In previous articles we have looked at developing a shared story, getting time together, learning together. Today we will be exploring a basic need for both men and women alike– the need to be affirmed or respected.
STRATEGY 4: AFFIRM YOUR PARTNER.
Philippians 4:8 says, “…if anything is excellent or praiseworthy, think about such things.” Kim and I have chosen this as one of our marital themes. It’s easy to get wrapped up in the daily tasks of life and stop noticing what we appreciate about our partner. It’s important to say, “I love you,” and it is equally important to say specifically what we love or appreciate about him or her at that moment. Saying, “I love you and enjoyed feeling your feet touching mine last night,” goes much further to communicate appreciation than simply saying, “I love you.” Saying “Thanks for cleaning out the garage” or “Thanks for helping Rae with her homework,” invites your spouse to feel more valued than a generic “I love you.”
Many married people find it too easy to rattle off a detailed list of complaints about their partner. Unfortunately for many couples, it is much harder to think of as long or detailed a list of things we appreciate about the other.
I was talking about this idea with a friend and he reminded me that many times couples do a good job of affirming each other in their roles as husband, wife, parent, provider, etc but forget to affirm each other’s sexuality as a man or woman. He’s right. I need to hear that Kim thinks I’m a good man and a good lover. Kim needs to hear that I think she is desirable and a good woman.
Neurobiologists and epigeneticists are discovering scientific evidence that supports the benefits of a positive focus. When our minds are focused on positive aspects of life, it produces chemicals in our body that promote wellness and health, and improve our brain’s ability to adapt and change. The same genes that produce healthy cells can also produce unhealthy cells when your body is filled with stress chemicals instead of “happy” chemicals.
It is easy to take this to an unhealthy extreme and ignore or pretend the challenges we face in life don’t exist. Affirming our spouse and focusing on the positive includes recognizing and acknowledging the challenges, while choosing to focus on and recognize the good.
One of the first couples I worked with as an Intern Therapist was emotionally bankrupt when I met them. In our first session it took a lot of work to help each of them to identify just one thing they liked about the other. Six months later you wouldn’t have recognized their relationship. It wasn’t anything amazing I did, but a choice on their part to invest in their relational bank account for the first time. They started courting all over again, going to movies, walks, and family picnics. The first six years of their marriage were full of pain and conflict. They chose to start over by creating a shared story, getting time together, learning together, and affirming traits about each other that they appreciated as they discovered them. If these investment strategies can revitalize their marriage that was bankrupt and improve my marriage that is strong, they can increase your marital security as well.
- “Marital love in action” by Paul David Tripp (tollelege.wordpress.com)
- Pre-Marital Counselling (theweddingcompanysingapore.wordpress.com)
- Vivian Diller, Ph.D.: Marital Myths: Maintaining Marriage Through Midlife (huffingtonpost.com)