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!