Nothing has the power to brighten your day quite like a well-placed, sincere compliment from someone you care about, especially if that someone is your significant other. We all like to
receive compliments from our partners, but sadly, dishing them out isn't second-nature to everyone — and if you have a partner who never compliments you, it can really start to erode your self-esteem over time. So why is it important to feel comfortable freely giving compliments to your partner (and receiving them, too!)?
"Compliments from your partner serve a couple of purposes," Jonathan Bennett, Dating/Relationship Coach and Owner of
The Popular Man, tells Bustle. "First, they are nice gestures to make [them] feel good. Second, they provide valuable, positive feedback. If you like something your partner does or a particular trait, complimenting him or her provides great reinforcement."
So aside from giving them an ego boost, compliments serve a more practical purpose:
they're a form of positive reinforcement, making it more likely that, in the future, your partner will repeat the behavior (or showcase the trait) that you complimented. It's a win-win, so there's really no good reason not to make a habit of regularly complimenting your partner... as long as they're willing to do the same for you, of course.
If you feel like your partner could use a crash course in Complimenting 101, it might be worth looking into the
way your partner compliments you — because it can reveal a lot about your relationship. Here are seven common compliment conundrums, and what each might mean about the fate of your relationship.
They Never Compliment Your Appearance
There's nothing sweeter than hearing your partner randomly say how beautiful you look, especially if you're not all dressed up. But if your partner rarely (if ever) compliments the way you look, it can
really damage your self-image, and is also a potential red flag for your relationship.
"If your partner never compliments your appearance, it could be a sign that your partner doesn’t find you very physically attractive," Bennett says. "So, rather than giving insincere compliments, [they] will avoid saying anything on the topic and focus on other areas of attraction instead. But, it’s also possible your partner values other traits more, like personality, humor, and intelligence. Still, never receiving physical compliments from a romantic partner can be a blow to anyone’s self-worth."
They *Only* Compliment Your Appearance
On the flip side, if your partner bombards you with
only appearance-based compliments, that can also become a problem — you might start to worry that your partner is shallow, or that they don't appreciate all your wonderful qualities.
"If your partner only compliments your appearance, it indicates that he or she places an overly high value on physical characteristics," Bennett says. "While it can certainly be flattering to know your partner finds you physically attractive, if that’s all he or she focuses on, it also could be a red flag indicating shallowness. After all, long-term relationships are built on more factors than just physical attraction."
They Criticize You, But Rarely Dish Out Compliments
Obviously, there's no minimum "acceptable" number of compliments: it will vary in every relationship based on your individual preferences. However, if you notice that your partner rarely compliments you — but feels comfortable criticizing you — that's a warning sign that
your relationship dynamic is unhealthy.
"I advise to make your compliments regular and sincere," Bennett says. "Don’t compliment excessively or to suck up. Most people know instinctively when your compliments aren’t sincere... But, you still want to compliment your partner on a regular basis. If you only point out your partner’s flaws and never focus on [their] positives, it can lead to problems in the relationship."
They Give Backhanded Compliments
Being on the
receiving end of a backhanded compliment is the effing worst, and it's even crappier when it's coming from a partner who's supposed to love and support you. Bottom line? Backhanded compliments are manipulative and rude, and they have no place in a healthy relationship — so be wary if they're a regular occurrence from your partner.
"Watch out for 'damning with faint praise,'" Bennett says. "This is when you get a compliment, but it’s a very weak one that might even be an insult."
Their Compliments Seem Insincere
What's worse than no compliments at all from your partner? Compliments that leave you
questioning your partner's intentions. Insincere-sounding compliments can really mess with your head, particularly when they come at "convenient" times (aka when your partner wants or needs something from you).
"If you can tell, through your partner’s tone of voice and level of enthusiasm, that the compliments are genuine, it’s a good sign you’ve found someone who truly finds you special," Bennett says. "On the other hand, if the compliments seem insincere or manipulative, be wary" — that person could just have an agenda, like wanting to use you to fulfill their own physical needs.
They Compliment You Too Much
This might sound like a first-world problem, but it *is* possible to have a partner who compliments you too much. As nice as it is
in theory to hear how smart/funny/attractive you are a dozen times a day, too-frequent compliments can start to feel insincere over time, which can take a toll on your relationship.
"If someone compliments you excessively, it might sound good, in theory," Bennett says. "However, too many compliments can wear thin, especially if you feel your partner is doing it for selfish reasons (like wanting something from you). In addition, complimenting you excessively could be a function of your partner’s insecurity, whether to try to get you to give more compliments in return or as a form of sucking up.
Their Compliments Are Vague
The longer you're with someone and the more you fall in love with them, the easier it will be for you to notice a whole bunch of tiny details about them that you adore — like the way their hair smells or their knack for storytelling. If your partner consistently gives you vague, throwaway compliments instead of pointing out all the specific things they love about you, it can (understandably) make you worry that your connection isn't as deep as you'd thought.
"When we think of compliments, we think of giving them in a nonspecific way, but specific compliments are more effective because they tell a story and give very specific feedback of what is working in the relationship," Marc Zola, LMFT, LPC, Founder & Psychotherapist at
Eugene Therapy, tells Bustle. "Non-specific compliments can, over time, actually become sources of resentment and misdirection."
What Do *Good* Compliments Reveal About Your Relationship?
In a healthy relationship, you should feel able to
express your feelings to your partner without fear of judgment — and that applies to giving compliments, too. As long as it comes from the heart, there's no reason to be shy about paying your partner a compliment when you feel like it.
"What you say and how you say it are important when giving a compliment," Bennett says. "It’s pretty easy to tell when you’re being insincere or 'going through the motions.' When a person gives a genuine compliment, it’s usually done with fully engaged body language and a degree of enthusiasm. However, lamely reciting a line just to make another person feel better or to suck up isn’t likely to have any benefits."
If you really mean a compliment, that will come across when you say it — but
making eye contact or light physical contact, too, is an easy way to make sure your partner knows your words are genuine. And, if you're super lucky, you already have a partner who happens to be amazing at giving compliments (which, hey, is something you could compliment them for!).
"Many people have a natural gift of providing the right kind of positive feedback, delivered authentically, at the right moment," Bennett says. "If your partner possesses the ability to brighten your mood with a few words of praise when you need it most, it’s a great sign that he or she understands what makes you tick and appreciates your authentic self. This person is a definite keeper!"
Long story short? Don't be afraid to tell your partner what you love about them — and don't
settle for someone who isn't willing to do the same for you.