3 Days for Affirmations
Affirmations are something you've read about many times in books and magazines. In marital therapy we think about them, too. There are good reasons why they keep coming up. On the one hand, people who study relationships recognize how utterly vital affirmations are to a marriage. On the other hand, people just don't give them enough. If at all....
The world can be a tough place. We get all the negative feedback we need from the scale, from the mirror, from our teenagers (for goodness sake), from our boss, and most of all from ourselves, unfortunately. From our spouse, we need support and affirmations. You want a happy spouse, right? Someone it's pleasant to live with? So stop with the dueling criticisms and start affirming!!
Are you a glass half empty person? Or glass half full? Guess what -- it doesn't matter.
What matters is to make the effort. Scan the panorama. Even if you are a person for whom the negatives jump out first, there are still plenty of positives... always. As a married person, you are going to have to become expert in finding those positives and speaking them out loud.
This is so hard for people. Really hard. It's the politics of the situation. You worry that if you point out something positive about your spouse, you will lose your leverage. You worry your partner will become complacent and stop trying in the areas that most need improvement. You want to keep the pressure on. Admit it.
Okay, now that we've gotten that out of the way, I have news for you. Marriage is not actually a win-lose proposition. It is win-win. If your partner is a miserable, unhappy person, your life stinks. If your partner is happy and confident, your life is better. Come on -- it's obvious, right?
For almost every single member of the couples I meet, affirmations just don't come trilling off the tongue on a regular basis. People need to be pushed and pushed, and followed up on, to build the new habit.
Here's my strategy for people who (inevitably) stumble. You can try it. Take out your phone and put in a reminder for Monday, Wednesday, and Friday at 7 pm. Recurring every week. And pick three of the following categories, applying one for each those days: appearance, effort in career, handling the kids, cooking, cracking jokes, getting the yard in shape, handling finances, etc. etc. etc. Further, you can include recollections of times in the past, even the remote past, when your partner handled something well, or was most loveable, or impressed you.
Just decide on three categories and add one for the reminder on Monday, one for Wednesday, and one for Friday. This week and every week. 7 pm. Just do it, and don't let up.
"Your hair looks great."
"Wow, you got the kitchen to sparkle!"
"I liked the way you talked to Billy about keeping up with homework."
"I don't know how you fill out all those documents for your job."
"The finances are working better since you started monitoring them."
"I remember how you looked on our first date -- I was dazzled."
"I keep thinking about how funny you were when we had dinner with that couple on our honeymoon."
If you're partner suspects something, just say you don't know what they're talking about. And keep affirming!