Strengthen Your Relationship by Nurturing Admiration

older couple walking hand in hand

In recent weeks I’ve been talking about ways to develop friendship so that positive feelings override the inevitable ups and downs of your marital relationship. In this article I want to move on to another strategy—that of strengthening your relationship by nurturing admiration. The reason this is so important is that a happy marriage is based on a fundamentally positive view of your spouse. Those couples who view each other in positive ways can weather hard times and still come out on top.

For almost all couples, mutual admiration began early in the relationship. You came together because you were attracted to your partner. You liked each other. Logical, right? But admiration can be fragile as you bump up against the realities of living with each other day-to-day including going through hard times. The good feelings tend to wear off and you start to see each other’s weaknesses. It becomes easy for one or both of you to see the negative rather than positive; to become critical of each other, not only of behaviors but even personality traits.

Negative to Positive Ratio

Here’s a statistic for you. Researchers have sent observers into homes of couples and families and found that there are at least five and maybe as many as 20 negative comments or interactions for every positive interaction in most homes. And that’s with an outsider sitting on the living room sofa!

The alternative is to strengthen your relationship by learning to respect one another, which begins with a decision to view your spouse in a positive way. You and your spouse have both good and bad points. Happy couples decide to focus more on the good rather than the bad, what is right about their spouse rather than what is wrong, their strengths rather than their weaknesses.

Four Strategies to Nurture Admiration

I want to offer four strategies to nurture admiration. I encourage you to not only think about these strategies but even write them down, which makes them more real and helps cement them in your brain.

#1. What attracted you?

Think about what attracted you in the first place. What was it you loved about your partner when you first met? What drew you to him or her? What did you most admire? Can you remember some of your earliest experiences, maybe when you were courting? What was it like? What made those early experiences so exciting?

Here’s a statistic for you. Ninety-four percent of the time when a couple puts a positive spin on the past, they are also likely to have a positive future as well. This, by the way, is a common technique used by marriage counselors. They’ll ask a couple to remember and reminisce about their early relationship, courtship and wedding day. Talking about this with each other helps rekindle your respect and admiration.

#2. Write down what you respect

A second strategy is to write down what you most respect about your partner today. Identify those traits, behaviors, or mannerisms that you like in your partner today. Take this even further by writing down examples of when your partner has demonstrated these attributes. As part of this, consider some successes of your spouse and write these down as well.

Once you’ve written down what you respect, write out why your partner was such a good catch, how fortunate you were to find him or her; how you got the better deal in your relationship. Doing this will increase your admiration and good feelings.

#3. See through a charitable lens

Identify something that happened recently that was upsetting to you. Take a look at how you’ve hung onto this incident and the consequences of doing so. Instead of attributing a negative motive to your partner, write down three charitable explanations of your partner’s behavior. These are statements that give your partner the benefit of the doubt.

For example, your partner came home late one evening when you had a nice dinner planned. It is easy to be angry and disappointed and start building a case against your partner, how he or she is insensitive and selfish. Instead of going down this negative path, be charitable.

• “She can’t control everything that happens at work and doesn’t enjoying staying late any more than I do.”
• “She is very conscientious and wants to do such a good job at everything. I appreciate that at home and recognize that it can make it hard for her to break away.”
• “No doubt, something important came up.”

It is a natural tendency to attribute negative motives to other people when we’re upset. But there is always more than one way to interpret a behavior. So, are you willing to put a neutral or even positive spin on your spouse’s behavior? Doing so will build an attitude of friendship and goodwill in which you want to collaborate rather than accuse and defend.

#4. Praise your partner in public

A fourth strategy is to praise your partner in public. I cringe when I hear some husbands or wives being critical and negative about their partners with friends or in public. It is easy to make jokes at the expense of your partner and some partners take it in stride. But, if you want to build a positive relationship, it is far better to say things that build your partner and help him or her feel valued. Comment on things he or she does well or comment on attributes you admire.

Not only does this help your spouse feel good but you as well. Even if you’ve been struggling in your relationship, making positive comments will help you feel more positively about your partner and yourself.

In Summary

In short, strengthening your relationship by nurturing admiration is a powerful strategy for improving your marriage. These four practices will help you focus on the good, what is right about your partner, instead of their flaws. Make a commitment to at least one of these four actions before the end of today. Not only will they impact your partner but you’ll discover your own positive feelings expanding as well.


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