Here’s the kind of thing I often hear in my office:
“He took me out to this funky tapas bar for our anniversary. It was so sweet! Of course, I had to remind him three times the week before.”
“She initiated sex a couple of times this month, which was great. But things are still nowhere near even.”
I call this “scorpion praise”: appreciation with a sting in the tail.
The sentiment starts out fine. Your partner makes a change you want, and you let them know you love it. Then things go painfully wrong. You put them on notice that what they’ve done is too late, too little, or otherwise doesn’t count.
Why? Because you’re terrified to let your partner off the hook. You figure if you leave it at “thanks,” they’ll get complacent and slip back into that dissatisfying rut.
It’s just the opposite! You want your partner off the hook. That nagging sense they’re not good enough, their hopelessness about satisfying you—these are what keep your partner irritable, joyless, and disconnected.
Here’s a tip: Catch your partner doing something right and lavish them with praise. Then, when you feel the scorpion about to sting, bite your tongue. A little undiluted praise goes a long way toward recreating a relationship.