I once had the poor judgment to ask my wife, upon my return from work, “What have you been doing all day?” Taken aback by my lack of recognition and badly phrased question, she responded sharply: “Nothing really. I have just been sitting around all day eating bonbons.”
Spouses who work outside the home rarely fully appreciate how overwhelming, thankless, and frustrating staying at home with children and managing a home can be. Likewise, spouses who stay at home often do not fully comprehend the pressures of providing for a family and dealing with work stress, financial pressures, and demanding clients or co-workers. When both spouses work, often neither can appreciate the difficulties the other faces while balancing work and home. Similarly, it is important for a spouse to appreciate the work and challenges of the retired, unemployed, or disabled.
When we stop and think of all our spouse does and deals with on a day-to-day basis, we grow in appreciation for our spouse and marriage. We are truly better together than alone. In addition, affirmation is a keen motivator, and encouraging environments bring out the best in people. Simply stated, if we could focus more on what is done than on what isn’t done, we’d all be better off.
An affirming environment in marriage—one in which both spouses feel seen and appreciated by the other—will result in more joyful and lasting marriages. Think for a moment: What reasonable husband or wife would think for a moment about quitting a relationship in which they feel championed, valued, and special? It should be our daily goal that our spouse feels both seen and appreciated.
Satan is referred to as the great Accuser who comes to steal, kill, and destroy. He seeks to discourage, de-value, diminish, and destroy spouses and marriages. If he can get us to see ourselves as expendable failures, he takes a big step toward destroying us and our family. On a spiritual and invisible level, then, as we affirm one another, we fight against the evil one and for our spouse.
In closing, remember that it is natural to focus on what we don’t like in our spouse. It is supernatural to dwell on what is excellent and praiseworthy. While a critical environment is crushing, an affirming one is life-giving. If negative feedback can be so powerful, we must limit criticism and open the floodgates of encouragement.