t listen like we used to. We don’t compliment as often. We sacrifice quality time together to pursue less important activities. This doesn’t mean we necessarily lose respect or admiration for our partners. We simply refrain from making the conscious effort to appreciate what we have and to frequently convey our appreciation. Not surprisingly, authors Gay and Kathlyn Hendricks cite lack of appreciation as one of five issues tied to the erosion of long-term romantic relationships. In their book, Lasting Love, the authors stress the importance of maintaining the flow of appreciation between partners as their relationship evolves. They also cite commitment among their five issues of concern—a topic I address at length in Chapter VI.
It’s not enough to assume love will conquer all simply because we feel love in our heart for someone. We have to show we appreciate one another through our words and our actions. This can be a tough lesson to learn and partially explains why good partners slip away despite everything we feel we’ve done right in our relationship. The concept is simple, yet so easy to get wrong.
We all have a need to feel appreciated and wanted. Over several years I’ve dated women who lack the core value of appreciation. Despite all their positive qualities, they reciprocated my kindness and generosity with all the honesty and respect of a rock—a paradox worthy of further consideration but beyond the scope of this book. More importantly, those negative experiences reinforced for me, the tremendous value of appreciation. When we lose appreciation for the kindhearted, genuine, attractive individuals in our lives, we fail ourselves and our romantic relationships by not acknowledging the value of the person in our lives. As the French philosopher, Voltaire, proclaimed, “Appreciation is a wonderful thing. It makes what is excellent in others belong to us as well.”
We owe it to our partners to not only appreciate their presence in our lives, but to demonstrate our appreciation at recurring intervals. Sometimes it’s not enough to say, “I love you.” Show your partner how much you love him or her through good deeds and selfless acts. Become an active listener. Learn to empathize. Identify the priorities in your life and make sure your romantic relationship stays near the top of the list where it belongs.
Some key points to remember about the core value of appreciation:
- Appreciation is a cornerstone of romance.
- If you can’t appreciate what you have in your romantic relationship, it might be time to reevaluate your needs and desires.
- Appreciation doesn’t come with a price tag, so give generously.
- Doubt and insecurity lurk in the absence of appreciation. When you fail to appreciate your partner, you erode the foundation of trust, respect, and honesty you’ve built over time.
- It doesn’t take a genius intellect or a wild imagination to show appreciation; sometimes the smallest gestures echo loudest in the valley of true love.
Forgiveness, the last core value I will mention in this book, defines a value many people struggle to incorporate in their day-to-day lives. Tolstoy said, “Let us forgive each other—only then will we live in peace.” Mark Twain quipped, “Forgiveness is the fragrance that the violet sheds on the heel that has crushed it.” And in the words of Dr. Martin Luther King Junior, “Forgiveness is not an occasional act, it is a constant attitude.”
Forgiveness can’t be something we choose from time to time. Selective forgiveness, in my opinion, doesn’t work. Furthermore, in forgiveness lies hope. For without forgiveness, we are doomed to languish in our own despair.
Let’s face it, most of us at one time or another have endured bad relationships, whether they involved a short term fling we later regretted, a planned engagement that fell through, or like many couples, a marriage that ended badly. Forgiveness helps us leave the past behind and get on with our lives. A lot of personal factors determine our willingness to forgive, including our faith, our personality, lessons learned from our previous relationships, and our upbringing.
When a romantic relationship fails, the choice to forgive a wrongdoing inflicted by one partner on another may or may not save the relationship once the music stops for good. But small acts of forgiveness while a relationship remains healthy, or even when it’s in need of repair, can be tremendously beneficial.
Does your boyfriend or husband leave the toilet seat up? If yes, then tell him not to. If he persists, then explain your concerns with a more compelling approach. Assuming you get through to him and the toilet seat stays down, then give him some slack if he forgets on occasion. In other words, forgive the behavior. Resist the temptation to hold a grudge about it or to incite a hurtful argument. The same attitude applies to men. If your girlfriend or wife does something to irritate you—hypothetically speaking, of course, since women never do things to drive men crazy—calmly explain your position and help her understand why the behavior has a negative affect on you. When an occasional lapse in judgment ensues, forgive the behavior and move on. Often, the little stuff evolves into bigger problems if ignored. But don’t confuse forgiveness with complacency or appeasement. If something bothers you, speak up! And if you find yourself in the position of having to forgive someone’s constant indiscretions, then perhaps your partner’s core values don’t align with yours. In addition, there’s a good chance certain high priority relationship needs are not being met.
If your girlfriend forgot to set the DVR to Sports Channel, forgive her. If your boyfriend forgot to call you at work, forgive him. If your wife forgot to grab your favorite beer at the store, forgive her. If your husband forgot your anniversary, again—well…it was nice knowing him.
Some key points to remember about the core value of forgiveness:
- Forgiveness doesn’t necessarily imply reconciliation.
- Forgive the little things to help your romantic relationship grow.
- Better to forgive and carry on with a conscience in good faith than carry the crushing weight of a grudge.
Core Values in Summary
The core values of trust, respect, honesty, reassurance, humor, independence, accountability, self discipline, appreciation, and forgiveness provide the foundation upon which we build a meaningful and lasting romance. These core values as I’ve defined them are not meant to be all-encompassing, but rather, a comprehensive list of essential principles from which to better ourselves and our romantic relationships. These universal standards are important and shouldn’t be taken lightly. Think about the values you champion and those you could improve upon. No one is perfect. People excel more in some areas than in others. Strive for balance as you grow and learn—not perfection.
With a better understanding of our core values and the role they play in helping us foster a meaningful and lasting romance, we can shift our focus to understanding the distinction between our needs and our desires. Why are these important, and how do they ultimately relate to the 4Cs? The answer is simple, and in many ways, applies to every one of us.