Updated: Nov 16, 2018
Dr. Cooper-Lovett Featured in this article in 2015
I’ve been married for eight years and have two boys, ages 6 and 4. Life in our household is often crazy, and while I often tell my kids how much I love and value them – and give them praise when they listen, do something nice, or draw a creative piece of artwork -- I haven’t always done the same for my husband. Then, I started implementing date night. Out on a Saturday night without the kids, with my full focus on my husband, I started noticing that new haircut, how his shirt brings out the color in his eyes, how his smile lights up his face when he tells a story. And that noticing and complimenting has carried through into daily life.
It’s a practice that’s integral to being happily wed. Here, five reasons why a marriage needs compliments to thrive.
1. It makes you feel appreciated. According to marriage researcher John Gottman, couples who are happy have a ratio of five positive interactions to every one negative interaction. “Compliments are a great way to boost your ratio,” says Samantha Rodman, clinical psychologist in private practice in the Washington, D.C., area and author of upcoming book How to Talk to Your Children About Your Divorce. If you notice and comment on specific things that your partner does, you're making him feel that you truly acknowledge his positive role in the marriage. You’re saying, “I appreciate and are thankful that you’re my spouse.”
2. It keeps intimacy alive. “Compliments are very important in a marriage, because often times couples become complacent and take each other for granted,” says Candice P. Cooper, a marriage and family therapist. Couples can lose the spark or the passion that they once had for each other, and compliments can help bring that back -- or prevent it from disappearing in the first place.
3. It’s marriage maintenance that improves your connection. “Marriage takes work,” says Cooper. “I often use the analogy of a plant. If you do not water it or give it sunshine, it will die. The same goes for a marriage; you have to make conscious, continuous efforts to ensure that you have a healthy marriage. Compliments are a part of that.”
Noticing and complimenting your spouse -- “you look handsome in that suit,” or “you did a great job coaching at our son’s Little League practice” -- shows that you’re fully invested in the relationship, and it bolsters your overall communication, which is one of the key elements in a happy and healthy marriage.
4. It feels good. Married life has its unavoidable stresses and strains. “To keep things in balance, we need to put a bit of energy into increasing the sweetness in a relationship,” says Tina B. Tessina, PhD, a psychotherapist and author of Love Styles: How to Celebrate Your Differences. “Thoughtfulness and compliments are the WD‑40 of your marriage.” You’ll be amazed by how good you feel when you give compliments, and how much more responsive your partner is.
5. It illustrates that you’re a team. “Compliments paid directly to your mate are nice, but [it’s] also very powerful when you speak about him or her in a positive fashion to someone else,” says Karen Sherman, PhD, a psychologist and author of Marriage Magic! Find It, Keep It, and Make It Last. “If your spouse overhears you when you’re telling the story, even better.” Speaking highly about your spouse to others comes across as a strong message: We are a united team. There are enough outside influences that may bring someone down, but a marriage should be a safe place where together, as a team, you’re able to lift each other up.
Why are compliments important to your marriage?
Judy Koutsky is the former Editorial Director of KIWI magazine, a green parenting publication. She was also Executive Editor of Parenting.com, AOL Parent and BabyTalk.com. Follow her on Twitter @JudyKoutsky.
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