You women are fantastic at giving each other compliments. I hear it all the time at the office and in my classrooms. It is not uncommon at all to hear remarks such as:
“I love your new haircut!”
“You’ve lost weight haven’t you? You look great!”
There really is nothing quite like a sweet and genuine compliment to help brighten your day! No matter our age or gender, it seems like everyone enjoys receiving compliments of all kinds (including kind words about our appearance).
A Few Caveats
First, this article is simply based on my observations. I am not aware of any research on this topic. However, I believe these ideas still valuable ideas that can help any marriage.
Second, even though this article is targeting wives, husbands are not exempt! Wise husbands understand the importance of giving sweet and genuine compliments to their wives. Our wives should frequently hear from us how beautiful they are (both inside and out).
If Not From You, Then From Who?
However, if we men fail in complimenting our wives, unacceptable as this may be, you women generally still receive frequent compliments from the women in your lives (friends, colleagues, even strangers).
While we might not show it, did you know that we men crave genuine compliments just like you women do? The difference is that if your husband isn’t hearing compliments from you (especially compliments about his looks), he may not be hearing these from anyone else.
Even though I’ve worked with many men over the years, I don’t generally hear these comments coming from other men:
“Hey Ralph, I love those new slacks! You look so skinny in those pants.”
“Bill, did you do something different to your hair? It looks great today!”
And, I’m not going to lie, I’m not entirely sure that I want other men telling me that I look handsome.
Not only do we not get compliments from other men, but once we men get married, other women generally don’t compliment us on our looks (and understandably so).
As a wife, you really are the best chance for your husband to hear compliments about his appearance!
A Compliment a Day
My challenge for you women is to give a genuine compliment about your husband’s looks at least once per day. Yes, keep complimenting him on his parenting skills, his work ethic, and his sense of humor.
However, also give him frequent genuine compliments about his appearance. This will likely be the only time he hears it. And, whether we admit it or not, we husbands want the assurance that our wives still find us attractive!
But it shouldn’t just stop at compliments. There are plenty of ways to show your spouse that he’s just as attractive as ever!
Why Stop There?
I get the sense that you are the type of woman who wants to do more to strengthen your marriage than simply share a genuine compliment each day. If I’m right (and I bet I am) then I suggest that you go find your husband and kiss him (and kiss him good)!
If you want to pleasantly surprise him, kiss him like you did when you first fell in love. Try this a few times per day! This will certainly help your man feel like you still find him attractive.
So, rather than a quick peck as he heads out the door, surprise him with a passionate kiss as you part. That will put a smile on his face and a spring in his step (and likely gross out your kids at the same time . . . an added bonus).
Plus, this fun and simple act of kissing your spouse more, will actually strengthen your marriage (see The Magic of the Six Second Kiss).
- Give daily compliments to your husband (including compliments about his looks).
- Kiss him like you did when you were newlyweds!
These two principles may seem simple, but reminding your husband that you’re attracted to him could make a big difference in your marriage. So next time you think your husband looks good, let him know!
By “Angry” Dr. Rob
Though I am annoyed and frustrated as I write this article, please don’t discount the content as the article draws on research and the principles are sound.
Likewise, though I was outraged at the extreme behavior of these two parents, please know that I don’t pretend to be a perfect parent myself – far from it.
That said, I am a bit angry!
Screaming “Little League” Mom
Last week I attended my 12-year-old son’s baseball game. Like his father, this child adores the game of baseball and generally has a good time win or lose.
On this particular evening, the starting catcher was out of town. The young man who was catching didn’t have as much experience, so he missed a few balls and made a few errant throws. Honestly, this child’s performance wasn’t much different than most of the other boys on the team.
However, I quickly started to feel awful for this young catcher – but not because of his baseball skills. Rather, after every mistake there would be a harsh and loud criticism from a woman in the crowd (presumably his mother):
“DON’T DROP THE BALL!”
“THROW THE BALL BACK TO THE PITCHER!”
“QUIT MAKING MISTAKES!”
Look, I’m no rocket scientist, but I’m going to guess that this child wasn’t trying to perform poorly in front of his family and peers (for full effect, read the prior sentence with dripping sarcasm).
