My son recently came home from school with a huge grin on his face from the positive feedback he’d received from his English teacher. She’d said his writing and choice of metaphor were beautiful and, naturally, he was very pleased with himself. More than that, she’s followed up her words of affirmation with an invitation to join an online classroom so that he can grow his skills further amongst other students who share the same interest and passion. Just one sentence of praise and, in that brief moment, his confidence grew and he was motivated to invest more of himself in his work. These words were like magic for my son!
As a parent, I know the importance of speaking out words of encouragement to my children – with younger children there can be a habit of praising every action and every word, from putting shoes on the correct feet to remembering to say thank you for their biscuit. But praise and affirmation are important at any age and within any relationship, not just adult-to-child. So, do we extend this praise and affirmation to our partners whom we see every day, doing the same things they’ve always done?
It’s not just noticing the positive actions; responding with a listening ear, kind words and a hug in the tough times is essential tool in building each other up. Yet the busyness of life can easily prevent us from tuning into the challenges that may be going on for our partner. My husband and I have been married for 20 years this July, and during that time we’ve grown together and learnt about each other’s needs. Much of that growth has come because of the affirmation, mutual support and affection we’ve demonstrated to each other. It falls to me to plan and cook meals for our family, and my husband has always made a point of complimenting me and showing appreciation for the food I’ve prepared. This may seem trivial and insignificant, but it gives value to my efforts on a regular basis.
Similarly, I recognise and speak out encouragement to him for the things he does that might also fall into the mundane everyday tasks of running a home together and family life. These small examples of gratitude and praise are part of a much bigger picture of us being a team and our continual commitment to each other every day in our actions and the choices we make; we stop to listen, taking time to understand and speak positive words, even if those very words have been said hundreds of times before but are needed once again. My husband and I are both tactile people and we feel loved and supported with a show of affection; a hug; a kiss or simply cuddling up to each other on the sofa when we are talking about our day.
Beyond our immediate family life, we seek to support each other within our work situations and personal aspirations, as we urge each other towards our goals. I believe that our mutual support and championing of each other has enabled us to do and be so much more in our individual pursuits than if we’d been apart.
This year, the UK National Marriage Week runs from the 13 th – 19 th May and is a fantastic opportunity to invest in your marriage. The theme this year is ‘Recipe for a Healthy Marriage’ with a focus on the ingredients that contribute towards a healthy relationship. Championing your partner is a great way of investing in your marriage, they will reap the benefits and your marriage will too. On the website (www.marriage-week.org.uk) you will find out more and see how you can join in.
Of course, supporting each other and giving positive feedback is an ongoing commitment and not limited to a national campaign, so I’ve listed some ways that you can encourage your partner starting from today.
Six ways to encourage your partner today:
1. Support and affirm them with your everyday language; tell them what you love about them; appreciate their efforts; recognise and acknowledge how they’ve helped you and encourage them for what they bring to your relationship.
2. Notice and value the small, familiar jobs that they do as part of everyday life and thank them.
3. Be patient through listening and offering words of support to build them up when the challenges and the demands of life impact on their mood, focus and self-worth.
4. Take an interest in their interests, if it’s important to them then it’s worth your time and attention. This affirms them and will draw you closer together.
5. Urge them towards their goals by speaking out positive truths about them and their abilities. Sacrifice your time or demonstrate your commitment to their goal by doing something above and beyond to help them move forwards.
6. Show your love and support through touch such as an unexpected physical gesture, e.g., a kiss or a hug, or sit close together so that you are touching in some way to make a physical connection with each other after a busy day.
Michaela Hyde co-ordinates UK National Marriage Week, as well as being a Project Director at the Marriage Foundation and a Presenter. You can listen to Michaela’s podcast, The M Word, here.