Being vulnerable with a romantic partner isn't always easy, especially when it involves telling them how they've hurt you. But when you don't feel appreciated enough by your partner, communication is key. Verbally calling attention to how your SO demonstrates their appreciation (or doesn't) can seem like an uncomfortable move, but if all you want is to be happy in your relationship, it might be necessary to hold them accountable for the role that they're playing.
At the end of the day, it's important to feel appreciated in your relationship, period. Being acknowledged for the things you do for your partner, or even just for being yourself, is important. And if you feel like your SO is taking you for granted, it's important to speak up. Whitney Berg, a marriage and family therapist who practices with Sojourn Counseling Group, has a few solid guidelines for having this conversation with your partner. Here's what she had to say about letting your SO know that you'd like a little bit more credit, please.
For starters, you should not have this chat if you feel like you and your partner are either about to get into a fight, or if you just had one. And second, Berg tells Elite Daily, "When discussing something with a partner, such as feeling not appreciated enough, we want to be very mindful of using language like 'I feel' — instead of 'You make me feel.'" That way, the conversation feels less accusatory, and more solutions-oriented.
A concrete example Berg gives of starting a hard conversation like this is, "I would like to talk to you about something I have been feeling. Is now a good time?" Similar to not having this convo as you're getting into or wrapping up an argument, it's important that both parties are in the right headspace to work the issue out. Once you get the green light, Berg says, consider framing your statement like: "I do not feel appreciated when XYZ. What I need is [XYZ]." That way, you're being direct and offering a solution.
Another strategy Berg recommends is going over the "Speaker-Listener Technique" with your partner. In short, the speaker in the conversation speaks for themselves, keeps their statements brief, and stops to let the other person listen and paraphrase. The listener should not only listen so that the speaker can paraphrase what they're saying, but also focus on the speaker's message — not just respond blankly.
It can also be important to ask your partner how they're feeling, too. Berg recommends asking, "Do you feel appreciated? If yes, what does that look like? If no, what are you also needing in this relationship?"
Again, this little sit-down can feel daunting, because it's hard to feel good when you're being called out. There is a chance your SO might react poorly, whether that's by deflecting, shutting down, or blowing up at you. "When a partner doesn't respond well, remember that this is the first time they may be hearing this and may be taking it personally," Berg points out. Give your partner space and time to process.
What can also be useful in situations like this — as well as in future arguments or tough discussions — is coming up with a safe-word. It can be your signal to cool off and regroup. "If a time-out from the conversation is needed, they would then set a time limit. For example, 15 minutes," Berg explains. "When the time is up, [then they would] try the conversation again."
If you and your partner have access to therapy, that can also be a helpful tool. "Therapy can be beneficial if conversations like this have not gone well in the past, or if the partner is nervous to have these conversations," Berg says. Marriage and family therapists like Berg are trained to help couples have those difficult conversations and process information.
Even if therapy is not an option, you and your partner can still try to approach the conversation with honesty, kindness, the intention to hold space for each other's feelings, and a commitment to meeting each others' needs. If anything, taking these approaches serves as proof that you and your partner are concerned with each other's feelings and want to see your relationship succeed. That, in and of itself, is a great start.