Expressions of appreciation are essential to a successful marriage. Many husbands and wives, however, stop noticing their partner’s good traits, much less expressing appreciation for them. In the book Emotional Infidelity, one counselor observes that many couples who see him “are much more concerned with what is not happening [in their marriage] than with what is. They’re in my office to tell me what needs to change, not what needs to stay the same. The mistake every one of these couples makes is that they fail to show love through appreciation.”
How can you and your spouse avoid that pitfall?
WHAT YOU SHOULD KNOW
Expressions of appreciation can offset marital stress. When a husband and wife make an effort to notice and acknowledge each other’s good qualities, their relationship typically improves. Even severe tension can be alleviated when spouses feel appreciated by each other.
For wives. “Many women tend to overlook the incredible pressure there is on men to provide for their families,” says the aforementioned book, Emotional Infidelity. In some societies, that pressure may even exist in dual-income families.
For husbands. Men often underestimate a wife’s efforts to support the household, whether through working, raising children, or homemaking. Fiona,* who has been married for about three years, says: “We all make mistakes, and when I do, I feel bad about myself. So when my husband tells me I’ve done well at something around the house—for example, with chores—I realize that he still loves me despite my flaws. I also feel supported and happier about myself!”
In contrast, when a spouse feels taken for granted, it can threaten the very integrity of a marriage. “When you don’t feel appreciated by your spouse,” says a wife named Valerie, “it’s easy to be drawn to someone who does make you feel appreciated.”
WHAT YOU CAN DO
Be observant. During the coming week, notice positive traits that your spouse displays. Also, watch for things that he or she does to keep your household running smoothly—things that perhaps until now you have taken for granted. At the end of the week, make a list of (1) traits that you appreciate in your spouse and (2) things that he or she did for the benefit of your family.—Bible principle: Philippians 4:8.
Why is being observant necessary? “After you’ve been married for a few years,” says a wife named Erika, “you can start to take your spouse for granted. You stop noticing the good things he does and tend to focus more on what he isn’t doing.”
Ask yourself: ‘Do I take my spouse’s hard work for granted?’ For example, if your husband fixes things around the house, do you hold back from thanking him because you feel that it is his duty to take care of such chores? If you are a husband, do you feel that your wife’s efforts in child-rearing do not merit commendation because she is simply doing what is expected of her? Make it a goal to notice and be grateful for all the efforts—both large and small—that your spouse makes for the benefit of your family.—Bible principle: Romans 12:10.
Give praise generously. The Bible does not just say that we should be thankful but says: “Show yourselves thankful.” (Colossians 3:15) So try to get into the habit of thanking your spouse. A husband named James says, “When my wife expresses appreciation for the things I do, it makes me work harder to be a better husband and to increase the effort I put into the marriage.”—Bible principle: Colossians 4:6.
Husbands and wives who express appreciation for each other strengthen their relationship. “I believe that many marriages could be saved if spouses kept to the fore what they like about each other,” says a husband named Michael. “When problems arise, they’d be less inclined to end the marriage, because they have constantly been reminded of what a good thing they have.”
Some names have been changed.