Relationship Help: Turn Caring into Action

Psychologists have long recognized the power of the positive in altering behavior and transforming relationships. Put simply, when you act and react to someone in a positive, affirming manner (complimenting him/her, smiling, showing caring, using touch as a sign of affection), you are more likely to elicit similar types of responses than if you react negatively.

Like begets like.

And while it’s obvious to most people that intimate relationships are much more complex and require more than a simple exchange of niceties, marriage/couples counselors know firsthand how powerful consistent, loving-supportive gestures can be in reducing negativity and deepening emotional intimacy.

The challenge and goal is to discover what your spouse/partner finds meaningfully positive and then for you to begin implementing these behaviors.

Toward this end, psychologist Richard Stuart developed a technique called “caring days” to help couples create the structure in which positive behaviors are more likely to germinate in their relationship.  Think of a “caring day” as a kind of birthday where your wishes (relationship needs) become a top priority for your spouse/partner. On your designated “caring day” it is your partner’s responsibility to act in ways that meet your requests and then on your partner’s “caring day” his/her wishes become your responsibility.

Sounds pretty good, doesn’t it?

Relationship Help Action Step

Caring Days in Action:

The most important task in this process is to create a wish list that you want your partner to fulfill. This list tells him/her what is needed to meet your needs for affirmation, respect, love and support. On your “caring day,” your partner uses the list you’ve created as a behavior-guide (a blueprint on how to act and interact with you in order to make you feel important and loved). On your partner’s “caring day,” you use his/her list as a guide for how to meet his/her requests. You switch back and forth, each giving the other a special “caring day.” It’s important to remember that these special days are not about receiving material gifts, but instead are ways for you and your partner to discover and practice meaningful behaviors that will enrich your relationship.

Periodically arranging “caring days” can decrease conflict, increase positivity and deepen emotional intimacy.

Remember that when you make a list of requests you’d like your spouse/partner to meet, you focus on what you desire more of (ask about my day, maintain eye contact while talking to me, give me a hug before we head off to work) rather than what you don’t want (watching television/checking email while I’m talking to you). Focus on the positive.

Here is an example of a list of 5 “caring day” requests:

1. Hold my hand while we watch television in the evening;

2. Help me put the dishes away after dinner;

3. Say “I missed you” and hug me when you get home after work;

4. Send me one text message during the day;

5. Kiss me “good night.”

As you can see, these are pretty specific requests (rule of thumb: vague requests usually aren’t effective, so the more specific you can be in what you want from your partner, the better).

Are you and your partner ready to start creating regular “caring days?”

What would you put on your “caring day” wish list that you’d like your spouse/partner to do more of?

Marriage/Relationship Help Resource:

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Until next time,

Dr. Rich Nicastro

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