An article By Drs. Les and Leslie Parrott.
Building one another’s self-esteem is an essential component of a happy marriage, but it can be easy to fall into a rut where we stop affirming one another in meaningful ways. We might find that we’ve been taking our spouse for granted—or maybe we’ve just been thinking nice things about them that we haven’t been verbalizing.
The truth is, we live and die by encouragement. Mark Twain once said, “I can live for two months on a good compliment,” and we’d venture to say that’s a true statement for all of us. It’s easy to have admiring thoughts about your spouse that you don’t take the time to share, so take the next step and begin telling your spouse all the things you’ve been thinking, but haven’t been disclosing.
YOU KNOW YOUR SPOUSE BEST
It’s also important to be creative about complementing your spouse. Maybe you regularly tell them things like, “You look nice,” but those things don’t get down to their areas of greatest vulnerability. You know your spouse better than anyone, and you know their areas of highest insecurity.
One way to start giving your spouse that much-needed self-esteem boost is by honing in on that area where they’re most vulnerable and complementing them in that area:
- If your spouse just started a new job and feels insecure about it, encourage her
- If he tends to worry about the meals he prepares, let him know his cooking is delicious
- If she’s beating herself up about her parenting, tell her she’s doing a great job
Set aside some time every week—maybe after dinner or right before you go to sleep—to give your spouse that much-needed boost.
SELF-ESTEEM IN FOUR PARTS
It’s easy to give your spouse cliched affirmations and complement them on things that everyone already knows they’re good at (including them). So get creative! If you’re not sure where to start affirming your spouse, there are four major areas of our lives that we like to call the four “legs” of self-esteem.
Is your spouse spiritually-attuned? Does he or she have a knack for discernment or a depth of wisdom beyond their years? Maybe they have an insight into scripture or other spiritual matters that you have always admired. You could tell them something like, “Wow, you’re so wise. I see spiritual strength in you and character that a lot of people don’t have.” Let them know that their spiritual gifts are a blessing to you and ers around you, too.
Is your spouse incredibly intelligent? Are they well-read and academically accomplished? Maybe he’s an excellent teacher, or she’s a math whiz. Tell them how they impress you with their capacity for thinking outside the box or solving tough problems. Simple compliments like, “I love the way you think,” or, “Wow, that’s an interesting perspective; I never thought of it that way,” could make your spouse’s day.
Maybe your spouse is strong, fast, graceful, or healthy. They might have a sense of style that knocks your socks off. Maybe he’s a good dancer, or she’s beaten her own record at deadlifting. Perhaps your husband is recovering from surgery and you’re proud of his progress through physical therapy. Or maybe your wife just gave birth, and you’re marveling at the miracle her body created. Find ways to build them up and let them know which of their physical attributes, appearance or no, make you happy.
Is your spouse emotionally intelligent? Do they excel at connecting with others? Are they nurturing, hospitable, and loving, and do they enjoy bringing friends and family together? Let your spouse know how much that means to you. “You’re such a good friend; I love how supportive you are,” or, “I love how it lights you up to bring everyone together,” are great places to start.
You fell in love with your spouse because of the attributes that make them who they are; in the process of building their self-esteem, remember those attributes and pay each of them special attention. You’ll love seeing your husband or wife light up each time you pay them an intentional, meaningful compliment.
Do you and your spouse work to intentionally build each other’s self-esteem? Got any ideas to add? Share them with us in the comments!