Tuesday, September 10, 2013

The Marriage Learning Curve, Lesson 7: Compliment Each Other Daily

I remember going out on a date with a guy who complimented me relentlessly. At first, I liked it. I mean, who doesn't like to hear that they are amazing? After the two hour date and numerous compliments, I didn't feel like he was being sincere, and became easily annoyed with his overly complimentary nature. I went out on another date with this gentleman and doubled with his sister. I noticed that she too complimented not only me, but him and her husband all night. This really got me thinking about compliments and why receiving too many made me feel nervous.

I thought back to my childhood and asked, did my parents often express compliments to one another? I recall my dad always telling us things that mom did that were amazing, and complimenting her on them too. I am sure there could have been more compliments, but there you have it. I thought back to my personal life. Did I compliment or receive compliments often? From my reaction, most likely not. I thought about what it means to give someone a compliment. Did I have a hard time realizing and recognizing the gifts/talents of others' and compliment them? Perhaps. I realized that it was so natural for me to be a little prideful and get so involved with ME and what I was doing that I often forget others' and their amazing contributions to life.

This thought has been on my mind lately as it relates to marriage. My sweetheart and I are pretty good at letting one another know that we love each other, which is GREAT. Admittedly, my sweetheart is really good at letting ME know how amazing I am. However, I struggle to let him know how amazing he is. I have evaluated why it is so hard for me to give him compliments. I look back at some of my former posts, and think back to a conversation I had with my BFF about expectations. 

As you may be aware, I am very hard on myself. Perhaps it goes back to this idea of perfection I talked about in one of my earlier posts. Regardless, my theory is that because I am so hard on myself, and my expectations for myself are enormously high (I expect perfection, remember?), that it somehow translates to the relationship I have with my sweetheart.THAT POOR POOR MAN! Perhaps I can liken this to an example. 

CAUTION, the following example is only hypothetical.

Let's say, for example, I have asked my sweetheart to help me finish cleaning the dishes. In my mind doing and completely finishing the dishes includes:
  • Sticking all the dirty dishes in the dishwasher including any that are on the stove top oven, on the table, or on the counter tops
  • Doing any dishes that don't fit in the dishwasher by hand. This entails washing, drying, and putting dishes away
  • Growing up, doing dishes also meant wiping down the table and cleaning up any messes on the stove top, oven, microwave, etc.
After my sweetheart announces that he has completed the dishes, I noticed that the oven isn't wiped down, and there were still dishes in the sink even though the dishwasher was going. I said a quick thank you, but he could tell that I was disappointed, because I have a very expressive face (another reason I don't play poker).

So, even though my sweetheart completed his chore, I reacted by being short with him. I was irrational with my expectations, and in the end did not compliment him verbally or otherwise by my reaction. 

While there are other issues going on in this VERY hypothetical example like communicating my expectations better, etc., I have noticed when I compliment him on things he has done, or the person he is, there is less contention between us. Bottom line.

The article Improve Your Marriage Compliment Daily talks about the different kinds of compliments a person can give in their marriage, and talks about what readers can do to put this idea into practice. The article says, "Your spouse does a lot that deserves your appreciation. Maybe it’s keep­ing the house or yard in order; it might be managing children or finances; it could even be going to work or to the grocery store. Most people like to be recognized for a job well done. When you feel appreciated, you tend to feel loved.

...if you haven’t complimented your spouse lately, it’s time to start. Don’t miss a powerful opportunity to commu­nicate your love and strengthen your relationship."

I also loved these articles that talk about complimenting a spouse:

How to Compliment Your Spouse
The Power of the Candid Compliment
8 Things Couples Should Do to Keep the Spark Alive

After I addressed some of my 'expectation' issues, I started to practice complimenting my sweetheart more. At first it was hard because it wasn't something I was used to and it felt a little fabricated. I think that is actually quite normal. It will feel weird at first, especially if you are not used to it. I was also afraid of not appearing genuine to him. 

Over time, it has become easier for me to compliment my sweetheart and on things I REALLY do appreciate. It has made my heart more open to recognizing those things he does for me, and therefore makes it easier for me to compliment him. I don't know if I will be perfect at this, but I am trying...and you know, it makes me happy to know I have a wonderful man by my side deserving of all the compliments life can give him.

No comments: