Praise can go a long way in a marriage

Relationship strategists Mo and Phindi believe you should focus on the positive and their advice in today’s column is to give praise where praise is due
We never even talk about the concept of new year resolutions for the simple reason that in our society, they have become more than a tired cliche.

We all want to shed that extra fat, develop our careers, and go out more, but less than 1% of our society actually carry out these aims to the very end.

However, as tired as the concept is, we can tire from making our marriages better at every level. For each married couple, there’s at least as much that needs to be improved in one area or the other.

Statistics SA tells us that more than a third of marriages end in divorce. That percentage is incrementally worse with second and third marriages. And of those who remain married for life, about half are unhappy in their marriages.

It seems to us that whenever you think about resolutions for the new year, you can’t do any better than strengthening and prioritising your marriage. Happiness at home is the very centre of our total happiness in every area of our lives.

And the delicate balancing act in prioritising other aspects of your life, is better managed when everything goes well at home. Couples who invest in their marriages have more satisfying, pleasurable interactions with each other because great marriages, whatever “great” means to you, don’t just happen.

So, sit down with your spouse, grab a pen and paper or your iPad, a glass of wine or cup of tea and have a good conversation about where you see your relationship by the time this year is over. The conversation should ideally be relaxed, enjoyable and in a calm atmosphere.

Start with what you’re getting right in your relationship. What do you both like and appreciate about your relationship? How can you enhance and highlight just the positives? Choose to find things to compliment, build up, appreciate and magnify in your spouse. You will find what you’re looking for in a person, whether good or bad.

Because as human beings we are paradoxical like that. Highlighting and magnifying, without being paranoid about, the good in your spouse can soar your relationship to new heights.

Highlight the good

We all want to hear what we’re doing right much more than negative criticism. Starting with what we don’t do right almost cancels all the good we do, and communicates lack of appreciation.

However, when you highlight what your spouse does right, it encourages them to do more to please you. And that’s great for the relationship.

Then go into aspects of your relationship you each want to see improved. This part of the conversation needs to be handled delicately. To the ears of a spouse who is sensitive to criticism of any kind, this can blow up the whole conversation. This is why it’s important to begin with an end in sight. Remember the overriding theme of the conversation is where you each want to see your relationship by year-end. The focus of your attention must always remain the relationship, and not to criticise your spouse. What do we mean?

We mean it’s not about what your spouse does wrong, or what their weaknesses are. It’s about how their behaviour affects not just you as the partner, but the marriage. For example, it’s not about her spending more time on social media, and the phone chatting, even in your presence. It’s about how that affects you and the relationship, and importantly, what it communicates to you.

Try tech-free time

You can make it one of your resolutions this year to break the habit of social-media addiction. When you’re in each other’s company, park your phones at the door. Better still, shut them off for an agreed period of time at least.

There’s little that communicates an uncaring behaviour and disregard for your spouse more than being busy on a phone while at home. It communicates disdain, abandonment and rejection for your spouse. By that act, you’re actually saying to your spouse, “There are more important people I’d rather spend my time with other than you”. And most of the time, it’s people that you’ve never physically met, or that don’t care as much as you think they do about you.

Try having a technology-free weekend. It may be harder than you think, but it will do great things for your relationship.

Try identifying not more than two very important things you’d like changed in your partner’s behaviour, and that will help make a major step towards the picture you have of your marriage by the end of the year. If it’s too many things, you may fail before you even start.

If it’s quiet time you wish to develop, and spend more time praying together, then start today. Get into the habit of it, and focus.

Develop review mechanisms to check for progress quarterly. When your spouse improves, them of the progress they’re making, and how proud of them you are. You’ll be amazed at the speed with which your relationship goes towards greatness. This can be the year you turn things around, just by being faithful and monitoring your relationship goals. New year resolutions won’t be a cliche for you any longer.

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