Showering Your Spouse with Encouragement
The only thing that a critical spirit, nagging and negativity bring to a relationship is lack of intimacy. Many people were raised in homes where “shame-based parenting” was the rule rather than the exception. For many, there is a natural tendency to focus on the negative side of life, but that just doesn’t work in relationships. There is incredible power in encouragement and affirmation. Mark Twain once said, “I can live two months on one good compliment.” Jesus took a man named Simon and nicknamed him Peter. Peter or Petras, in the Greek, means “the Rock.” Here was a stumbly, bumbly fisherman who kept putting his foot in his mouth, but Jesus affirmed him by believing in him and he became the Rock of the Jerusalem church. What changed? I believe it was the encouragement given to Simon Peter from Jesus.
Showing encouragement involves being available to your spouse. Cathy is probably busier than I am with all the details of her life but when she stops what she is doing, even for a moment, and focuses on me, that makes a difference. I like to take our dog for walks. There are times I know that Cathy has already been to the gym and she has a stack of work on the table, but when she stops what she is doing and is available to me for even a few minutes it really does make a difference. All people are drawn to encouragement and frankly, flee from negativity. Your presence in your spouse’s life makes a difference. It sometimes speaks louder than words. Your availability, both physically and emotionally, says to your spouse that he or she is in a safe relationship. Don’t expect to have a thriving marriage if there is too much hostility and lack of attention paid to your spouse. It just doesn’t work that way. It may not be your responsibility to hound, nag or control your spouse, but it is your God-given responsibility to encourage your spouse. Many marriages would actually be much better off if they clearly understood that they were on the same side!
Even though I have been married to Cathy for over 44 years and the most important love language for me personally is affirmation, I still have trouble, at times, giving the right kind of encouragement to Cathy. You will need to literally make a study of your spouse to figure out the most effective ways to encourage and affirm them. Cathy appreciates complimentary words, but what she really appreciates is when I show empathy and understanding for what she is going through in life, as well as when I can give her help with her responsibilities. When Cathy is overwhelmed with the workload and responsibilities of her life, the most valuable thing I can do is show empathy and encourage by folding the clothes, cleaning up a bit and making sure that I am taking things off her plate and not adding anything else to it. For Cathy, doing the dishes together is an affirming experience. It’s not for me. I would rather “divide and conquer” other responsibilities. However, there are times when I have to whisper to myself, “this is not about me, it’s about her!” The gift of encouragement is one of the finest gifts you could ever give your spouse. Does your spouse need some encouragement and affirmation today? I bet they do. So do whatever it takes to make this quality of encouragement a mainstay in your relationship.