“It’s like he doesn’t see me anymore, and that’s devastating. I don’t need to have my ego stroked all the time, but can he acknowledge me and my efforts, even just once in a while? It would make all the difference. Don’t we all need to feel validated from time to time?” ~Jennifer, married for seven years.
I would argue that in healthy marriages/relationships, couples often affirm one another in a way that deepens emotional intimacy and love.
Relationship Help: Why are affirmations so important?
Affirmation plays a vital role in all marriages/relationships—think of affirmations as a type of relationship glue that helps two people create a deeper bond. The emotional closeness you and your spouse/partner share arises in part from your ability to affirm and validate one another.
At some point in your relationship, you and your partner began to experience each other as special–distinct from the others in your life. The unique traits each of you saw in the other stood out and were probably highlighted throughout the beginning of your relationship.
When you and your partner recognize each other’s uniqueness you create connecting opportunities: moments to acknowledge and affirm each other in a way that adds to the atmosphere of emotional closeness. When you comment on your partner’s uniqueness, s/he feels that you found the pathway to understanding who s/he is. This fuels the emotional intimacy that is an essential part of your relationship.
There are many ways to affirm your spouse/partner. You already do it–with words, how you say something, the way you look at and touch him/her. We all affirm our partners, sometimes without realizing it. Saying “I love you” or “I respect the work you do” are types of affirmations.
Unfortunately, as marriages/relationships develop and slide into complacency (and life-stressors mount and compete for our attention), we tend to forgo affirmations since we assume that our spouse/partner knows how we feel about him/her. This is a mistake at the cost of intimacy.
Find Your Affirming Voice
In essence, we all have the need (to varying degrees) to be recognized and appreciated by those important to us.
But affirmations need to be meaningful: It is your uniqueness that needs to be recognized and appreciated. As a marriage/couples counselor I’ve seen first-hand how regular, meaningful affirmations can revive a hurting relationship and keep an already healthy one strong.
How do you feel when your spouse affirms you? Many report feeling more upbeat and connected with others after receiving meaningful affirmations.
Action step: Focus on your partner’s uniqueness.
As your relationship matures, it is easy to overlook all the things about your spouse/partner that caused you to fall head-over-heels in love. We’ve all been there and done that. Rather than continue down the road of oversight, reflect on the following questions to help keep you attuned to your partner’s uniqueness:
~Think about all the ways in which your spouse/partner is unique. What particular characteristics does s/he possess that you value/admire? Think of ways you can turn these into affirmations.
~Why were you initially drawn to your partner? What words did you use to describe him/her to friends and family when you were first dating? This was the time when you were hyper-attuned to all of your partner’s unique traits. Begin to use these recollections to affirm your partner in the present.
The answers to these questions will give you the tools needed to communicate to your partner in a more loving and compassionate way. By adding several affirmations to your relationship per week, you’ll increase the health and positive energy that is so important to your union.
Until next time,
Dr. Rich Nicastro