“You are always late!”
“Why can’t you help out more around the house?”
“Did you rearrange my things again?”
Does this sound familiar? Do you often get into “attack” mode with your spouse whenever you communicate? Funny how it seemed second nature for many of us to be a “cheerleader” during our courting days, when being supportive, polite, and thoughtful came so naturally to us. Fast forward a couple of years or for some of us, just months into marriage, and we wonder where all the love, kindness, and gentleness has gone.
Some of you might ask at this point, “Why should I be my spouse’s cheerleader when my spouse doesn’t give me much to cheer about?” But you’ll surprise yourself if you first work at being your spouse’s cheerleader, you’ll find there’ll be more to cheer about and you might soon find your spouse being your number one cheerleader too.
Ready to get started? Here are five ways to ensure your spouse feels honoured:
1. Use “I-” or “We-statements”
Being our spouse’s number one cheerleader entails us learning to speak gently when we disapprove of something our spouse has done or failed to do. Use plenty of “we-” and not “you-statements”. When you say, “Why do you keep doing that?” what your spouse hears is, “You are a lousy decision maker.” When you say, “Can you please help?” what your spouse hears is, “You are not helping at all,” and when you say, “Can you think about me and the children when you do that?” what your spouse hears is, “You are being extremely selfish.”
Plenty of accusatory statements tend to automatically spew from our mouths when we feel anxious, frustrated, tired, and hurt but we must learn to exercise self-control and speak graciously by using more ‘I’ and ‘we’ statements. For example, “It would be great if we could do this differently,” “Can we work on this together?” or “I’d really love it if we could …”
It takes practice to speak from a “we-perspective”. Let your spouse know that you want the both of you to be a team. Show that you take full responsibility for your actions, too. Assure your spouse that you are not looking to correct him or her or to prove that you are right about things but that you genuinely want to work together because you care about him or her and your family, too.
2. Do thoughtful little things for each other frequently
Start by simply making the effort to stop doing the very things that annoy your spouse. If your spouse likes the tube of toothpaste capped after use, make a mental note to do it. If you know that it irks your spouse to be late for appointments, then make the effort to keep to schedules.
You can also go up another notch and initiate doing things for your spouse even when you have not been asked to, like making your spouse a cup of coffee when he or she looks a little tired or taking the initiative to keep the children quiet when your spouse is having a conversation over the phone. Begin with the little things, do them often and be amazed at how much closer you and your spouse will feel towards each other.
3. Thank your spouse daily
Thanking your spouse for everything that he or she does daily for you and the rest of your family will give a real boost to your marriage. For example, when your spouse gives the children a bath, or tucks them in or helps you pick up your dirty laundry from the floor and throws it into the wash for you, showing that you’re thankful will make your spouse feel valued and reassures him or her that his or her efforts have not gone unnoticed.
There is always a strong temptation to lapse into a stale familiarity and we unconsciously begin to take our spouse for granted after marriage, but we have to remember that nothing that our spouse does for us is expected of him or her. Our spouse could have easily chosen to be unhelpful or disinterested. Every act of kindness that your spouse shows to you is a conscious choice that he or she has made. Have this in mind and be grateful for every little thoughtful thing that your spouse does for a closer bond with him or her.
4. Encourage your spouse as often as possible
Save your admiration for your spouse only. Be generous with compliments and encourage your spouse every chance you’ve got. Sometimes, your spouse needs that much more of a push to be more involved in your relationship. So take the time to encourage your spouse with words of affirmation like, “I think you are really good with the children. They laugh so much when they are with you,” or “You are really sweet. You give me the best back rubs even when I know you’ve had a hard day yourself.” Giving your spouse a pat on the back every now and then will encourage him or her to be that much more vested in your relationship.
5. Keep couple-time sacred
Set aside time for just the two of you. Make your spouse feel like you’re his or her number one fan by showing that you are perfectly capable and willing to put everyone and everything else aside to have time exclusively for each other. Put away your mobile devices, resist the urge to say yes to another appointment if it clashes with your time with your spouse and give your undivided attention to your spouse even if it is for a couple of hours, once a week. Add it into your schedule and stick to it.
Do give it a shot at being your spouse’s number one cheerleader and be overjoyed at how much more you’ll have to cheer about as you and your spouse develop an even closer, more deeply satisfying relationship with each other.
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