Today I wanted to share an exercise that has been the single most useful tool in my relationship: Acknowledgement and Request. This exercise comes from the book Kindred Spirit, by Matthew and Terces Engelhart, the founders of Cafe Gratitude.
My boyfriend and I have used it in times where one person was upset (or maybe both are), frustrated, or not talking. You know how sometimes you get upset or angry, but it's almost impossible to put into words to try and explain it to your significant other? That's when this exercise really shines.
Here's how it works. Decide who will be person A and person B.
Person A: Is there anything you'd like to be acknowledged for?
Person B: Yes I'd like to be acknowledged for ....(some examples: for doing the dishes last night, for working so hard, for always being the person to plan ahead, for picking up the kids, etc)
Person A: (Listens) Is there anything else?
B: Yes....(go on and list EVERYTHING you want to be acknowledged for. Get it all out!)
Person A's job here is to listen attentively, with no interruptions or judgements.
A: Anything else?
Repeat until there is nothing else Person B would like to be acknowledged for. When Person B says:
B: Okay, I think that's it. It feels good to get it out.
Now it is person A's turn to acknowledge B for all the things he said.
A: I'd like to acknowledge you for... (and name everything person b said. If A forgets something, it's fine for B to remind them)
This is where person B begins to feel relief, gets to feel seen, and listened to. By this point, person B may be moved to tears and/or feel a weight lifted off of their shoulders. Now A will ask:
A: Do you have any requests?
B: Yes, I request....(examples: that you help more around the house, that you help me make dinner on the nights I get home late, that you continue to love me unconditionally, that you support my choices, etc)
A: Anything else?
B: Okay, I think that's it.
A: Well, I'd like to honor your request to....(Repeat back everything B just said)
Then switch roles.
When I suggest my clients try this exercise, half the time they try it and it does WONDERS. Half the time they say, "My partner would never do something like this."
A lot of emotions and resentment can add up if you've been with one person for many years. I see this exercise as a way to start fresh with a clean the slate. So even if it feels WAY out of your comfort zone, why not try it? What do you have to lose? Let me know how it goes!