Friday, September 28, 2001, Chandigarh, India

I N T E R F A C E 

Praise your partner to pep up your marriage
Victor M. Parachin
"YOU don’t bring me flowers any more," is the popular line from a song by Barbra Streisand and Neil Diamond. It is a statement that can accurately describe how many people feel about their marriage.






Praise your partner to pep up your marriage
Victor M. Parachin

"YOU don’t bring me flowers any more," is the popular line from a song by Barbra Streisand and Neil Diamond. It is a statement that can accurately describe how many people feel about their marriage.

Consider Nancy, married for 11years to Steve. Confiding in a friend, she says: "I feel our marriage is running on empty. There is no issue with abuse, addiction, or infidelity, but I just don’t feel appreciated any more. Gone are the engagement courtesies. It would be great if occasionally Steve would tell me I looked nice or that dinner was good."

All people, and especially couples, want to feel as though they make a difference; that their activities are noticed; that someone is proud of them and pleased by their efforts. "The deepest principle of human nature is the craving to be appreciated," said psychologist William James. Without appreciation, a marriage will begin to shrivel, wither, and eventually die. The key for making a good marriage great is appreciation. Here are some ways to show appreciation and thereby improve the quality of your marriage.

  • Praise your partner’s contributions. From time to time ask yourself if you have recently told your spouse how much you appreciate the contributions he or she makes. Everyone needs a cheerleader occasionally. When people are praised, they grow, expand, and are motivated to do even greater things.

One woman acknowledged her husband’s contributions through writing. She placed a note inside his lunch bag that was titled, "How I Know I married A Great Guy." During his lunch break at work, he was delighted to find this note: "I knew I married a great guy when I gave birth to twins and he took two weeks off from work and stayed home to cook, clean, change, and bathe the babies and help them through the night. I knew I married a great guy when he got a promotion, and he said if I wanted to, I could stay home with the kids, which is what I wanted more than anything. I knew I married a great guy when my mom needed a place to stay until she could find another apartment. We had very little room ourselves, but all I had to do was ask if she could stay with us, and he said, ‘Of course,’ even though I had older brothers and sisters who could probably put her up more easily. I knew I married a great guy when he had a business trip to Walt Disney World and took our family and his mother-in-law. We had only one room for all five of us. He never complained."

  • Idealise your spouse. Couples with high marital satisfaction continue to view each other through rose-coloured glasses. They tend to see each other more positively than others might see them. She may be slightly overweight but still beautiful in his eyes. He may be balding but still an incredibly handsome man. "The most happily married people idealise their spouses," says Catherine Johnson, author of Lucky In Love: Secrets of Happy Couples and How Their Marriages Thrive. "Many of them say they think their husbands or wives are the greatest people in the world. That belief certainly helps bring out the best in their partners. Research has shown that people live up, or down, to our expectations."

  • Cater to your spouse’s interests. Don’t give him caviar when his favourite food is pizza. Take into account whether your partner is a ‘morning person’ or a ‘night person’ when planning romantic activities. Don’t give her a potted plant when you know she’d rather receive a box of chocolates. Show that you know what pleases your spouse and do it!

  • Stand by your man or woman. Be certain to support your spouse when others are critical or speak harshly of your partner. When George Bush announced he would attempt a presidential bid in 1980, family members were supportive of him. However, some family members were concerned about his wife’s appearance and image. In her book, Barbara Bush: A Memoir, Mrs Bush recalls a painful conversation she had with a family member. The woman told Mrs Bush that she and others had "discussed how to make me look snappier, colour my hair, change my style of dressing, and, I suspect, get me to lose some weight. I know it was meant to be helpful, but I wept quietly alone until George told me that what they said was absolutely crazy. He has always made me feel loved and just right for him. I certainly did not expect all the personal criticism when he announced for the presidency."

  • Give a gift on an ordinary day. Of course, a gift on a birthday, anniversary, graduation, Valentine’s Day and other holidays is always welcomed. However, remember to give a gift when your spouse least expects it. Put your imagination to work and get creative. Stop to pick a bunch of wild flowers from the side of the road on the way home from work. Send a taxi to pick up your spouse after work. Pay the cab fare and instruct the driver to bring your partner to a favourite restaurant where you will be waiting to have dinner together. A surprise gift really shows your appreciation and love!

