Many marriages disintegrate when a spouse feels underappreciated. We don’t realize how crucial the day-to-day expressions of love and gratitude are in our lives. A spouse who feels overlooked or ignored grows resentful. One who feels taken for granted withdraws over time. We need to remember that it is not just the strain of raising children or financial pressures that may threaten a marriage. It is the perception that a husband or wife is unmindful, even negligent, when it comes to nurturing the bonds that keep us together.
How can we work on strengthening our marriage?
1. Celebrate Your Spouse
We know how important it is to support our spouse in times of challenge but how many of us really go out of our way to show that we care when things go well? Experts say that this is just as important – maybe even more crucial - than bolstering each other when times are tough.
In a recent study reported in the WSJ, researchers found that “people whose spouses were supportive when things were going right believed that the partners would also be helpful if things should go wrong”. Emotional trust and intimacy along with marital satisfaction were greatly improved. Celebrating the good times seems easier than standing steadfast through difficulties. But there are times that even this becomes complicated.
Dr. Shelly Gable, coauthor of the study on spousal support, cites four possible responses to a partner’s success along with real life scenarios:
Passive Destructive Response: You ignore the good news or you maneuver the conversation to be all about you. For example, your spouse tells you that she got a raise and your answer is “What’s for dinner?” or “Wait till you hear what happened to me today!”
Active Destructive Response: You work to dampen your spouse’s enthusiasm. For example, “You got a raise? How will you handle the stress? Don’t you have to put in more hours?”
Passive Positive response: You are polite but show little interest.
For example, “That’s nice, dear. What would you like for dinner?”
Active Constructive Response: You display enthusiasm and are a thoughtful listener. For example, “I know how hard you worked on this promotion. You’ll be a great leader. Let’s go out to dinner to celebrate.”
When you show interest, ask questions, and convey excitement, you increase the feeling of emotional intimacy and loyalty that relationships require.
The question is, can you celebrate your spouse's success and view their good fortune with a positive eye? Sadly, there are some husbands and wives who cannot come to terms and wholeheartedly acknowledge the accomplishments of a spouse. When we work on celebrating together, we grow united.
2. Show Appreciation
You need to be an active participant in your relationships. Standing back and letting the days go by without investing in your love bank leaves your account empty. A daily dose of kindness becomes a daily deposit that builds over time. I am not speaking about grand acts that require lots of time or money. Just bringing a hot cup of coffee to bed in the morning, driving an extra carpool, making a favorite breakfast, running out to buy milk, or taking the kids so that your spouse has some extra time can show your spouse that you care.
Expressing gratitude for acts we often take for granted creates an atmosphere of consideration. We want to be present when we feel cared for and cherished. It should not only be Mother’s Day, Father’s Day or birthdays that we express love and gratitude. Why not write a card of thanks today just because?
3. Put Your Spouse First
We live in a culture that is constantly pulling us to check an email or respond to a text. Even when we are home we are expected to be connected to the office. There are after school activities, orthodontist appointments and tutors to run to with the kids. Social obligations become overwhelming. It becomes easy to get into the mode of putting our spouse last. We believe that eventually we will get back to spending time together; but first there are more important things to take care of. ‘Eventually’ may never happen.
Be sure to set aside time together. Don’t wait for conflicts or problems to force you to have a conversation. And don’t wait for your spouse to make the first move. You be the one to initiate; invite your wife out, or make dinner reservations in your husband’s favorite restaurant. You will realize how precious your relationship is and your spouse will feel valued.
4. Work on Tones and Moods
Moodiness is a relationship killer. So are angry tones and ice cold conversations. You can say the same thing but in a nasty voice and you have lost the respect of your spouse. We all have pressures; we all have reason sometimes to be frustrated and exasperated. But what we must realize is that our words and the way that we relay our thoughts can cause harm to a relationship. I have met countless men and women who tried in vain to apologize for years of speaking without giving a second thought to hurtful words. ‘Screaming homes’ breed hearts filled with silent pain. Saying that a spouse is too sensitive or does not understand the pressures that one is under is no excuse. Working on positive body language like a smile or giving a hug can keep the spark of marriage alive.
5. Speak Proudly of Your Spouse
When was the last time you complimented your spouse? Let your husband know how much you adore him. Show your wife that she means the world to you. Instead of grumbling about your partner, express admiration. How often do children hear their parents complain about each other? Try to say something positive so that your kids realize that you cherish each other. And be sure that your spouse is within listening distance. Compliment his sense of humor, applaud her grace under pressure, and reveal how much you delight in your life partner.
When we go out of our way to show our spouse that we care, we convey love and build loyalty. Marriage cannot stand on a foundation of benign neglect. Relationships require time, thought, and mindful nurturing. Begin by setting the standard of respect that you would like to receive through your own words and actions. Express gratitude and appreciation. Be an active participant in your relationship and show that you cherish the precious time you have together.