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Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Lighting the Positive Marriage - The Encouraging Heart

Over the last five Wednesdays, we looked at James MacDonald's "Five Logs on the Negativity Fire", specially modified for marriage.

These were:

  • The Critical Eye
  • Wrong Expectations
  • Negative Friends
  • Unresolved Hurt
  • Bad Time Management
Today we'll start a focus on the positive, going through the same basic categories...
  • The Encouraging Heart
  • Uplifting Expectations
  • Uplifting Friends
  • Putting the Past Behind You
  • Quality Time
We'll begin with the Encouraging Heart.

We all need encouragement, even though there are some who are to proud to admit it. We need the "attaboy", the "I know you can do it", the "I believe in you".

We particularly need them from our mates, the closest human relationship we'll ever have.

Encouragement means, literally, "to give courage". How do you do it in a meaningful way?
  • It starts with understanding. You can't encourage what you don't know, so you have to start by being familiar with what's happening in your mate's life. Ask questions, and listen to the answers.
  • Be specific in your praise. If you're married to an accountant, don't just say, "I'm so impressed how good you are with numbers". Focus on special jobs that your mate's been entrusted with, and say that it shows how valuable he or she is in the job. Praise the skills they're proud of.
  • Use reasonable superlatives. Don't go overboard; it sounds false. It's better to express yourself by saying "I can see by what you're saying that you're really handling that situation well", rather than "What a terrific job!". Both have their place, but the first requires more thought - and gets more appreciation.
  • Be gently complimentary to weaknesses. If your wife is self-conscious about her weight, tell her that what she's wearing looks good...often. Appreciate her for what she is. If your husband is upset about a developing bald spot...ladies, this is going to sound stupid, be warned...kiss it often. Make that bald spot something special for you, and do it without specific comment. Here, the action is the affirmation.
  • Be careful offering encouragement in serious problem areas. Some praise can come across as false, even when it's not, and can wreck the open avenue of encouragement. Sometimes you've just got to sympathize.
There are few qualities more beloved in a spouse than the capacity for understanding encouragement. It can lift the recipient from a pit of despair to new hope, and to success undreamed of.

Be an encourager, and you can be the miracle in your marriage.

How about you? How do you encourage your husband or wife? What suggestions do you have for us?

This post is linked to Wedded Wednesday, a compendium of really cool posts on marriage. If you click on the logo below, you'll be taken to www.messymarriage.com, which is the springboard to a wealth of information.


  1. This is a great list, Andrew! One that is Pinterest worthy! ha! That means, I'm going to pin it to the marriage resources board that's shared with other bloggers. Oh, and one I'd add (since affirmation is not my strong-suit) encourage even when it feels awkward, because in time it will develop into something familiar and comfortable even though it isn't at first. Thanks for another thoughtful post!

    1. Wow, thanks, Beth!

      I completely agree, that encouragement should be practiced even if it's clumsy at first. It's like dancing - I left a trail of smashed toes before...

      Well, before I switched to break-dancing, but that's another story.

  2. Andrew, this is a GREAT post!!! We wives love to get specific encouragement from our husbands. My husband sat me down a while back and went on and on about something I'd done well (I had no idea, I was dumbfounded), he told me how proud he was, that it brought tears to his eyes at times. I about fell of the sofa. I will remember this until the day I die.

    I do things like this (not to this magnitude, he'd hate it - the Navy man in him) for him. He brushes it off, but I know it means a lot to him. We all need encouragement and positive feedback from our spouse.

    1. Thanks, Kim!

      I had an experience similar to yours...just now. I usually put a link to new blog posts on my Facebook page (separate from the 'couple' page my wife and I have...but I am friends with my wife...and me...weird).

      Anyway, my wife saw the status update, and commented on how much my encouragement has meant to her. It's something she NEVER says in person (and she does not read my blog).

      I was really surprised, and pleased.

      We all need encouragement. The ones who look like they need it least...often need it most.

  3. So true, Andrew. I love that negative friends...and even unbelieving friends too was on the previous list. They can spell big trouble for couples and many times they don't see this coming. It's hard to cut friends out who have been part of your life for so long, but a spouse must come first. If the friend is causing problems in the relationship and taking time away from it, they need to go. Have a great holiday weekend.

    1. Sorry for the delay in responding, Kim.

      I completely agree - the marriage has to come first, and friends that threaten it - in any way - have to be politely but firmly shown the door.

  4. This is good, Andrew. Because we're often so busy encouraging everyone else {social media?!}, that our spouses only get the leftovers. And be sure that if we're not giving them this gift of great value, that they will begin to look elsewhere for someone who will ...

    NOT a good thing.

    1. Linda, that's a great way of putting it. We give our spouses the leftovers...and yes, if they feel that they're second-rate, many will look for a way to feel first in someone's life.

      Yeah. Not a good thing, at all.