The concept of positive reinforcement is pretty simple. If you reward a behavior, it is much more likely to be repeated. After all, praise and rewards are amongst the main drivers in human psychology.
But whenever you mention positive reinforcement, the first things that come to mind are potty training, dog training, or the like. It just feels weird and patronizing when you talk of positive reinforcement with regards to free, equal adults. That’s not necessarily the case, and I want to show you why.
Positive Reinforcement in Romantic Relationships
In the 70s researchers began to wonder how reward and punishment affected romantic relationships. They compared married couples that were having problems to people in happy, healthy relationships.
You won’t be surprised by their findings. Unhappy couples do not reward the loving behaviors of their spouses. In contrast, in happy couples, individuals are never afraid to show their gratitude by explicitly approving, laughing, smiling, or providing some positive physical contact. It’s crystal clear that it’s pretty important to keep your relationship rewarding. Fortunately, there are several ways to do so.
It’s easy to forget how powerful something like a “Thank You” can be. You don’t need to wait till Valentine’s Day to show your appreciation. Whenever your partner does something nice, just show your gratitude. And look for gratitude in return whenever you do something caring and loving. A spontaneous kiss or a prepared meal that you just didn’t expect are perfect occasions to do so.
Get Comfortable With Touch
Touching creates liking and attraction. Make sure you really kiss your lover. Give them a hug while they cook. Cuddle together while watching Netflix. Whenever your partner is already being loving reward them with some affectionate physical contact.
Give Your Partner The Time Of The Day
Your significant other deserves your attention. You need time and attention together if you want your relationship to thrive. When your partner is being nice and thoughtful, keep eye contact with them and talk rather than zoning them out. Of course, look for attention and mindful conversation in return as well.
Forgive and Let Go
Forgiving your partner if they’ve done something to upset you can be one of the hardest things to do in a relationship. But you know how important gratitude, conversation, and affection are, and holding a grudge derails all of them. Therefore it’s important to learn how and when to forgive. If your partner is making amends, think about using positive reinforcement and rewarding them with forgiveness. Remember though that even bad behaviors become more frequent if rewarded, so do not be overly “nice” and rewarding all the time.
With reciprocal reward and gratitude, positive reinforcement can be a great tool to make sure that your relationship will continue to flourish.