Like me you might be thinking, I wonder if her son even enjoys playing baseball anymore. Honestly, I don’t know how he could (especially when mom is present). I left that game incredibly frustrated about what that obnoxious parent was doing to her child’s development. Ahhhhhhhh!!!!!
Four Days Later
Fast forward to Saturday and I was then watching my 8-year-old son play in a soccer game. Please note that I said 8-year-old son (not my 28-year-old son playing for the World Cup Championship game).
This time the “obnoxiousness” came from a dad on the other team. I don’t believe I am exaggerating to state that he yelled at every young child on that team. I had never witnessed such an incredibly competitive (and poorly behaved) spectator at a children’s soccer game. I honestly couldn’t believe it. I felt so badly for those children (especially whichever one was his).
You Are Better Than That (Literally)
While these two instances frustrated and saddened me, I gratefully acknowledge that most parents aren’t that destructive to the psyche and self-esteem of children.
Most of you are about as opposite as you can possibly be from the parents I described above. I suspect that if you are the kind of person who reads marriage and parenting articles, you are likely an intentional and engaged parent (not a perfect parent…none of us are, but one who is diligently striving to build your children and give them the best opportunity to succeed in life). Keep it up!
But, even for those of us striving to be mindful and intentional parents, is it possible that we too may be guilty of over-criticizing our children?
The Most Common Parenting Mistake
Dr. Kenneth Parish (Ph.D. and a therapist of 30+ years) noted that the most common parenting problem that he has observed through his work with children and families is that parents are too critical of their children. In his article entitled The Harmfulness of Criticism, Dr. Parish noted that much of our criticism is well-intentioned. “We criticize because we are anxious about our child’s future. We want her to improve, and eventually succeed in a competitive world. We think of our criticism as constructive, or not as criticism at all, but rather as instruction and advice…”
Yep, I’m guilty of thinking that way sometimes. How about you?
3 Reasons Why Criticism Can Be Harmful
First, according to Dr. Parish, “when frequent criticism persists, all other efforts to improve our family relationships are likely to fail.”
Second, for those with teenage children, neuroscientists from Harvard, Cal-Berkeley, and Pittsburgh recently shared research findings that suggested that adolescent brains simply “shut down” when being criticized by a parent.
Third, additional research also noted that children’s self-esteem can plummet when parents are overly critical.
Obviously, none of us want these negative outcomes. So what can we do?
The Antidote to Criticism
At the conclusion of Dr. Parish’s article, he noted the following: “There is no better antidote for frequent criticism and argument, and no better way to help children bounce back from the common frustrations and disappointments of childhood than patient and respectful listening.”
So, there it is!
The challenge for you and for me is to take the time to truly listen and empathize with our children. But, as you strive to patiently listen to your children, don’t forget to also include some patience for yourself too. We may all inadvertently slip back into “critical parent” mode from time to time!
Becoming consistently patient and respectful listeners may not come easily for all of us (especially when we are stressed or busy), but it is absolutely worth the effort!
Some of you won’t like what I have to say here. In fact, if you consider yourself “a romantic,” this article might initially anger you. But please read the entire article prior to chiding me with your remarks in the comment section! Honestly, understanding this concept can save marriages!
The Myth of the Soulmate
The idea of soulmates is a well beloved myth indeed. Those that hold this expectation generally believe that there is one, and only one, right person to marry – their soulmate.
The idea of a soulmate is quite a romantic notion and has been the plot of countless cherished books and movies. But, please pay attention – this myth is incredibly dangerous. Let me explain!
Dangers Caused by the Soulmate Myth
There is one major hazard for those who prescribe to this myth. Those who assume that marital bliss is a result of finding their one soulmate dangerously shift responsibility away from improving themselves or nurturing their marriage.
In other words, rather than working hard on our own individual improvement and working equally hard at nurturing our marriage, we can be tempted to assign all the blame to the spouse.
A 2014 study noted that couples either view their marriages as destiny or growth. Couples that view their marriage as destiny generally believe that their spouse is their soulmate. One of these researchers, Dr. Spike W. S. Lee, noted the following during a recent interview:
“If we are soulmates, then nothing will go wrong in our relationship, and it will be easy. A conflict makes a destiny-believer question whether the current partner is actually their soulmate, and then they give up on working it out.”
