Have you ever caught your spouse doing something right? Haha, that’s right: so often we’re quick to get at each other when things don’t go well. It’s pretty easy to get that criticism monkey on your back but really hard to get it off. Today we’re going to work on the skill of expressing appreciation in your marriage.

Reason 1: You’ll Enjoy Your Marriage More

Showing appreciation goes both ways. A study published by Busby, Holman and Neihuis in 2009 showed that couples in which both spouses perceived the other’s personality as more affable (friendly, or good-natured) then their own experienced more positive relationship outcomes.

By force of habit, we can see the positives more than the negatives or vice versa.

Dr. John Gottman states, “We have learned that couples rarely improve their marriages by trying to change each other. Rather, couples find happiness by focusing on each other’s positive attributes.”

Add to that focus by proactively emphasizing the positive!

The Bible says “Therefore encourage one another and build one another up” (1 Thess 5:11).

Reason 2: You’ll Get More of What You Express Appreciation For

It’s a natural desire, in a healthy marriage, to want to please your spouse. When we hear appreciation, we are learning what pleases the other person. This then becomes a note-to-self of how to bring more positivity into the relationship in the future, even if it’s more in the subconscious!

Reason 3: Appreciation Reinforces the Emotional Bond Between You

Expressing appreciation is really just another way to say, “I love you!”

If you loathe someone, you know how hard it is to even find one positive thing to say about that person. On the other hand, if you appreciate someone, giving voice to those positive affirmations will reinforce the emotional bond.

As humans, we know that the people who love us appreciate us. So it’s a way of saying, “I love you” and strengthening your marriage.

Reason 4: Appreciation is a Signal That You’re Vested in the Relationship

Dr. John Gottman’s research has shown that healthy marriages have five positive interactions for every negative interaction. Unhealthy marriages have a ratio of 0.8 to 1. Being positive half the time doesn’t cut it!  Your positivity needs to far overwhelm your negativity.

Appreciation is one of many ways to create positive interactions. But beyond what you say to express it, there is the underlying affirmation that you’re committed to this relationship, you’re investing in it, you’re building it and you’re wanting it to grow!  Words of appreciation “give grace to those who hear” (Ephesians 4:29) so it builds resilience into the marriage bond for that 1 time (for at least every five) in which we stumble and say something that hurts our spouse.

You can’t express appreciation and not want all that good stuff to happen.  So it’s a powerful signal to your spouse of how meaningful the relationship is to you.

Reason 5: It’s Going to Force You to Learn to Accept Appreciation

Ironically, we’re often better at giving appreciation than receiving, which is good, but it’s actually just as important that we learn to receive it as well. Perhaps this is more directed at our female listeners – Caleb commented that “the number of successful, have-it-together, competent moms or wives that have expressed a profound lack of self-confidence blows my mind.” Our appeal to you is, learn to receive your husband’s appreciation!

What does it mean to receive appreciation? Bring it into your heart! See the sincerity in your eyes, hear the genuineness in his voice and believe what he’s saying! Internalize it, accept it as true!

When he says:

“You look great in that outfit!” Don’t say “Yeah, but I feel fat…”

“That was an awesome supper!” Don’t say “Well, I wish I could make it like your mom.”

“You’re a good mommy!” Don’t say “Sometimes I feel like such a failure.”

Instead, learn to say thank you! and tuck that little appreciation away in your heart!  The goal is not pride, it is wholeness. Expressing appreciation can have a restorative effect on our spouse.

Q&A Section

An anonymous female listener asked,

Why does my husband always try to solve the problem? Why can’t he just listen?

Image courtesy of AForestFrolic under the Creative Commons license.