The definition of appreciation is “Recognition of the quality, value, significance, or magnitude of people and things.” (http://www.thefreedictionary.com/appreciation. April, 2013)
The definition of approval is “to provide consideration that is right or good, to endorse support.” Both sound like positive influences, right? The two words seem similar, but approval is no more similar to appreciation, as fear is to courage when it comes to co-dependency, marital issues, and other emotional challenges. In fact, they are quite different. I can appreciate someone’s need to smoke cigarettes, but I do not approve of smoking, because it makes me sick. Also, I can appreciate the ability of farmers harvesting animals for my nourishment, but I couldn’t do it. I don’t disapprove, but I appreciate it.
In intimate relationships, having an appreciation for a person’s intrinsic value, regardless of what they do or don’t do is significant. If Allen is upset with Arlene for not recognizing that he did the laundry and took out the trash, then he is seeking her approval of a task he completed, not appreciation. Her appreciation for Allen as her husband is much deeper than simple approval. Many times appreciation is substituted for approval seeking. Allen might say, “You don’t appreciate me.”
This is an important statement and requires more investigation. As a therapist, I hear this often. What each person is actually saying is, “I don’t feel value.” Allen has replaced his self value for her approval. The reason? The hope is Allen will continue to do the work to understand his reason(s) for when and why he has made this choice in his life. If he can become aware of the cornerstone purpose, then he will be able to change this within himself. His approval seeking has become a cycle in the marriage and he has lost himself to “doing” in order to feel valued. Approval seeking takes away the capacity for someone to feel appreciation for themselves and appreciation for others. This is IMPORTANT! All people have value, intrinsically, regardless of what they do or don’t do.
Understanding the difference between approval and appreciation can help you understand yourself and your relationship with others. Specifically, with your partner. Do you often feel like you didn’t receive the approval you were looking for? Were you actually looking for appreciation? Is there a gnawing feeling of loss and loneliness when you’re expecting something after you completed a request from your partner? Sometimes what ties us into a relationship is the approval seeking; wanting an internal sense of value to fill our heart from an outside source. Once the outside world becomes the source of approval, your internal connection and external connection to others suffers.