Wednesday, 1 February 2012

Perpetual Praise

This has nothing to do with Single Life. Au contraire. This is all about married life, for you to save for later. I do not recommend what I am about to say for boyfriends or friends who are boys or boys you wish were your friends or any other boys. This is just about husbands.

When you think your husband has done something good, you should tell him. Right there and then. Pick up the phone, unless you know he is in a meeting, and say, "I just wanted to tell you what a marvellous thing you did/person you are."

Not only does this make your husband feel good, it cements in your mind your absolute good fortune in having married such a splendid chap, instead of the sort of chap who might have made you absolutely miserable. This creates a beautiful mental walled city that can withstand the force of any puny annoyances you might have with your husband when you or he is in a temporary bad mood.

Apparently we learn how to be married from our parents, which is bad news if our parents had a miserable marriage. However, we can always learn from other marriages, so there is always hope. (My husband's parents divorced when he was a baby, and his mother never married again, but he does fine.) As for me, my parents are happily married, and when I was growing up, my mother praised my father all the time. She would praise him when he was at home, and she would praise him when he was away at work. "Oh children," she would carol, "what a very clever man your father is!" Etc., etc.

Now I am sure my dad must have liked that, and likes it still, but it was also very nice for me, for it hammered home the idea that my mother loved my father, which gave me a cozy sense of stability, and it brainwashed me into thinking that my dad must be the best man on earth, which gave me both a healthy sense of family pride and a solid idea of what men should be like.

It also made it very easy for me just to do the same thing where my own husband was concerned. I have no captive audience of children, so I just call him up and tell him when I think he is marvellous, like this morning, when I was reading about someone else's rather less marvellous husband.

But I will underscore that I think it a bad policy to perpetually praise adult men who are not yours by blood or marriage. You can tell your dad, brothers, sons, nephews and grandsons how absolutely marvellous they are, but after that, husbands only. Otherwise it might not look like honest praise but passionate pandering and---ick!


Alyssa said...

Good advice! As a married person who loves this blog, I will make a point of actually saying the good things I think about my husband!

Tess said...

Auntie, this is brilliant. Thanks for such fabulous advice. I will be storing it away for later... :)

Catherine said...

Passionate pandering -- I love it!

Isn't there a golden mean though? A subtle "I admire you for being/doing x" can boost anyone's happiness level, I've noticed, without having to be any kind of goopy flattery.

I think you could make this a post for us singles by letting us know that we should be free to say, "I'm so proud of you for...(whatever it is)," to everyone around us, guys and girls both. I don't know anyone who responds to that badly.

I've found that both hearing these formulations and saying them makes me a more positive person in general, single or not. It seems like a good habit to build now, so that it doesn't come so strangely after (if) we get married.


Mustard Seed said...

I think this is great! It reminds me of Philippians 4:8 - "whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable--if anything is excellent or praiseworthy--think about these things". Only don't just think about them, but call them out! I think it would really maintain an attitude of mutual appreciation and respect in a marriage.

While miserable marriages are bad news indeed, it is very possible to learn from even the non-ideal marriages we witness. (Not that we should seek them out as examples, but if that's all you've got in your family, you can still learn and think about what you'd do differently.) As Seraphic very wisely points out, there is always hope.

Seraphic said...

Oh yes. Of course there is a golden mean. You don't have to be rude to other men. Certainly it is nice to congratulate them when they do something good. "Hey, great presentation," when you mean it is a nice thing to say. But it's not your job to be a cheerleader for men who aren't your husband or in otherwise your family.

not a minx, a moron, or a parasite said...

Keeping this in mind. Great food for thought.

aussie girl etc said...

Great advice and much appreciated! Maybe you should have a married lady advice blog?

Seraphic said...

No to married lady advice blog. I've been married for less than three years!

Sarah said...

Disclaimer: nothing I say that follows should be read into as hostile or overly-critical. I've actually been thinking over this a lot the past few days.

The thing is, it's posts like these that make me wonder if all the "rules" and guidelines--beyond the obvious precautions to protect chastity prescribed by the Church-- regarding what is the most appropriate way to behave in a relationship really mean anything.

My boyfriend and I absolutely lavish each other with sincere compliments. Sometimes I just can't help but tell him how proud I am of him for such and such thing, and he likes to question aloud how he managed to be as lucky as to land a gal like me. And when I tell him what a good man he is, I think it gives him encouragement to continue to be. If he felt like I didn't notice his awesomeness, why would he bother to make the effort? We've often observed that our deep mutual appreciation for each other is an ingredient in the glue that binds us together. Furthermore, I have never felt, nor do I predict I will ever feel, taken for granted.

Complimenting each other and saying aloud the things we love and appreciate about each other is something we will always do, and our relationship is most decidedly not any worse for it. Marriage plans are already underway.

My point is, I think there are a lot fewer hard and fast rules about how to interact with a significant other than writers for singles seem to think. I'm always hearing, "You should always do this, but NEVER do that." and I find that the boyfriend and I have hardly followed any of them, and things are going just fine, all the same. So how necessary are these rules, really? I'm becoming more and more convinced that landing and keeping a spouse is a lot more luck-of-the-draw, providence, and common sense according to the individuals involved.

Seraphic said...

As marriage plans are underway, you are in a different situation than quite a few girls. If the man is really yours, it doesn't matter if he is completely sure of you, that he has "landed" you.

Sarah said...

Well, we've been like that from the beginning, is what I mean.

Plus, you seemed to say--in fact you DID say-- that you should not behave this way to men who are not your husband, and obviously my boyfriend is not yet.

Sarah said...

Yes, but we have been this way since the very beginning. I'm saying, complimenting each other has never stood in the way of our relationship's progress.

Seraphic said...

Well, that's because I can see how badly it could otherwise work. Meanwhile, the post was really about perpetually praising husbands, not about not perpetually praising non-husbands.

We are dealing in two realms here: the general and the particular. In general, there are commonsense rules that generally derive from the way men and women are, especially towards each other. But there is also the fact that every human being is a unique person who behaves in a unique way. It's a bit like Eddington's table: a solid flat thing made of wood AND a collection of atoms with a lot of space in between them. So in general, don't flatter men like crazy. But in your particular, it was okay.

If a guy is really that into you, right from the start, then there might not be much you can accidentally do that discourages him. He's already made his choice, and everything has clicked, and it's great. But this is not the situation the majority of my readers face. They have not yet met the guy who is THAT into them, or that they are THAT into.

Many women try to encourage feelings that might not be there--or might not be there yet--with all kinds of courtship behaviours that backfire.

So it's great that you have met the One, and it was all clear sailing, but my purpose here is not to celebrate women who have successful, marriage-track relationships, but to give entertainment, comfort and counsel to women (and whichever interested men) who are Single and struggling to stay seraphic about it.

Sarah said...

Oh, by the way, I didn't mean to make two posts. My first one didn't appear, so I rewrote it. Oops.

Anyway, I suppose if my situation is unique, then I see where too much flattery could kill a more gradually-climbing relationship.