Too often, “destiny” couples who are not happily married (though they had ironically once believed that their spouse was their soulmate), simply believe they were duped and that they didn’t marry their soulmate after all. Somewhere, their soulmate must still surely exist.
Can you see the danger here? Not only are we less likely to work at a marriage if we assume it will come easily to the two of us (due to the belief that we found our “one and only”), but couples are also more likely to sever such a union when times get tough.
There is, of course, a need for certain marriages to end in divorce. But I suspect the number of actual divorces would be much lower if we realized how poisonous this soulmate myth actually is to the marriage relationship.
Lest you feel sorry for my wife for my utter insensitivity to this well-beloved myth, might I suggest a more romantic solution?
Each of us should spend our best efforts in becoming one another’s soulmates. Now that really is romantic! See, I told you I’d make it right!
Becoming each other’s soulmate is a worthy goal for every couple. So, while my wife could have found marital happiness with other guys and I surely could have married other women, today neither of us could imagine life without each other.
Become Your Spouse’s Density (I mean destiny)
Becoming each other’s soulmates doesn’t just happen accidentally. Rather, it is the result of intentional effort, love, forgiveness, and a reduction in our selfish tendencies. Unlike the dangerous soulmate myth, actually striving to become one another’s soulmate would be a fantastic (and realistic) goal for any couple striving towards a ridiculously happy marriage!
To say that marriages need love is about as obvious as saying peanut butter needs chocolate.
We read about love, we watch movies about love, the most popular songs on the radio sing about love, and we even devote a holiday to love!
But what people might not know about love in marriage is one key factor: the importance of loving ourselves.
We Should Love Ourselves (in the Right Way)
It is my observation that we can’t fully love someone else while we are loathing ourselves. So, if we want to truly love our spouse, we need a healthy love for ourselves first.
I do need to give a quick disclaimer. There is a lot of selfish behavior that can arise in marriage under the guise of “loving oneself.” Please note that I am not suggesting that the way for us to love ourselves is to spend more money on ourselves, spend more time seeking selfish pursuits, or to become narcissistic in our thinking. I’m also not suggesting that we become disinterested in our own self-improvement.
What I am suggesting is that we need to think more kindly about ourselves. And we need to become a bit more patient with ourselves as we strive to make necessary improvements.
I once had a wise student who said, “If a friend talked to us the way that we talk to ourselves, would we be friends with that person?” That’s a rather thought provoking question, isn’t it?
In addition to thinking more positively, I am pleading with you to stop comparing yourself to others. This habit can destroy individuals and marriages!
Are Your Social Media Habits Helping or Harming Your Ability to Love Yourself?
Have you ever spent time on Facebook and thought, “Wow, everybody has either just lost 20 pounds, is on vacation, is celebrating an anniversary to their amazing spouse, just posted pictures of their perfect family, or just received an incredible promotion at work.”
I know that not every Facebook post is like that, but I’ve seen so many that are – you have too. How do these posts affect us? Is it possible that our social media consumption can impact how we feel about our own lives?
This may be the case according to research out of Sweden from the University of Gothenburg. These researchers found that, especially for women, as Facebook usage increased, self-esteem decreased.
Another study noted that those with low Facebook usage reported higher levels of self-esteem than both heavy Facebook users and non-users.
Interestingly enough, the second study suggests a potential benefit to what I like to call “social media in moderation.” In that study, people who limited their use of Facebook were not only happier than more frequent users, but also felt better about themselves than those who didn’t use Facebook.
Why is This So Important?
Earlier I suggested that learning to love ourselves comes before we can fully love our spouse.
When we think of selfishness in marriage, we usually think of individuals pursuing their interests without thinking of their spouse. This type of selfishness can definitely harm a marriage!
However, there is another type of selfishness that arises too often in marriages. This sneaky form of selfishness can arise from our own self-loathing. If you don’t believe me, ask yourself the following questions:
- On days where you are “down,” what percentage of your time are you thinking about your partner’s needs?
- How likely are you to selflessly serve your spouse when you are feeling “blue”?
- When you aren’t feeling good about yourself, how readily do you demonstrate your love to your spouse?
