I thought my marriage was rolling merrily along, but I wanted to see if my wife agreed. So I called upon my male bravado and approached her.
"Honey, things have been going pretty well between us. Is there any area that you feel I can improve on?"
"Well," she said, "you haven't said anything hurtful lately, but I can't remember the last time you actually said something nice."
Ouch. As part of a marriage team at my home church, I have often told couples that strong marriages are built upon a foundation of praise and affirmation. How quickly I had forgotten my own advice.
According to marriage authorities, it takes between three and ten compliments to overcome just one negative comment, depending on the damage that has been inflicted. I know that in my own marriage, the words that I speak to my wife can easily open or close the doors of emotional, spiritual, and physical intimacy.
It seems one of the biggest reasons we fail to affirm our mates is because we're too preoccupied with ourselves. Praising and affirming your mate takes a conscious act of your will. It means changing your thinking from, "What's good for me?" to "What's best for my spouse?" And when you change your focus, you will automatically look for the good in your spouse. Learn to see the positive side, and let your mate know how much you appreciate his or her strengths by following these seven strategies.
1. Learn your spouse's praise language
It's generally accepted that a woman's identity is tied to her emotional and personal relationships, while men gauge their self-worth by their accomplishments. This difference can be seen in the type of praise and affirmation that men and women like to receive. When a wife tells her husband how much she appreciates his efforts at work and around the house, she's touching his value system.
Conversely, a husband who says, "You're such a caring and kind woman" is speaking to his wife's inner-most being. Because everyone has a unique make-up, it's important to ask your spouse how you can affirm him or her.
A friend of mine knew his wife loved tulips, so on a day when she was feeling frazzled at the office, he showed his appreciation for how hard she works with a fresh bouquet. She told him that all her frustrations "just melted away" when she received the flowers.
But be prepared—your mate's response may surprise you. What you think your spouse needs may be completely different from what he or she really desires.