5. Emotional Fruits
By now you probably know that the metaphorical relationship trees bear fruits, which are the emotional experiences you and your partners share and enjoy together throughout your relationship. A healthy relationship tree produces fruits in great abundance, and also in great variety.
Just the same as one person might prefer apples, another prefers oranges, we all have different preferences for emotional fruits too. And chances are, our partners have different preferences than we do. The beauty of relationships is that one tree can provide in abundance to both partners despite how different their preferences may be.
What Do You Prefer?
The following is a list of common emotional experiences. Which ones resonate with you? Pick three to start with, and if you have suggestions for other fruits that could belong on this list, let us know in the comments!
Accepted - Feeling that my spouse sees me as a unique individual and approves of who I am.
Admired - Feeling that my spouse thinks highly of my unique qualities and abilities and me as a person.
Appreciated - Feeling that my spouse recognizes and values what I do for them.
Cared For - Feeling my spouse pays extra attention to me and genuinely wants to give for the sake of giving to me.
Cherished - The feeling that my spouse holds me dear to him/her.
Compassion - my spouse is emotionally bonded with me.
Desired - my spouse covets and longs for me as a person.
Respected - my spouse holds my abilities, qualities, or achievements in high regard.
Safe - the feeling that my spouse would never do anything knowingly that would either physically or emotionally harm me and I feel secure.
Stable - my spouse is reliable and I can depend on him/her to be there as a constant.
Trusted - Feeling like my spouse can rely and depend on me.
Understood - the feeling that my spouse gets me. He/she knows a lot about me and is interested to know more and more.
Valued - The feeling that my spouse treasures me as his/her partner, a unique person, and/or some of my unique qualities.
Other - add your own emotion that's not listed complete with a brief description!
What Does Your Partner Prefer?
Compare your list with your partner. If you find that you have few, if any in common, don’t worry. This is not only typical, it’s also healthy. The variety in preference demands a varied emotional diet of your relationship, and a variety of emotional experiences keeps your relationship dynamic and interesting.
Difficulties arise when couples aren’t aware of each other’s preferences. If you don’t know what fruits your partner really likes, how are you supposed to make them happy? If you don’t know what you really like, how will you know to ask for it?
Patterns of Perspective To Look Out For
Sometimes it can be difficult to understand our partners’ prospective based on gender differences. One pattern observed at Lieberman Clinical Services is that men tend to value freedom and feeling respected in relationships, whereas women tend to value connection and feeling desired. This particular dynamic can’t explain every misunderstanding between couples, but understanding that dynamics like this exist in all relationships is important. It can be the difference between feeling like your partner doesn’t care, and understanding that they may express, value, and receive love differently than you do. We stop asking and wondering “does my partner love me” and we shift our attention to asking and observing “how does my partner experience love with me.”
The goal is then to work with your partner to create opportunities for positive emotional experiences.
John and his wife Sarah are both hard workers who know how to treat themselves. They can always tell if the other person worked a long day when a new tub of half-eaten ice cream appears in the freezer. But for a while in the earlier stages of their marriage, Sarah would also notice flowers in the kitchen. In a lot of ways, the flowers made her feel better than the ice cream, which was a nice treat once in a while but she didn’t need to have it all the time at home. The colors and the natural look of the flowers always made her feel especially at home, in a healthy and beautiful home, and she liked how the kitchen looked slightly different every time with each new bouquet.
But John didn’t notice the flowers--after all, his wife had put them there. John didn’t dislike flowers, but he never found any use for them. They sit there and die in a week and you can’t eat them before they expire. John used to go out of his way to buy his wife ice cream flavors that she liked, but she wasn’t eating them. First he assumed it was about some new fad diet Sarah was interested in, but then he realized there was no new diet and he started to worry Sarah was ignoring his gifts, and that he was doing something wrong somehow.
If Sarah had not explained to John how she sees ice cream as more of a treat she likes to enjoy on a date rather than at home, he might have kept on assuming he was doing something wrong by leaving it for her and trying to get her favorite flavors. But when Sarah talked about how she spoils herself with flowers, and John started to try to understand her perspective, he stopped buying her ice cream.
Now John still doesn’t notice the flowers even though he puts them there, and Sarah is always impressed with the variety of species that appear in the bouquet. John has no idea what they’re called. He asked the florist to put together something with the yellow ones because that’s what his wife likes. And he pays top dollar for it because now he understands flowers do have a use--they make Sarah feel at home.
And Sarah goes out of her way to leave different frozen treats in the freezer for John to discover when he gets home from a late shift at work. After John admitted he didn’t notice the masculine-scented candles either, Sarah realized that John feels at home regardless of the environment and he feels happy and comfortable when he can enjoy treats.
If John and Sarah had never been honest with each other about what they like and why they like it, if they had never taken the time to explore each others’ perspectives, they would have less opportunities to create joy for themselves and each other. Imagine how frustrated Sarah must have been when she went out of her way to get a special candle that her husband might like and acknowledge, and when he finally acknowledges it, he complains! And what must have been going through John’s mind when he sees Sarah’s favorite ice cream that he bought for her slowly transforming into a freezer burn glacier?
But all the doubt and frustration evaporated once they realized each other’s perspective. And now they’re constantly finding new and improved ways to make each other happier.
What sorts of things do you and your spouse do to make each other happier? What sorts of things would you like to do? Revisit the emotional fruits periodically and use them to get a sense of where you can start to find those answers. In the next blog, we’ll dive deeper into specifics.