Last updated on September 7th, 2020 at 08:38 pm
When relationships are fresh and new, everything your partner does seem wonderful. Cosy home-cooked meals here and breezy beach-side dates there. They give you their undivided attention as you walk hand in hand. Your significant other can do no wrong. But everyone in a long-term relationship knows that this starry-eyed phase does not last. Work schedules increase. Life becomes busier. Our clothes get a little comfier, as we allow our other halves to see our flaws. That’s okay. It’s how relationships develop naturally over time into a deeper connection. But sometimes, you can find yourselves slipping into routines that dampen the romance. The smallest drips of issues in partnerships can have a stormy impact over time. It can lead to questioning yourself. “My boyfriend/partner never compliments me. Why did this happen and how can I fix it.”
Today, we are going to consider how to encourage your partner to compliment you more often and spark positive energy back into your relationship.
The situation: “My boyfriend (or girlfriend) never compliments me anymore”
If you are reading this, then the chances are that your partner has stopped complimenting you. Or maybe they tend to use the same old sweet words out of habit.
How can you resolve this? Jennifer Lopez in her hit record advises you to ‘get mad!’ otherwise, they will not learn what you want. Is this really the right approach to take?
Nagging your significant other actually might not be the best tack. This type of interaction could be punishing their behaviour. Although your partner might mean well and wants to change, nagging might further reduce the chance that they will compliment you in the future!
Even if nagging does work and your love starts to compliment you more as a result, they probably aren’t doing it for the right reasons.
Let’s look to behavioural science to explain.
If you feel pressured into doing something in order to avoid experiencing something that you dislike, and then you will only do the minimum amount of work possible to avoid what you hate (Cooper, Heron and Heward, 2014).
In other words, if you complain bitterly about your partner’s inadequacies, then they will only do the bare minimum amount of ‘work’ possible to get by without a telling off later down the line.
Surely, you want your partner to compliment you because it brightens your day, not because they are exasperated?
How do you communicate to your partner what you want, without resulting in nagging (or driving yourself crazy!)?
You can’t expect the poor beau to be a mind reader after all!
I would suggest giving modelling a try.
No, I’m not talking about quitting your day job and taking up a career in high-fashion. Strutting your stuff on a runway is not required! Instead, you should demonstrate what you want by giving them more compliments first.
I realise this sounds counter-intuitive. When I first heard this advice, I couldn’t help but feel defensive. Words like ‘spontaneity’ echoed in my mind.
We have been conditioned by the media to see a red flag if you have to spell out what you want from your partner. It ruins the ‘romance’. But positive and reciprocal communication should be the way forward.
Your partner should not be made to feel inadequate for not instinctively knowing what you want.
Before you start this exercise, do some self-reflection. Take your significant other out of the harsh spotlight and put yourself into it. Consider “How often do I actually take time out of my day to compliment my partner?” and “Do I make the effort to vary my compliments and make these more interesting?”
It is quite easy to point the blame onto someone else and much trickier to look towards yourself as a part of the issue. If your relationship is important to you, then you need to open yourself up to consideration too.
Refresh your thoughts, from “My boyfriend/girlfriend never reciprocates compliments” to “What can I do to show appreciation for my significant other?”
Think of communication as being like a mirror. We get what is reflected back at us. This might go a long way to explaining why your partner is not reflecting a bunch of compliments back at you.
In addition, I have found that open communication can strengthen your relationship.
Modelling for compliments: an approach backed by behavioural science
Research shows that people have a tendency to copy the behaviour of others, see Mazur’s book for a brilliant overview of the subject (2015, p251). This phenomenon is especially true when we notice that the person modelling the behaviour is being reinforced or rewarded for their responses (Schneider, 2012). We repeat behaviours if they give us a result that we enjoy; for example, positive feedback from our partner.
I had the pleasure of interviewing Dr Jon Bailey, author of ‘How to think like a Behaviour Analyst‘. He suggested that partners often quit giving compliments because they are not getting reinforced for this behaviour. They feel like they aren’t being noticed or being taken for granted. It could lead to retaliation with defensive comments.
For example in our “My boyfriend/girlfriend never compliments me” argument, your partner could snap back “I love you, why do I have to say it ten times a day?”
Reversing this negative cycle is easy.
Take the first move and be the one to compliment your partner.
Build this slowly and naturally into your everyday conversation. Remember that relationships should allow you to enjoy each other’s company. Relax and have fun with it! Enjoy finding new things to like about your partner. Take the time to notice their thoughtful gestures, even if it’s something as simple as sharing the washing up without being asked.
They should start to feel more appreciated in no time. If all goes well, your significant other should take the unspoken hint and begin to return those sweet compliments.
Stuck for ideas? Kristine from Bustle suggests 7 things to compliment your partner on.
Once their compliments are flowing, make sure that you thank them sincerely for it. This should be all it takes to reinforce their behaviour; it takes just seconds! However, if you are always too busy to acknowledge their efforts, don’t be surprised if their attention starts to fade.
Small moments of appreciation matter.
Aiming for 20 reinforcers per day is what Dr Bailey recommends as a recipe for a happy and lasting relationship. If that isn’t a good reason to give this approach a try, then I don’t know what is!
If you want to feel more appreciated by your partner, then start by showing them the type of behaviour that you want to see. Stop just thinking “My boyfriend/girlfriend never compliments me.” Research suggests that they will catch on and before you know it, you will be exchanging all of the compliments! No nagging required.
Have you ever thought to yourself “My boyfriend/girlfriend never compliments me”? Do you have any relationship tips for our readers? Let me know in the comments section below.
More Articles? Take a look!
- A Fun Way to Show Your Partner that You Care
- 4 Tips to Grow a More Positive Attitude
- Talent vs Effort. How Can You Be More Successful?
Beth is forever curious about what makes people tick. She is a master’s degree graduate and former psychology teacher (AKA a proud behaviour nerd!). Autism awareness is a cause close to her heart – check out her fundraiser. Beth becomes her happiest self when she’s helping people like you to enhance your life.