Take Yo’ Praise

Take Yo’ Praise

Camille Yarbrough

Take Yo’ Praise

by Camile Yarbrough

We’ve come a long long way together
Through the hard times and the good
I have to celebrate you baby
I have to praise you like I should


Sean and Selena have been together for about 7 years, they are working through surviving the pandemic and raising a toddler together. During their first session Selena complains about their main problem:

“He just compliments me too much! Every day it’s like ‘I really appreciate how you do this’, ‘thank you for doing that…’ it’s exhausting!”


In so many cases it’s the exact opposite, with varying degrees of resentment for the dearth in positive affirmations. This is such a common issue with couples I see, I feel like I have some variation of the “increase praise,” or the “Gottman 5:1” psycho-educational session, with almost every couple I see – no matter the other issues that bring them in.

I have heard several core reasons for why it’s so hard to praise as much as the relationship needs, which I totally relate with. The top 4 include:

  1. I didn’t see a much praise growing up.
  2. (often connected to #1) Why praise something they are supposed to do?
  3. I just don’t notice anything to praise.
  4. If I praise them too much they will slack off.

If any of these are ringing a bell for you, and you need me to relate even more: all of these are things I have said or thought in my past life before 10 years of intense relationship training.

Also, if this is ringing a bell, you may need to change your thinking and actions if you want to have a happier relationship. If everyone is cool with not being acknowledged, then cool (really?) But in my experience, people are not. Even when they say they are fine with minimal positive regard, they often realize they like their partner more once the affirmations rev up.

Praise is gas in the engine, money in the bank, refreshing rain. It’s the stuff that fills up your love tank after a withdrawal either from a negative interaction, or just from natural decline over time.

The Gottmans cover this in their research the found a “magic ratio” of how many positive interactions proportional to negative interactions that couples need to stay happy and connected. In short, in the worst of times it’s 5:1 (positives/negatives) and in general, it should be closer to 20:1:

The Magic Ratio: The Key to Relationship Satisfaction

Yes, it can be that simple and to radically change your relationship.

That said, this typically isn’t just a switch you can flip. Increasing praise is in many ways a mindfulness practice. It’s a practice that starts with a more positive connection with yourself that you build on each day. It’s connected to all those guided meditations on gratitude.

Here’s good 5 minute meditation that includes reflection on relationships, if you’re now inspired: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UhF8vLesRRc

Praising requires awareness, vulnerability, and the bravery to overcome ingrained, possibly generationally ingrained patterns to hold back positive sharing.

Here are some quick tips (aka antidotes for anti-praise thinking) to help increase praise with your partner and any other relationships that could use some TLC:

Re: Antidotes to my Top 4 Anti-Praise Thoughts:

  1. I didn’t see a much praise growing up.

Tackle this hurdle as with other growing up milestones. You are leaving your origins in search of a better life. You can retrain yourself to engage in behaviors that research now shows works best. Every time you praise, you and your heart are growing. You can think of it as a “Power Up” point if you’re into video games.

  1. Why praise something they are supposed to do?

Everything we do is a choice, even if seems to be the “better” or “only” choice. Even if it really was something you were “supposed” to do, it feels good to have your effort acknowledged. Saying thank you is more about acknowledging the effort exerted rather than the choice that was made. Emptying the dishwasher is a daily task in most households, it’s also a daily exertion, so thank someone for doing that.

  1. I just don’t notice anything to praise.

Thank you for your honest assertion (1). I appreciate you reading all the way through this blog to get here (2). This shows that you are very invested in learning more about how praise can improve relationships (3). I appreciate your attention to my words that connected (4). I appreciate your patience with my words that didn’t connect (5).

There: 5 affirmations. Now time for the constructive criticism: If you are not noticing anything to praise, you are not paying attention. There is always something to praise. Contrary to an outdated belief that whoever is the most critical holds the most smarts, I question the awareness of someone who cannot find the good in something. Pay more attention! You darling, wonderful, caring, inquisitive human.

  1. If I praise them too much they will slack off.

Lolololol. I know, I know. It’s so irrational, but so scary. This is the type of gremlin thinking that whispers to you in the dark and is so contrary to any research in positive psychology has ever found.

Okay, I take that back, there is some research that heavily complimenting fixed traits like “you’re so smart,” “you’re so pretty,” can feel a bit awkward because that person likely doesn’t have control over those. So fine, go easy on those. But complimenting actions, that someone did with own effort is highly linked to increased feelings of motivation and positive mood.

 If you’re feeling jazzed to praise more here is a nice listacle on 7 ways to compliment your partner more: https://www.bustle.com/p/7-things-to-compliment-your-partner-on-more-often-if-you-want-your-relationship-to-last-17012331

And for fun, here are 100 positivity-boosting compliments, to get you in the mood:


Finally, a word on today’s musical “jam.”

The original “Take Yo’ Praise” and the cover “Praise You” lyrics (as it was later covered by Fatboy Slim), are deeply felt for me as a couple therapist. It’s the background music in my head for the “increase praise” sessions. These lyrics are a recipe for a happy relationship, and they are also written beyond the context of praising personal relationships. The poet and songwriter, Camille Yarbrough, wrote it inspired by the civil rights activists of the 60s and 70s. I am especially feeling this song as we come out of the COVID 19 pandemic and keep on working together towards a better world.

Spencer Northey

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