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positive reinforcement in a relationship

Why is Positive Reinforcement in a Relationship so Important?

Dr. David Hawkins talks about the importance of “catching your mate doing it right.” Criticism never works to change behavior while positive reinforcement in a relationship does. Catching each other trying can have a profound impact on getting your marriage where you eventually want it to be.

Why is Positive Reinforcement in a Relationship so Important?

Human beings are inherently social creatures, driven by a fundamental desire to connect and build healthy, loving, dynamic, and vibrant relationships. Our capacity for forming deep connections is part of our evolutionary heritage, ingrained in our DNA. However, as we navigate the complex terrain of relationships, we often encounter dysfunctionality that can lead to emotional wounds. Hurtful actions and reactions become an unfortunate cycle, where we hurt others and, in turn, get hurt ourselves. This vicious cycle, like death by a thousand cuts, can gradually create a chasm between partners. Fortunately, healing is not only possible but achievable, and the bridge from hopelessness to hope is closer than one might think.

In this article, we will explore the significance of positive reinforcement in relationships and how it can transform dysfunctionality into functionality, leading to a healthy, vibrant connection with your partner.

The Resistance to Change

Change is a fundamental element of growth and transformation in relationships. However, change is rarely easy. Individuals often resist change, especially when it involves confronting their own shortcomings and vulnerabilities. The prospect of seeking professional help or acknowledging the “Shadowside” of one’s behavior can be daunting. Yet, it is through this self-awareness and acknowledgment of our imperfections that true growth can occur.

The Path to Healing

Healing in a relationship involves breaking down the barriers that have built up over time. It necessitates a conscious effort to confront issues and find solutions together. This breakdown can eventually lead to a breakthrough – a moment where both partners begin to see the possibility of a healthier, happier relationship.

Mutual Admiration Society

One powerful way to foster healing and growth in a relationship is to establish a “mutual admiration society.” This concept revolves around catching your partner doing things right, just as you would catch them doing things wrong. It’s about staying centered in your relationship, focusing on positive interactions, and using effective tools to manage conflicts, validate each other’s feelings, and empathize with one another.

Successive approximations come into play here. It means acknowledging when your partner is moving closer to doing something right or when they exhibit behavior you appreciate. When you catch them doing something well, comment on it. This positive reinforcement encourages them to repeat those behaviors, creating a cycle of mutual appreciation.

Eliminating Criticism and Provocation

A common pitfall in relationships is the use of criticism, blame, accusations, and provocative language. These negative tactics only perpetuate dysfunctionality and lead to further emotional wounds. To foster a healthy relationship, it is imperative to eliminate blame and accusations from your interactions. Instead, focus on the positive aspects of your partner’s behavior and actions.

Containing Conflict

Conflict is a natural part of any relationship. However, how we handle it makes all the difference. Instead of allowing conflicts to escalate and damage the relationship, contain them. Place them in a metaphorical steel container until you can work on resolving them with the assistance of a therapist, counselor, or a trusted confidant. During this time, focus on planting good seeds by doing the next right thing and catching your partner doing something right.

Planting Seeds and Pulling Weeds

Imagine your relationship as a garden. To nurture a healthy, vibrant connection, you need to plant seeds of kindness, caring, and understanding while simultaneously pulling the weeds of blame, shame, and accusations. Just as tending to a garden requires consistent effort, so does tending to a relationship. Continuously sow the seeds of positivity and eliminate the dysfunctional aspects that hinder growth.

The Power of Kindness and Caring

Kindness and caring are the cornerstones of a healthy relationship. When you approach your partner with kindness and care, it begets the same in return. This positive reinforcement strengthens your connection and fosters an environment where both partners feel loved and appreciated.

The Impact of Smiles and Small Gestures

Simple acts, such as smiling at your partner, asking about their day, or offering a gentle touch as you pass by, can have a profound impact on your relationship. These small gestures communicate your love and concern, even in moments of tension. By consistently practicing these acts of kindness, you create a more positive atmosphere within your relationship.


Positive reinforcement is a powerful tool in transforming dysfunctional relationships into healthy, vibrant ones. By catching your partner doing things right, focusing on mutual admiration, and eliminating blame and accusations, you can nurture a connection that grows stronger over time. Remember, change is possible, healing can occur, and the path from hopelessness to hope is closer than you think. As you work towards a healthy, caring relationship, imagine the joy of dancing together through life, leaving behind the hurtful patterns of the past. So, take a step forward, eliminate the weeds, and plant the seeds of kindness and caring – watch as your relationship blossoms into something beautiful.

To learn how we can help, reach out to us at (206) 219-0145 or info@marriagerecoverycenter.com to speak with a Client Care Specialist

Also read: 3 Things Not to Do With Narcissists

About Dr. Hawkins:

The internet is inundated with hyperbole and misinformation about narcissism, leaving many people confused and hopeless. Get the facts on narcissism and emotional abuse from someone who has been researching, writing about and treating narcissism and emotional abuse for over a decade.

Dr. Hawkins is a best-selling author and clinical psychologist with over three decades of experience helping people break unhealthy patterns and build healthier relationships.

He is the founder and director of the Marriage Recovery Center and the Emotional Abuse Institute which offers education, training and counseling for people who want to break free of, and heal from, emotional abuse. Whether the perpetrator of the abuse is your spouse, partner, parent, boss, friend or family member, we offer practical advice for anyone trapped in a toxic, destructive relationship.

In addition to narcissism & emotional abuse, you’ll learn about the lesser known forms of abuse, including covert abuse, reactive abuse, spiritual abuse, secondary abuse, relationship trauma and much more.


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