Today I want to talk about appreciation. A counsellor I know sent me an email about a study that was done where people were asked to say the first thing that came into your mind when you heard certain words. Here’s a sample, which she says was quite representative of the responses:
Your significant other? doghouse
Your mother? helpful
Your father? wise
Your friends? supportiveYour significant other? pain
Your mother? Love
Your father? quiet
Your friends? sillyYour significant other? irritating
Your mother? working
Your father? gone
Your friends? spectacularYour significant other? annoyingY
Your mother? loving
Your father? smart
Your friends? importantYour significant other? messy
Your mother? friend
Your father? unique
Your friends? amazing
See a trend there? People love their moms. They adore their friends. But the words for significant other are always negative.
Perhaps she sent me a skewed sample, but I wouldn’t doubt that this is true. I think we’re most negative about the ones who are supposed to be the closest to us. Those are the ones who are supposed to complete us, who are supposed to meet all these expectations, and when they don’t, we get mad.
But people don’t thrive on condemnation; they thrive on appreciation. I honestly don’t know what we think: do we figure that if we criticize enough, or withhold affection, or complain, that they’ll magically change? Or are we trying to punish them for not being what we want them to be? If we do, we simply push them away, and we end up punishing ourselves. What we really want, you see, is a truly intimate relationship, where we are known and still accepted. But how can we get that unless we’re also willing to give it?
Perhaps you think he doesn’t deserve it. After all, you’re a better spouse. You care for him, cook for him, raise his kids, and all he does is sit in front of the television. You have a valid complaint. But expressing it in a judgmental way will not help you. Working on yourself as a wife, and learning how to build intimacy before we confront will go so much further.
So today, I have an assignment for each of you. In the comments, tell me what you appreciate about your husband, even if you’re mad at him right now. And then tell him, too! If we start talking the language of appreciation, we build him up, and we concentrate on what we like, rather than on what we resent. And then both of us will be in a much more positive framework to work on our issues!