On Valentine's Day, we all celebrate the idealized, romantic versions of marriage. The other 364 days a year, we're back to real life, loving and living with a spouse who has strengths and areas that need growth.
Over the years, I've tended to focus on the areas where my husband, Greg, is lacking instead of the areas where he excels. When it came to dressing our young daughters, for example, Greg would clothe the girls in mismatched patterns or garments for the wrong season. They would be dripping sweat in their fleece amid the Arkansas summer humidity.
Greg's unique brand of parenting extended to our children's personal hygiene. Upon my return from a mission trip, our daughter Annie proudly announced, "While you were gone, I got to sit in the hot tub, and Daddy said that counted as my bath!"
When Greg's parenting doesn't fit my expectations, I could nag, shame or ridicule him — but I found a better way that doesn't lead to negativity in our marriage.
A kind word counts
One powerful piece of research by Dr. Terri OrbuchTeri Orbach, 5 Simple Steps to Take Your Marriage from Good to Great, Delacorte Press, 2009, page 59. revealed that "a husband's major source of feeling affirmed on a regular basis comes from, guess who? His spouse."
Dr. Orbuch found that wives giving affirming words and gestures makes their husbands feel "noticed, appreciated, respected, loved or desired" and is one of the greatest predictors of marital satisfaction. After reading the study, I challenged myself to offer Greg an affirmation each day. I soon realized I needed to be watching for something new every day to affirm because "you're a great husband" would get old.
The impact on me was unexpected. I started to view him in a much more positive light, and I definitely noticed more of what he was doing versus what he wasn't. And Greg continued to light up every time I offered a new affirmation, such as, "I love watching you connect with Annie after she has had a hard day. You know just what to say."
Take the challenge
Although affirming your spouse may seem difficult, it really is simple. Even after Greg "bathed" Annie in the hot tub, I found something to praise. Instead of lecturing him, I chose to thank Greg for caring for the kids while I was away. He loved the affirmation and proudly said, "Anytime you want to go out of town, I've got it covered!"Erin Smalley serves as the strategic spokesperson for Focus on the Family's marriage ministry.
How strong is your marriage? Find out today with the Focus on Marriage Assessment. This reliable assessment is based on the research and experience of Focus on the Family's marriage experts Dr. Greg and Erin Smalley. Take this free assessment now.