Admit it. When someone appreciates you, it feels good. We're honored and valued, which makes our workplace woes, parenting perplexities, and everyday enigmas fade. And if carefully chosen words, deeds, or small tokens encourage and inspire us, we can be certain they'll do the same for the one we love.
When our mate feels highly esteemed, we reap the benefits. Home-front harmony becomes the norm rather than a wishful thought. Physical, spiritual, and emotional intimacy blossoms. Sounds great, doesn't it?
It's not difficult. Validating our spouse can be simple and satisfying. Here are 10 easy tips for an imaginative boost.
1. Let your spouse pick
Spend an afternoon with your mate doing what he or she chooses. If the activity isn't exactly your idea of a good time, try it anyway! But do it cheerfully—you'll communicate respect for your partner's preference. In certain instances, you may consider compromise, but discuss and settle it beforehand.
For example, if your Mr. Super-Fisherman husband selects an afternoon at the local fishing hole, but the mere thought of snagging a helpless trout sickens you, ask for a compromise. Ask if you can accompany him, but with your favorite book in tow. Then once you're there, ask about various hooks and techniques, and applaud his catch. In other words, acknowledge and support his interest in fishing. But feel free to enjoy a good novel as he does his thing.
2. Appreciate the mundane
Make a mental note of the mundane tasks your mate does, and give a verbal reward of encouragement the next time he or she does one.
Write and place notes where they'll be discovered—your spouse's dresser drawer ("Thanks for doing the laundry. I appreciate your consistent effort to provide me with clean clothes"), the lunch box or briefcase ("I appreciate your hard work to support our family. Thank you for loving us!"), on the baby's changing table ("Thanks for loving our children. They're blessed to have you as their parent, and I'm privileged to parent with you").
Or try this: purchase 30 empty gel capsules at a pharmacy. Write 30 short appreciation notes on narrow paper strips, roll, and insert into the capsules. Put them in a recycled vitamin or pill bottle. Invite your spouse to read one per day for a month.
3. Express your pride
Wives, in word and attitude, tell your husband you're proud to be his missus. Affirm his sexuality—respond to his advances and whisper in his ear, "You're the world's best lover. I'm so blessed!" Let him know he's desirable by initiating lovemaking. Set the mood. Early in the day, invite him to an evening party for two. Tell him he's the guest of honor. That night, after the kids go to sleep, slip into a sexy negligee, light a candle, and sing the Song of Solomon!
Put down the newspaper. Set aside the novel. Turn off the TV. Look into your partner's eyes. Don't interrupt or offer unsolicited advice. By giving undivided attention, you communicate a priceless message: You are important to me. I want to understand your thoughts. One husband, Doug, takes it a step further. When his wife, Donna, says, "Doug, we need to talk," he stops whatever he's doing and reaches for her hand or her shoulder.
"This makes me feel as though he's on my side," says Donna. "His actions tell me that whatever the issue is, we'll face it together."
If your opinions differ over a particular issue, carefully and openly consider the other's perspective and try to reach a mutually satisfying decision.
5. Recognize her responsibilities
Husbands, your wife works full-time whether she's a corporate CEO or stay-at-home mom. Recognize her responsibilities. Express your appreciation for all she does, then give her a special treat—a bubble bath extraordinaire. Light a candle in the bathroom. Fill the tub with hot water and frothy bubbles. Let your bathing beauty soak solitaire while you put the kids to bed, then surprise her! Plug in the CD player, add romantic music, and climb in with her!
6. Respect his individuality
Thank your mate for his or her contributions to your marriage. Then give time to develop personal skills or interests. For instance, Rita gave her husband, Irwin, a coupon that read: "Accept my gift of guilt-free time alone, apart from family responsibilities. Each week for the next year, spend one evening doing whatever you choose."
Thrilled with the present, Irwin spent Thursday evenings building a kayak. "I worked guilt-free, knowing Rita wasn't wishing I was home to help with the kids," he says. "She allowed me to be me. Her thoughtfulness meant more than an expensive gift." If Rita had experienced a tough week, Irwin opted to stay home—after all, the coupon gave him freedom to do as he pleased.
7. Help fulfill her dreams
Prayer and practical acts of service go a long way. For 20 years I longed to pursue writing, but circumstances never seemed right. My husband, Gene, knew my desire and prayed with me for direction. Finally, when an opportunity arose to attend a writers' conference, he encouraged me to go even though it meant being away from home for a week.
"I'll watch the kids," he said. "You've waited long enough. Spread your wings and fly!" He tucked little notes into my suitcase and carry-on bag to let me know he was cheering for me.
He tells others that one of his greatest joys comes from watching me experience success in pursuing my dreams. When I hear him say things like that, I want to throw my arms around his neck and give him a big hug! His support makes me be a better wife, because I encourage him with his dreams in return.
Validate your mate through public praise. Drop complimentary tidbits about his or her positive character qualities in conversation with friends, or on the phone within your sweetie's earshot. Recently, Bonnie sought her husband's insight when a difficult interpersonal relationship frustrated her. Several days later, Bonnie recalled her situation during a phone conversation with her sister. Seeing her hubby, Dan, across the room, she added, "Dan gave great advice. I really appreciate his wisdom."
Be sensitive on this one, though! Some people find public praise embarrassing. If that's the case, go easy.
9. Give thoughtful presents
Acknowledge your partner's value through thoughtfully chosen gifts. Accompany the token with written or spoken words affirming their sense of humor, solid commitment to your marriage, support for you and your responsibilities, or whatever is pertinent in your relationship.
"While giving my wife flowers honors her," says Dr. Greg Smalley, president of the Smalley Marriage Institute in Branson, Missouri, "it doesn't validate who she is. But if I bring flowers and say, 'I know you worked hard while I was away this week. I appreciate your effort,' then I've validated her."
Send a romantic greeting card and enclose a gift certificate to a favorite store. Buy a bottle of sparkling apple cider, top it with a bow, and celebrate your mate's recent accomplishment, no matter how small. Present a homemade coupon offering heart-to-hearts and hot chocolate by the fireplace every Friday night for a month. Say, "You're worth spending time with!"
10. The gift of time
In this rush-rush world, time is a rare and precious commodity that can't be regained once it passes. How will you spend it? Choose wisely. Tell your spouse he or she is more valuable than anything else, then back up your words with actions.
Leave the dirty dishes for an hour—grab an umbrella and take a rainy-day stroll instead. Spend an evening playing card games. Read a book aloud to each other—one or two chapters each night doesn't require much time. Mow the lawn later—bike to the local ice-cream parlor and indulge first.
By affirming your mate, you'll build a solid marriage. Go ahead—whether you follow these suggestions or use them to ignite your own imagination. Then watch what happens!
Grace Fox, author of 10-Minute Time-Outs for Moms (Harvest House), lives in British Columbia, Canada.
Copyright © 2004 by the author or Christianity Today/Marriage Partnership magazine. Click here for reprint information on Marriage Partnership.