  • Communicate good things in your marriage. Most couples express feelings strongly and effectively when angry or upset but are not as emotionally forceful when happy. A better formula is to praise loudly and criticise softly. David and Claudia Arp, family life educators and authors of The Ultimate Marriage Builder recommend this helpful marriage exercise: "Write three items that your mate does that please you; three things you would like him or her to do more often; three things you think he would like you to do more often."

  • Acknowledge new skills. Compliment your spouse when a new skill is learned and mastered. After much reluctance, Sandy bought a computer. "I’m not mechanically inclined, and the machine intimidated me. It sat inside unopened boxes for two weeks. However, my husband William kept saying, ‘Don’t worry. They are user-friendly, and you will learn how to operate it.’ Eventually I began working with it and, to my surprise, enjoyed it. One day when I was loading a new program, William paid me the ultimate compliment: ‘I can’t get over how quickly you learned how to work the computer. I could never have done it so quickly!’ "

  • Be affectionate. A touch, a hug, an embrace, a quick kiss on the cheek are all ways to affirm your love. These small gestures are magnified in the mind of the recipient who feels appreciated, respected and loved. Regular displays of affection make couples feel better about each other and life in general. "Research shows that people who regularly give and receive affection live longer, are healthier, and report a higher quality of life than those who do not," say psychologists Alma Dell Smith, Larry Rothstein, and Lyle Miller in their book, The Stress Solution. "Make a practice of always greeting your loved ones with a hug or a kiss or five minutes of undivided attention at the end of the day," they advise.

  • Give the gift of time. With more and more couples both working outside the home, time is at a premium. Give your spouse a break from some household duties. Advice for men: do some of "her chores" — go grocery shopping, balance the checkbook, load and empty the dishwasher, vacuum the carpets, dust the furniture. Advice for women: do some of "his chores" — clean the car, pay the bills. Serving each other this way shows that you notice how busy your partner is and that you want to lighten the load. Giving the gift of time is a strong gesture of love.

  • Express praise when it’s not expected. A compliment paid for an exceptional meal can be interpreted as a common social custom. However, appreciation is deeply enhanced if your express praise when it is not expected. Consider this wisdom from 19th century British poet Sir Henry Taylor: "Applaud a man’s speech at the moment when he sits down and he will take your compliment as exacted by the demands of common civility; but let some space intervene, and then show him that the merits of his speech have dwelt with you when you might have been expected to have forgotten them, and he will remember your compliment for a much longer time than you have remembered his speech."

By expressing appreciation to your partner in many ways and at many times, your will invest your relationship with new life and vitality. Appreciation is the key for making a weak marriage strong and a good marriage great. The best time to start is now!



Why do my past relationships make my girlfriend feel insecure? — A nettled boyfriend

Girlfriends respond:

I am always scared of comparison. I always get the impression that his previous girlfriend was better than me. Namita Sharma, 20, student

Insecure, never! I do not feel insecure, I just feel irritated when he talks about all those past loves. Prakash Kaur, 24, public relations officer

I think he is still in love with her, that is why I feel insecure. Reena Nagar, 19, student

You can never forget your first love. That is the reason I am insecure. Shobha Bhardwaj, 25, marketing executive

If he still talks about his previous affairs, it means he is not satisfied with our relationship. Sagarika Mathur, 23, teacher

Why does my boyfriend talk of his ex- flames so often? — An exasperated girlfriend

Boyfriends respond:

Past is always beautiful and people from the past always live in your memories. Sahil Parera, 29, businessman

It is natural to compare. One cannot help comparing one’s former girlfriend with the current one. Rohit Sharma, 22, student

I think it is very difficult for guys to let go of their past. Unlike girls, they cannot easily move ahead after trampling the hearts of those they loved. Ankit Chawla, 31, marketing executive

An extinguished flame, perhaps, is more interesting and intriguing than the burning flame of passion. Abhay Verma, 26, artist


Next time’s queries:

Why are my parents pressurising me to take up a career of their choice?— A disturbed teenager

Why does my teenaged son regard my advice as interference? — An upset parent

(Responses are sought from parents and teenagers on these questions, respectively. Mention your name, age and address.)

Dear readers, if you are having problems with family, friends or colleagues, send us your grievances and we will include them in this column. Responses from readers will also be published.

Send your queries and responses (word limit:50) to
Interface, c/o The Editor,
The Tribune, Chandigarh.


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