In my marriage preparation classes, I ask engaged couples to sit close to one another, hold hands, look into each other’s eyes and tell their future spouse what his or her most endearing quality is that day.
When they are done sharing with one another, I ask the couples if they learned anything new from their exchange. Nearly every time the response is, “No, but it was nice to hear!” Yes, it is nice to hear our beloved tell us something good about ourselves. We all need that kind of affirmation in our lives, especially from the person with whom we have chosen to spend our lives.
It is very easy for married couples to take one another for granted. We assume that our spouse knows how we feel about him or her. We judge that our daily actions and the decisions we make to love them are enough to show them we care. Indeed, those things are important. Yet telling our spouse the qualities that we recognize in and admire about them can be a vital element in keeping our marriage fresh and spontaneous. It can also deepen the intimacy that is necessary for marriages to survive in today’s world.
One of my favorite spiritual authors, Vinita Hampton Wright, says, “You have the power to help others experience joy. Use that power with love and delight.” How many of us use that power in the ordinary and mundane routine of married life rather than saving it just for those special “Hallmark” moments?
Recently, I was getting dressed for work and asked my husband how I looked that day, an impossible question for any husband to answer. He told me I looked great. I shrugged and said my body felt heavy. His quick response was, “But it still moves me.” Wow! What a perfect response! He lifted me up and filled me with a warm smile with just those five small words that I especially needed to hear at that time. It reminded me that the passion and the desire are still there between us, no matter what number the bathroom scale records.
We all have the ability to lift our spouse up and bring him or her joy. It just takes a desire to recognize those endearing qualities that draw us into another and reflect back to them what we see. If we look for those qualities, we will find them.
Make it a point daily to hold hands, gaze into your spouse’s eyes and say, “Today, your most endearing quality is …” Affirm the things you love and admire about him or her. Doing so will help you form the habit of looking for his or her positive characteristics — the things that matter most — rather than dwelling on the negatives.
I like what Helen Keller wrote: “Keep your face to the sunshine and you cannot see a shadow.” There are too many shadows lurking around today; let’s opt to find the sunshine, especially when it illuminates one of God’s most beautiful gifts to us — our spouse.
By Mary-Jo McLaughlin