Affirmation: A Big Fat Yes

Your words have a powerful influence on your marriage’s culture. Use them to affirm each other.

Affirmation

Last time I kicked off our discussion of culture in marriage with an encouragement to consider whether the prevailing track that your marriage runs in is taking you where you want to go. Starting this week, and for the next few posts, we are going to look at specific ways you can effectively change the culture of your relationship in positive ways.

But first a caution.

Focus On Your Part

You only have control over your half of the marriage culture equation. Pushing, cajoling, or manipulating your spouse rarely works, and in fact, it normally produces the opposite of what you want.

So, as we work through various ways to improve your marriage culture, I want you to focus on your own thinking and behavior and not on what your spouse may or may not be doing.  Often it’s much easier to see the shortcomings in our partner than in ourselves, so it requires a degree of self-awareness, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit.

Almost always, when one person in a marriage starts working on their own stuff, it inevitably will begin to shift the culture of your marriage. Any positive changes you make will usually evoke reactions in kind from your spouse. There are no guarantees, of course, but I’ve seen it happen countless times in countless marriages, including mine.

Affirmation: a Big Fat Yes!

I love how vocabulary.com describes affirmation as “a big fat YES!”

Affirmation is a culture changer! Affirmation is our hearty agreement with all that is good. It’s a wholehearted endorsement that gives encouragement and creates positive momentum in your relationship. And affirmation is a biblical principle:

Encourage one another daily, as long as it is called today, so that none of you may be hardened by sins deceitfulness.

Hebrews 3:13 (NIV)

Affirmation softens the heart not only of the one being affirmed but also of the one who does the affirming!

The Love Language of Affirmation

If you are familiar with the 5 Love Languages developed by Dr. Gary Chapman, then you know that “words of affirmation” is one of the five. But even if this is not one of your spouse’s primary love languages, affirming words will significantly influence the culture of your marriage.

Dr. Chapman’s Love Language Devotion (aff link) describes it this way.

We allow the emotions of hurt, disappointment, and anger to keep us from speaking positive words to each other, or maybe we simply get stuck in a pattern of negative comments. As a result, distance and dissatisfaction grow.

He goes on to say,

Positive words can change the emotional atmosphere in a marriage. We need to look for something good in our spouse and affirm it.

Be a treasure seeker. Actively be on the lookout for ways to affirm your partner.

Appreciate What They Do

Creating a culture of affirmation starts with appreciating what your spouse does. Men especially want to be recognized for what they do, because much of their identity is based on the success they have in their various endeavors, at work, at home, or among friends and family.

Consider expressing appreciation to your spouse for what they do in these areas:

  • Their efforts at work. “Thank you for all you do to provide so faithfully for me and our family.”
  • Their parenting. “You are the best Mommy/Daddy I know. I love the way you did {specific example}.”
  • Your marriage. “Thank you for loving me so well.  It made me feel so loved when you {specific example}.”

Especially look to affirm your spouse in areas you may have come to take for granted over time.

Agree With Who They Are

Affirmation has an even greater impact on the culture of your marriage when it is actually about who your spouse is, not just what he or she does.  When you affirm who your spouse is with a big fat yes, it tells him or her that you see who they are and that you like what you see.

Their inner response to such affirmation is, “You see me! You get me! And you like me!”

Affirmation of who they are can take many forms:

  • Their character or integrity.  “I so appreciate that I can totally trust you with {a specific area of trust}.”
  • The good things you see in their heart. “I just love the way you care for other people.”
  • Their abilities and talents.  “You are such an amazing problem solver.”
  • Their personality.  “It lifts my heart the way you see the good in everything and everyone.”
  • Their appearance. “Your eyes are stunning.”
  • Their destiny.  “I just know you’ll make an amazing team leader when you get that promotion.”

When They Mess Up

To be clear, I’m not saying that you should affirm all that your spouse does. For sure, there will be times when he or she does something hurtful or wrong that you don’t want to encourage. While you don’t want to nag or nitpick every little action you don’t agree with, when you do voice your concerns, do it in a way that shows respect for the person and agrees with who you know them to be underneath it all.

Sometimes it will be necessary to look beyond your spouse’s behavior and affirm the person without affirming the specific action. Here are some examples:

  • “I know you wouldn’t want to hurt my feelings on purpose, but it did hurt me when you {specific action}.”
  • “You normally do such a good job of showing me you love me, but when you {unloving behavior}, it makes me feel unloved.”
  • “I know your heart is good, and you want us to stay close, but when you act out in anger, it makes me draw away from you.”
  • “I’m still growing in letting go and learning trust more, but when you make large purchases we haven’t discussed, it makes me afraid about our finances.”

Of course, you’ll need to make the words your own. I share these only to give examples, to show how it is possible to speak to behaviors without demeaning the person. It’s not always easy to control your emotional response, especially when you feel hurt, but do your best to give a considered response rather than an immediate emotional reaction.

Action Step: 

Spend time thinking of a few things your spouse has done recently or does routinely for which you want to expressly thank him or her. Think of your spouse’s most admirable attributes. Proactively look for non-awkward opportunities to express your affirmation of these actions and attributes in the week ahead.

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2 thoughts on “Affirmation: A Big Fat Yes”

  1. Pingback: Create a Culture of Kindness — Heaven Made Marriage

  2. Pingback: The Power of Prayer to Transform Your Marriage — Heaven Made Marriage

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