7 Surprising Activities That Will Build Compassion & Gratitude In Your Relationship
If you want to maintain a happy and healthy long-term partnership, showing gratitude in your relationship is essential. "Compassion and gratitude are critical because they bring us out of our own separate corners and allow us to be connected and on the same team with our partners," psychotherapist, Erin K. Tierno, LCSW-R, tells Bustle. Without compassion and gratitude, it's easy to notice and focus only on yourself and what you're lacking from your partner or the relationship. "Without fostering compassion and gratitude, it is in fact your partner who is taken for granted, and that can be a surefire path to relationship demise," she says.
Research also seems to back this up. A 2015 University of Georgia study found that showing gratitude in your relationship is the key to becoming closer and more committed. A 2017 study published in the journal Emotion also found that compassion is one of the most important qualities to have in a happy marriage.
"Over time, couples can start to take each other for granted," Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, Theresa Herring, LMFT, tells Bustle. "While relationships can sustain this in the short-term, it can definitely lead to disconnect, loss of intimacy, and breaking up in the long-term. Compassion and gratitude can go a long way in helping couples reconnect and rekindle their relationship."
There are some pretty easy things you can do to show compassion and gratitude in your relationship like making a point to say the word, "I love you" everyday. But if you want to change it up, experts say try these seven unique activities to build compassion and gratitude in your relationship.
1. Take A Yoga Class
"When our stress levels are high, our ability to express compassion goes way down," Doctor of Human Sexuality and creator/host of the podcast Sex with Emily, Emily Morse, tells Bustle. Taking classes on your own, or possibly even together, like yoga or meditation, can not only help relax you, it can help you integrate mindfulness and gratitude into your daily routine. And then from there, it's not hard to extend that gratitude toward your relationship.
2. Take A Sex Questionnaire And Swap Results
According to Morse, this isn't just a "handy bedroom trick." Taking a sex questionnaire and swapping results can not only help you and your partner explore new things in the bedroom, it can actually spill over into other parts of your relationship as well. "Once you prioritize your sexual desires, you’ll both feel more satisfied and will expand your compassion and intimate connection," she says. And that physical connection can help with emotional connection.
3. Volunteer Together
Whether it's local or something abroad (think honeyteering), Michal Naisteter, a matchmaker with Three Day Rule tells Bustle, volunteering is something that can help you see the best in your partner. "Volunteering often requires empathy and compassion and these are important qualities to see in your partner," Naisteter says.
For instance, visiting sick patients at your local hospital can be a really good option. "The simplest gestures can bring a light to them and doing this as a united presence can grow a connection between you and your partner," she says. "This can unite you together as a couple while also helping someone when they are not at their best."
4. Learn Each Other's Love Language
According to Morse, a good way to explore how your partner will receive compassion and gratitude is by better understanding their love language. "We often give love in the way we want to receive it, but that may not always match up with what our partner really wants from us," she says. "The Five Love Languages is a universal way we all express and experience love."
According to Dr. Gary Chapman, there are five love languages, ranging from acts of service, physical touch, words of affirmation, receiving gifts and quality time. So, if you’re someone who likes physical touch, but your partner likes acts of service, instead of giving them a long embrace, do the dishes without being asked, or fill up their gas tank. "In return, they’ll probably give you the massage you’ve been wanting all day," she says.
5. Do An Activity Your Partner Really Enjoys (Even If You Don't Really Like It)
"It is often suprisingly simple to get back on track and build more compassion and gratitude in your relationship," Tracy K. Ross, LCSW, Couples and Family Therapist tells Bustle. One of the most effective ways to do that is to plan a date doing something your partner really enjoys, even if it's not something you care for. "This expresses compassion and gratitude to your partner by showing that you're really listening and letting them know you hold them in your mind."
6. Talk About Your Stressful Day
One surprising activity that can help build compassion is to have a conversation at the end of the day about the stresses or problems you may have faced. "This may seem like it will cause more stress or raise anxiety, but the key to going into these conversations is to make sure you understand what's causing your partner stress, validating their point of view, and then being on their side," marriage and family therapist, Erika Labuzan-Lopez, LMFT, LPC, tells Bustle.
Doing this can help both you and your partner to understand each other and show compassion for any situation they're facing when you're apart. "You may also gain an appreciation for what your partner does or deals with during the day," she says.
7. Tell Each Other Your Most Embarrassing Stories
Laughter is important in relationships. That's why Labuzan-Lopez says exchanging funny stories about your lives is a great way to build compassion and gratitude. "You need to be able to laugh at your own shortcomings and point them out to your partner," she says. "This can build compassion for yourself but also gratitude for the ways your partner balances you out or helps you move through life. I think this also brings about some fun into the relationship by giving you the opportunity to enjoy your humor and laugh together."
According to professional women's counselor, Heidi McBain, MA, LMFT, you don't have to go big or all out in order to show your partner gratitude and compassion. "I think what people forget in everyday life is that small activities are what builds a relationship, not the grand things that we often see portrayed in the movies," she says.
Whether it's making coffee for your partner every morning or trying a new hobby together, it doesn't matter what you do. As long as it shows your partner that you care, love, and appreciate them, that's all that matters.