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Praise Your Spouse!

Praise Your Spouse!

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We’ve all heard that we should praise our children. We’ve even heard that we shouldn’t praise them (because, according to some opinions, praise can be harmful). No one seems to be telling us to praise or not praise our spouses, however. Oh, sure, we’ve heard about showing appreciation. We’ve even heard of expressing affection. And of course, there’s the old “give them some attention, too.” But praise? No.

Perhaps this is because the concept of praising a spouse sounds manipulative or condescending. We praise children because we want them to do certain behaviors more frequently (e.g., “You did a nice job making your It doesn’t seem right to apply this technique to adultsbed, Max!” “Good helping, Tali!”). It doesn’t seem right to apply this technique to adults. Instead, we’d rather criticize. Criticizing a spouse feels like a perfectly legitimate activity. When a spouse is neglectful, irresponsible, impolite or messy, we feel fine just saying so. But if that same spouse is attentive, responsible, respectful or neat, we don’t want to say, “Good job, Eli! Nicely done, Elyse!” In fact, we don’t want to say anything. Truth be told, we probably didn’t even notice.

We’ve trained ourselves to see everything that is wrong. But before we can offer praise, we obviously have to observe that someone did something right. Interestingly, once we start to look in the direction of right things, we start to feel happier. G‑d wants us to feel good, and therefore the Torah encourages us to focus our attention on what is “good.”

This extends to G‑d himself. Blessing G‑d, thanking G‑d and, yes, praising G‑d are all mitzvahs. Rambam explains that praising G‑d is part of the mitzvah of loving Him.1 It makes sense: Saying praise out loud helps us both feel and convey appreciation and love for G‑d.

It works this way in our relationships, too. When we praise someone, we feel good. We feel more love and appreciation. Therefore, when we praise our spouse, we come to love our spouse more. Sure, praise feels good to receive. But it feels great to give as well. Praising our spouse reminds us that the person we share life with is How does one praise a grownup?wonderful in his or her own way.

So, now that we see that the act of praising is as much for ourselves as it is for our partner, the question becomes: how does one praise a grownup?

Here are some tips for successful adult praises:

  • Be specific (because it helps your spouse know exactly which behaviors you appreciate).
  • Add feeling (because emotions enable the brain to learn better).
  • Be brief (because brevity will make frequent praise possible; also, excessive praise can tend to sound manipulative).

What should be praised? You can praise appearance, parenting skills, choices, performance, communication skills, behavior, personal qualities and more. Here are some examples of praises, which should be said with real energy and warmth:

  • “Wow! Great shoes!”
  • “The way you handled Esti was amazing! You were so patient!”
  • “You’re brilliant.”
  • “You really know how to deal with him!”
  • “You always keep your desk so clean!”
  • “What a clever response to your dad!”
  • “That’s a great choice!”

When you offer praise to your spouse, he or she feels seen, loved and appreciated. This translates into more affection directed your way. And the very act of offering this praise sends the energy of love through every cell in your body, improving your wellbeing. But, most importantly, the search for positive qualities leads to a greater appreciation and love for your spouse.

So, praise your spouse—it’s good for both of you!

Footnotes
1.
Sefer ha-Mitzvot, Positive Mitzvah 3.
Sarah Chana Radcliffe is the author of The Fear Fix, Make Yourself at Home and Raise Your Kids Without Raising Your Voice. Sign up for her Daily Parenting Posts.
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Craig Hamilton Sandwich, MA January 8, 2014

Thanking my wife for my child When my wife got pregnant, she wasn't sure what my response would be, as to whether or not I would want the baby aborted. This shocked me because I thought she knew that I was praying for us to have a child. Though sometimes I forget, I try to remember always to thank her for bringing my wonderful son into this world. For probably the first year of his life, I did this daily. The issue of her womb has been grately blessed, no doubt because G)d loves us. I couldn't be more proud of my son, and this has brought me even closer to my wife. Reply

Anonymous CA January 8, 2014

To Anonymous Au Show him your comment! Make him see how his criticism is affecting you, thus affecting him. Reply

Kayo Kaneko Tokyo January 7, 2014

My Mele B"H

I believe that "Mele (King)" in our siddur can be exchangeable with our spouse. Reply

chana Jerusalem January 7, 2014

insightful and practical, as usual ;-) Reply

Anonymous January 7, 2014

dear Au It must be truly regrading to live in an amosphere of constant criticizm and fear of it. But the mare fact that you are in it shows that you must somehow, somewhere, have the internal power to not only survive, but to grow, and perhaps, just maybe, help others grow too.
Think about the general feeling in the house. If you can say words of apprciation and praise to one of its residents, that person will go around feeling good and those same words, heard enough times will just rool off thier toungue -- maybe back at you!
May Hashem be with you and bless your home with peace and harmony. Reply

Anonymous Au January 6, 2014

Agreed I have a souse who criticises me often and does not praise me at all. I believe he despises me and I have to work hard to not come to believe I am all sorts of bad things.

I know I must disappoint my husband even more because I find it hard to achieve what I could because my spirits flag as a result of living in a marriage like this. I try to do well but, well, I have concluded that I am just not good enough. Reply

Anonymous Hollywood, FL January 5, 2014

I'm Humbled by this Article! Great Article. Definitely put things in perspective for me. It's true that at times we miss the important things in our lives, and forget to praise that important partner in your life (In my case my wife). Thanks for these beautiful words of applicable advice. Reply

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