21 Jun MAY – Pay with compliments
Since our wedding in March, all my issues had surfaced. This initial introduction to this next chapter of our lives together proved challenging. I like to believe that Matt and I had a great relationship. We do so many things right; we tell each other we love one another at many times of the day, communicate well and we navigate our way through disagreements with respect and compassion. Although we had a solid marriage, I wanted to make it even better. I wanted to ensure it would last the distance and with the rocky terrain we had begun with in recent months. The emotional toll that April and May had taken on us was a hole in our tiny dingy boat and it was important for me to keep things afloat as best I could.
In Gretchen Rubin’s book, she dedicated a whole month to marriage with a number of resolutions assigned for the 30 days. I learned so much about research into positive relationships from this chapter and wanted to apply many of the same strategies. I altered my happiness project to incorporate a marriage resolution each month and aimed to continue them throughout the year, to ensure it was an ongoing focus.
Offering compliments was a good place to start. It was achievable and building upon what I was already doing but just added a greater frequency. Gretchen mentioned that for every negative comment, it takes 5 positives to outweigh it. Matt and I definitely weren’t ones to throw out insults and have petty fights. My thinking circled around worries or insecurities we may carry. We were both sensitive overthinkers! For every negative or worrisome thought that danced through his mind, I needed to compensate with five positive ones. With this in mind, it was my thinking that if I complimented his abilities as my husband and partner in crime, shared my gratitude for his innate ability to support and understand me and made him feel appreciated and respected – he would in turn comprehend how important he was to me.
I wanted him to have the exceptional feeling of self-worth in our marriage that he bestowed upon me.
Throughout the month, I praised his abilities at home. I thanked him for making my life easier by having dinner on the table when I walked in the door after a long day. For tidying the place when I had whipped through it like a hurricane on my way to work. I sent him messages telling him how much I loved him and why. I regularly thanked him for being a good husband, for saying the right things and for listening to me. When he jumped in the shower or walked by in a towel, I’d comment on how good his physique looked (you have to see my husband!). I complimented him when he went to the effort to dress up and look great for a night out. The smile on his face was reward enough for me to ensure I continue this for life. I could see the warmth spreading through him. I could see the instant impact it had on him, his self worth and his wellbeing.
Interestingly, as the month progressed, I observed how the frequency of his compliments also increased. He always made me feel special – it was one of his vows at our wedding “I will tell you that you look beautiful every day.” What I found throughout May, was that his compliments now extended beyond how I looked or how much he loved me and into my ability as a wife, my efforts to heal, my skills in communication and qualities as a person. These comments strengthened our bond and kept our heads above water through a difficult month. I marvelled at this outcome. This lead to my commandment – ‘treat others how you want to be treated.’
At the end of the month, I reflected with Matt and asked him if he noticed my positive comments. Interestingly, he initially could only recall the times I told him his body looked good, or that he looked handsome! When I discussed how I had tried to give him positive comments about how he organised things at home, how he made me feel or him as a person he quickly remembered them. I think my language around compliments confused him. I had been dishing out positive comments when he thought I meant compliments around appearance! We both agreed that we had improved our respectful communication. When voicing frustrations we were considerate and controlled and hadn’t had any fights escalate beyond the initial stage. We had been excellent at putting out the spot fires before they ignited into something far worse. As hoped, the positives far outweighed the negatives.
Heading into June, it was a strategy I wanted to continue and improve upon. A month is not enough time to form a habit but I was on my way and Matt was right there beside me.