Praising Your Partners Good Qualities
Inspires More of the Same
Unfortunately, there are no perfect couples. Some couples may be perfect for each other but because marriages are only inhabited by imperfect people none can be absolutely perfect.
What that means is . . .
Quietly lurking in the background at every wedding are the faults that each person brings to the union. We all have them.
Couples aren’t too bothered by them before they marry because love is in the air. People attending the wedding don’t pay much attention to them because they are focused on how handsome the couple looks and all the reasons they make such a great pair.
But over time the balance changes.
Once we move away from the altar and settle into a routine the things each partner loves about the other get taken for granted and irritations are felt.
It isn’t serious initially. First offenses usually register as nothing more bothersome than a drop of rain.
But if the couple doesn’t learn to process those drops effectively they mount up.
One drop a day over two weeks isn’t serious.
One drop a day over 30 years adds up to more than 10,000 drops, approximately 500 kilograms. That is a lot of “heavy” for one relationship to bear.
Because of that, every couple contemplating marriage should ask two questions.
- First, What do you like about the person you are marrying?
This question presents no problem for engaged or newly married couples. Answers gush forth. Responses are more emotional and general than they are intelligent and specific but couples have no problem answering the question.
- Second, what does your partner do that irritates you?
The responses to this question are very different.
Some mushily suggest the other person is absolutely perfect – not real – or they name some fault and minimize it as nothing – not smart. The worst response, however, is acting dumb, as if they haven’t noticed any faults – very not real and very not smart.
These responses may seem romantic and feel good in the short run but marriage is a long distance affair. Ignoring potential problem areas at the beginning could be dangerous. A mild rub on the heel when you start becomes a ulcerous wound after a few miles. Therefore, no relationship is any stronger than its slightest irritation.
You don’t need to be a prophet to know that every couple will experience bad days and the irritations are the points around which those bad days occur. Couples who never get at least mildly angry aren’t human. Smart couples will be cerebral about this and develop attitudes and skills for managing these problematic moments.
And there is no better place to find useful advice for doing this than the Bible. The first piece of advice was given by Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount and He said:
Love you enemies! (Matthew 5:44)
This advice runs contrary to everything in our nature which is more inclined to attack enemies than love them but nature is not the biggest hurdle to overcome. Once we get our head around this idea we must then figure out how to actually do it. That is another problem. But an even bigger problem is figuring out who the enemies are in the first place.
The first time I heard this remark I visualized Jesus addressing Himself to all capitalists and encouraging them to love all communists. That idea applies but the truth is I don’t know any communists personally. I’ve never even met one or wasn’t aware of it if I did and that is probably true for most of the people I know. So we need to broaden the scope for this teaching to make it more relevant.
And experience proves that the biggest personal problems occur between people who are close. The ones we normally refer to as neighbors. At times we, and they, can be very enemy-like.
- The people we share the work place with.
- The people we share neighborhoods with.
- The people we share roads with.
- The people we share homes with.
- And even the people we share beds with.
These are the people we are most likely to collide with personally and if we don’t manage these difficult moments well a lot of friction can result. Fortunately, the Bible gives us advice on how to keep our fractious moments from becoming elongated.
Another pithy statement, this one made by Peter, says…
Love covers a multitude of sins. (1 Peter 4:8)
There’s a lot of sound psychology behind that statement.
No, Peter isn’t suggesting that love is a broom and sins are to be swept under the rug – a very human thing to do. He is giving us a strategy for diminishing the faults of a partner which in turn makes them a better person eventually.
How is that done? By focusing on the things you love most about them. The qualities that drew you to them in the first place. Love ignores faults it doesn’t deny them.
This kind of focus has a two-fold benefit.
- One, when you pay more attention to the things you love about a person the good qualities become more prominent and the poor qualities become less noticeable. There is a good chance they will become less apparent.
It’s a psychological fact that the things you focus on and talk about the most get bigger. And since good and bad qualities are diametrical opposites you can’t focus on both at the same time anyway. Trying to do so will make you emotionally cross eyed.
If you want more of the good, think about it, talk about it and offer praise when possible.
And the Bible endorses this approach…
Whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things. (Philippians 4:8)
This approach has a great practical outcome also.
People are drawn to positive recognition and are naturally motivated to do things that stimulate it. Regularly praising positive qualities inspires more of the same. And that has the side effect of diminishing the bad. When a person spends their time and energy developing good qualities, they have less time and energy to entertain the unattractive ones.
Which is to say, things can get better instead of worse.
Every married individual should make a concerted effort to focus on the qualities that drew them to their partner in the first place. That approach produces more of what you love and less of what you don’t.
And the second benefit to the right focus is:
- When you focus on and praise the things you love most, your married partner will be spared constant reminders of their faults – which they are probably aware of and would like to forget.
Constant reminders of one’s faults is more like a downpour of irritation rather than a drop. It saps the energy for personal growth and deflates self worth.
The best way to deal with faults is to list them before you get married and figure out a way to work around them or talk through them without mounting them on the wall.
There is one more piece of advice, this one made by Paul, which provides a great strategy for handling the inevitable angry moments. Paul says…
Don’t let the sun go down on your anger. (Ephesians 4:26)
We usually understand this to mean we should go to work immediately trying to salve hurts when angry moments arise. But how many angry people are emotionally capable of doing that. The hurt caused by angry moments is inhibiting and can take days to recede.
It’s probably best to view this statement more as preventive than curative. Rather than wait for the inevitable angry moments and then dig out the right attitude we should master the art of living in a constant state of “don’t worry, be happy.” That way the emotional attitude required to get through anger will be in place before it is needed.
Those allowing personal hurts to fester are usually forgetting one very important fact. There are two sides to every angry moment and neither is absolutely right.
Following are 11 suggestions for avoiding and/or managing anger:
- When offended, never assume the intent of your partner.
- Assume at least the possibility that you are partly responsible for the problems.
- Apologize often. You can be sorry for the problem even if you aren’t the cause.
- If you must complain use “I” statements rather than “You” statements (“I – don’t understand” or “felt this way when” rather than “You – always… or never…).
- Never assume your partner automatically knows what you want or like.
- Never assume you understand what your partner wants or likes.
- Communicate as much or more by listening as by talking.
- Never assume you have made yourself clear.
- Never assume you understand your partner clearly.
- Eliminate sarcasm. Don’t ask questions that make insulting statements – “what were you thinking?”
- Don’t assume faithfully doing your daily duties is sufficient to remind your partner that you care about him or her.
Everything I have said so far may seem a little excessive but in answer I will defer to the Bible. Peter is speaking and he says…
All of you…be clothed with humility… (1 Peter 5:5)
Whatever you do. However you relate to your spouse must be laced with humility. Humility isn’t like an umbrella. It isn’t dead weight you carry around for the moments you might need it. It is like clothes and is to be worn all the time.
If anything we should make the above list longer rather than shorter.
But, whatever you do, keep these 3 things in mind:
- Your relationship needs will be met only by an imperfect partner.
- Only God can or will change your partner, not you. The more you chirp about your partner’s problems the less able God is to make changes. A paring knife makes a horrible relationship tool.
- Some things God will never change this side of of heaven.
No strategy will work if both partners aren’t willing to make the effort. Problems are countered only with love from both sides. So if your intended fault-finds before the wedding you can count on it getting worse after. Don’t be afraid to rethink your options.