We all experience some sadness of course. And there are some who struggle with clinical depression who may need medical help. However, for the rest of us, as we allow ourselves to remain mired in our own “pity party,” we are unable to give our best to our spouse.
Among other things, marriages need consistent attention, friendship, and passion if they are going to thrive. Since we all have a limited amount of time and energy, if we choose to focus inwardly we won’t be able to give the time or energy needed to form and maintain such a marriage!
Thus, loving our self is a first step to truly loving our spouse. In the words of 19th century Irish poet Oscar Wilde, “To love oneself is the beginning of a lifelong romance.”
How Do You React When Your Spouse Messes Up?
In various ways your spouse has let you down in the past and, at least periodically, will disappoint you in the future. And, frankly, you have and will let them down as well. We all make mistakes!
Consider the following scenarios:
You return home from work and your spouse doesn’t give you a hug, a kiss, or any other indication that she is excited that you are home. Instead, she instantly asks why you forgot to take the garbage can to the front of the house before you left for work.
It is Saturday and you have been hoping to get some house tasks completed. In fact, you also had a list of things that you wanted your hubby to accomplish today (your “honey-do list”). Yet, by 9 AM he is on the golf course with his friends.
You and your spouse are on a tight budget. Yet your spouse purchased some fairly expensive and (at least in your opinion) unnecessary items. Because of this, it will be hard to stay within budget this month.
Responses to the scenarios
Do any of the above scenarios sound familiar? How would you have responded? Would you be tempted to say (or at least think) the following:
“What’s your deal? I work hard for the family and this is the greeting I get when I return?”
“Are you serious? We were going to do housework together today, and you accepted an invitation to go golfing? You are so selfish.”
“We won’t ever meet our financial goals if you can’t stick to a budget. What were you thinking?!”
What this article isn’t about
This article isn’t about being trustworthy and doing what we say we will do. It isn’t about the importance of showing affection when you are reunited with your spouse. This article also isn’t about the critical need for communication or how selfishness can harm a marriage. This article isn’t about the need to jointly make financial decisions. Finally, this article isn’t even about the universal marital need for ongoing forgiveness – though each of those principles are important for marriage. No, this article is about none of those things.
Rather, this article focuses on one key principle – how we respond when our spouse’s behavior disappoints us.
Positive Sentiment Override
Renowned marital scholar, John Gottman, contrasts key differences in the ways happy couples and struggling couples generally respond to mistakes and imperfections in their spouse.
In happier marriages, couples seem to have a positive filter that influences the way that they respond to each other – even during times when offense, frustration, disappointment, or anger would be natural responses. He refers to this as positive sentiment override.
Simply put, positive sentiment override is the conscious and consistent decision for us to give the benefit of the doubt to our spouse. So much positivity is built up that it’s easier to overlook any momentary disappointment. Or, as a wise colleague of mine has stated, when we don’t know one’s motives, we default to an assumption of goodwill.
By contrast, in unhappier marriages, couples are more prone to assume the worst in a situation – a term Dr. Gottman describes as negative sentiment override.
While our natural responses to the three scenarios may have led to frustration and contention. How might these responses be different when you use positive sentiment override instead?
Consider how these responses and thoughts could help defuse arguments and reduce disappointment.
“My wife normally is happy to see me when I get home. I bet she had a hard day with the children. And, I did forget to take the garbage out this morning. I wonder what I can do to help cheer her up.”
“My husband has been under a lot of stress lately. Maybe a round of golf with friends will be good for him. We can get some work done when he gets back.”
“This purchase must be important to my spouse. He’s usually wise with our money.”
Please note that I am not suggesting that we simply ignore consistently frustrating behaviors from our spouse. There is a time and a place for kind, loving, candid communication.However, strong marriages remember the overall happiness of a relationship rather than dwelling in disappointment.
Can you see how the consistent application of this principle could strengthen a marriage?
The next time you feel irritation towards your spouse, give positive sentiment override a try! This concept is relatively simple to understand – though it can be much harder to apply in our marriages. However, couples that have the courage to exercise positive sentiment override will avoid unnecessary contention, increase their feelings of goodwill toward their spouse, and find more satisfaction overall in their marriage!
For the sake of your marriage, as well as your own happiness, will you experiment with positive sentiment override? You (and your spouse) will be glad you did!