Who doesn’t thrive on a compliment and truly delight in a positive word of affirmation now and then? I mean, does anyone ever respond to praise with “I’ve had enough of your compliments for one day?”
The power of praise is so strong it can keep a person doing the same thing over and over – or continually hanging around those who make them feel they’re succeeding – just to continue to hear positive words of affirmation. Think back to your favorite teacher or coach during your growing-up years, your favorite boss to ever work for, or your favorite aunt or uncle. Chances are they were people who filled you with compliments and encouragement and improved your personal sense of value. So imagine the power of affirmation in a marriage where the flames of passion can tend to dwindle after time. Complimenting your spouse, whom you promised to stick with until death do you part, can not only be important but essential to a harmonious relationship.
Here are six reasons it is important to compliment your spouse:
1. God’s Word commands it.
In Ephesians 5, husbands are commanded to “love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her” (verse 25), and wives are commanded to respect their husbands (verse 33). One of the ways both love and respect are conveyed is through positive affirmation – or the compliment.
Earlier in Ephesians, we are instructed to “Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear” (4:29 NASB). How much more essential that edifying word is in marriage when we are otherwise quick to complain. This passage of Scripture warns us to be careful only to say positive, life-giving words that lift others up and meet their need for grace in the moment. Sometimes it’s easier to complain at what your spouse is doing wrong, but that passage of Scripture tells us clearly not even to let complaints escape our mouths, but to instead say only what will build each other up.
2. It is evidence of your love for them.
I’m sure you’ve heard the “joke” about the woman who asked her husband why he never tells her anymore that he loves her. His dry response was, “I told you I loved you on our wedding day. If that ever changes, I’ll be sure to let you know.” That not only isn’t funny, but it’s also cruel. Even if your spouse knows they are loved, they still need to see and hear evidence of your love for them through your words that build them up.
Jesus commanded that our love for each other be evident when He said, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you…By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:34-35, emphasis added). Your compliments are evidence to your spouse – and the rest of the world – that you love your husband or wife as Christ loves the church
Don’t be silent about the things you admire about your spouse. Let your husband or wife hear it. Let others hear it, too. Your love for your spouse should be evident to them – and to everyone else – by the gracious and loving words you choose to say to and about them.
3. A loved spouse is a happy spouse.
Proverbs 16:24 tells us: “Pleasant words are a honeycomb, Sweet to the soul and healing to the bones.” Words that compliment, uplift, and encourage are pleasant. And this portion of Scripture says they can actually sweeten (or soften) the soul and heal one’s bones (or emotional wounds). On the contrary, debilitating words can crush the heart.
Even if words of affirmation aren’t your spouse’s love language, they are still something every breathing person on this planet needs at one time or another. You might think your compliments fall by the wayside unnoticed (if you don’t get a “thank you”), but chances are they are heard, and they feed a place in the receiver’s soul. One of the primary complaints of wives is “my husband doesn’t notice me,” and one of the main complaints from husbands is “my wife doesn’t appreciate who I am and what I do.” Verbal compliments, said with sincerity, would solve both those misperceptions, right? Don’t’ underestimate the power of a compliment. Be genuine, creative, and frequent with life-giving words to your spouse.
4. It helps safeguard your marriage.
Are you your spouse’s number one fan? Prove it by being their greatest cheerleader through what you say to build him or her up. If you are not careful to sing your spouse’s praises, someone else might be, which can be dangerous. We all want to be appreciated, admired, respected, loved. For a man, respect and admiration (which are often conveyed through compliments) fill his emotional tank. For a woman, appreciation and affection (which can also be conveyed through compliments) fill her emotional tank.
When others see and begin to praise the quality traits in your spouse that you once noticed and praised, you may suddenly have competition in the heart of your spouse. Not because they will drift toward whoever compliments them but because our hearts tend to long for affirmation. Positive words can penetrate deep into our soul, making us feel appreciated, valued, respected, even loved. Protect your marriage by being the one speaking those compliments to (and expressing your admiration for) your spouse, so he or she will not need it or look for it from anyone else.
Photo credit: ©Unsplash/Brooke Cagle
5. Compliments go a lot further than complaints.
Have you noticed that when you complain to your spouse about what they are doing wrong, it doesn’t necessarily help the situation you were hoping to improve? Yet when you compliment your spouse for a job well done in a particular area, it motivates them to continue to do those things to please you or because they know they are appreciated.
Scripture tells us, “It is better to dwell in a corner of the housetop [on the flat oriental roof, exposed to all kinds of weather] than in a house shared with a nagging, quarrelsome, and faultfinding woman” (Proverbs 21:9, AMPC). It’s safe to say the same sentiment applies if it’s a husband doing the complaining and fault-finding.
Rather than being the spouse to avoid, be the one whom your spouse wants around more often by turning what might be a complaint into a compliment. In my book, 12 Ways to Experience More With Your Husband, I call this “reframing” your words from complaints to compliments, so they pour on praise rather than cause misunderstanding or pain. For example, instead of complaining by asking, “Why don’t we go out on dates anymore?” say instead: “I miss spending time with you.” And instead of the complaint “I tried calling you. You never called me back,” try the compliment: “Was everything okay today? I wanted to connect by phone and see how you were doing.” Finally, if your husband insists on wearing his favorite comfortable ratty shirt to dinner, instead of asking, “Are you going to wear THAT?” say instead, “I’d love it if you’d wear that new blue polo shirt you look terrific in.”
Compliments can motivate in ways complaints never will. Instead of complaining, encourage through a compliment and watch how the dynamic in your marriage changes.
6. It models God’s love for us.
Jesus said the greatest commandment is to love God with all your heart, soul, and mind, and to love your neighbor as yourself (Matthew 22:37-39). Your spouse – the one you live with and sleep next to – is the closest “neighbor” you have. Jesus also said, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you…” (John 13:34, emphasis added).
When you compliment your spouse, you are modeling to your husband or wife the same kind of love God shows toward you. Although God’s love for us goes way beyond the compliment (to include His sacrificial death for us on the cross), He showers us with loving, encouraging words, which is an excellent way for you to start showing sacrificial love to your spouse.
God’s words to us are so very complimentary and filled with love. He calls us chosen (Ephesians 1:4, 11), holy and beloved (Colossians 3:12), fearfully and wonderfully made (Psalm 139:14), precious (Isaiah 43:4), endlessly loved (Jeremiah 31:3), unforgettable (Isaiah 49:15), and fully capable in His strength (Philippians 4:13). Seek to be more like Christ by showering your spouse with loving words as God has lavished them upon you.
What if you start complimenting your spouse, but you continue to not get any positive words in return? Keep in mind real change in your marriage starts with you. Be the initiator. Start complimenting, use gentle tones, be more attentive, flirt to restart the flame. Remember, God wants your marriage to succeed even more than you do. So, do your best, commit to the rest, and watch how God works as you seek to be an agent of change.
For more on strengthening your marriage, see Cindi’s books, Letting God Meet Your Emotional Needs, When a Woman Inspires Her Husband, and 12 Ways to Experience More with Your Husband.
Photo credit: ©Unsplash/Anthony Tran
Cindi McMenamin is a national speaker, Bible teacher, and award-winning writer who helps women and couples strengthen their relationship with God and others. She is the author of 17 books, including When Women Walk Alone (more than 150,000 copies sold), When a Woman Overcomes Life’s Hurts, When God Sees Your Tears , and When Couples Walk Together , which she co-authored with her husband of 32 years. Find out more about her speaking ministry, coaching services for writers, and books to strengthen your soul, marriage, and parenting, at www.StrengthForTheSoul.com.