What if creating one habit had the power to transform your marriage?
What if making a small change in your daily life could improve you how and your spouse interact, help you both feel more loved, and strengthen your communication? I believe that this is possible, because I have experienced it in my own marriage.
About 6 years ago, my husband and I were really struggling. We had a young daughter, we were both working, and we were adjusting to the new life with a toddler. We had been married about 6 years prior to having a baby, and we had dated for 4.5 years before that. Suffice it to say, we were pretty used to life without a child. So when the baby came, a lot of things changed. A lot of selfishness becomes quite evident when a child enters your family.
About a year after our daughter was born, my husband and I found ourselves in a not-so-great space. We were arguing frequently, often about the same issues. We were finding it difficult to get on the same page or to enjoy our time together. We finally went to meet with an older, wiser couple, to get some help and guidance.
What we discovered in our discussions with them was that we had a common problem – we both felt unappreciated.
It was coming across in different ways for each of us, but the bottom line was: we didn’t feel that the other person appreciated the efforts of the other. And when you feel unappreciated, there’s another feeling that usually accompanies that: feeling unloved. In a marriage, feeling unappreciated and therefore unloved is not a good place to be.
It was at that time that we recognized the importance and value of showing appreciation to one another, and therefore showing each other love.
The one simple habit of showing appreciation has the power to transform your marriage.
The dictionary defines appreciation as “the recognition and enjoyment of the good qualities of someone or something.” Receiving appreciation is a key factor in many people’s happiness and contentment in a variety of aspects of life. In fact, research shows that lack of appreciation is the top reason for people quitting their jobs.
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Likewise, lack of appreciation in marriage, over the long term, can be very damaging. Dr. John Gottman, a clinical psychologist focusing on marriage research, says that there needs to be at least a 5:1 positive to negative ratio in a relationship in order for it to last.
Most of us can agree that showing appreciation in our marriage is a good and, yes, necessary habit. However, there are times that this habit is challenging to develop, especially if we are in the midst of a very difficult or conflictual stage in our marriage.
I remember that time in our marriage. When we were getting some counseling, it was difficult for me to find positive things to appreciate about Scott. I tended to focus on the things that bothered me, irritated me, or the ways that he was not living up to my expectations.
So what do you do when it’s hard to show appreciation – when you just don’t feel like it?
If you have trouble finding things to appreciate about your spouse, start by thinking back to the things that first attracted you to them.You can spend some time remembering the qualities that drew you to them in the first place. Even if you aren’t finding the current situation to be easy to appreciate, there is value in spending time considering past actions, efforts, and characteristics.
Most of the time, relationships start off with LOTS of appreciation. Over time, we become more comfortable in our relationship and we’re less concerned with impressing the other person, and often, we become less intentional about telling him why we appreciate him.
Do you have love letters or cards saved from your dating years? Perhaps emails or photos? Go back to some of your early years and focus on the positive reasons you fell in love in the first place!
2. Find ONE thing to appreciate about your spouse each day, and write it down.
Keep a notebook or journal where you each take turns writing simple notes of appreciation to each other on a regular basis. Tammy Greene over at Married & Naked actually created a journal specifically for this purpose!* It’s pre-designed to be used for appreciation between spouses for an entire year. She shares that this habit is something that helped to change the way she and her husband communicated!
Written words truly make a difference in how we remember things. When we write down our words of appreciation to one another, it is helpful as we can look back at what we have written months or years from now.
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Just like those old love letters you may have kept from when you were dating, you will have your appreciation journal years from now to remember the current moments.
3. Figure out your spouse’s love language, and learn to speak it.
What will work best for one spouse may not work best for the other. So I suggest that you first discover what you and your spouse’s love languages are. Once you know this, you can better determine the best approach for your spouse. You can complete the free love language quiz online or download it here.
If you’ve been feeling unappreciated, it’s likely your spouse may be feeling the same way. The challenge with anytime one or both spouses are feeling unappreciated is that someone has to make the first step to begin changing habits in the relationship. If this is you, I challenge you to start developing this habit of appreciating your spouse! You may be surprised at how it can transform your marriage.
My marriage experienced major changes when my husband and I learned to start doing these little acts of appreciation on a regular basis. It does not happen overnight, but with consistency, showing appreciation to your spouse does have the power to transform your marriage!
Ready to have a better marriage?
*Thank you to Tammy for sending me a free copy of the Ultimate Marriage Journal!