Last Thursday was Spouse Day to recognize the importance of appreciating your spouse. I wondered how many spouses showed each other appreciation on that day or every day for that matter.
I spoke to Chaplain David Ditolla from the US Army stationed in Ft. Sill, Ok and his assistant Ofelia Svitak, whom provide marital support and counseling for soldiers and their spouses. Chaplain Ditolla said every couple he has worked with felt unappreciated by their spouse and this feeling usually leads to resentment.
“When there’s a lot of resentment, it’s really hard to just even see that one is appreciating or even trying to show appreciation,” said Svitak.
“It’s like what Anne Lamott said, ‘resentment [not forgiving] is like drinking rat poison, but waiting for the rat to die. You’re really killing yourself’,” Chaplain Ditolla quoted Lamott from her book, Traveling Mercies: Some Thoughts on Faith.
Chaplain Ditolla and Svitak mentioned different reasons for not showing appreciation to your spouse. It could be due to your upbringing as a child.
“If you grew up in a family that is pretty negative, and you were expected to have this standard and there wasn’t any appreciation shown, then [appreciation] is not in the context of how you do relationships,” Chaplain Ditolla said.
Or maybe you feel like your spouse doesn’t deserve your appreciation because of what he/she has done.
“Some people get into the tit for tat. She’s been a jerk, I’m not gonna tell her she did great on this, even though she did,” said Chaplain Ditolla.
Seeking marital counseling can help a couple recover from the resentment that’s been built upon the relationship and discover ways to appreciate one another. If you’re in the military, I encourage you and your spouse to go on marital retreats (aka Strong Bonds) paid for by the military and/or seek the free counseling services. We, as military families, deal with so much that it is beneficial to speak our concerns to someone who understands. For more info click HERE
Chaplain Ditolla and Svitak offered all of us do-able ways to show our appreciation to our spouse starting today and most importantly, every day.
Appreciation is “showing love, respect, acceptance, understanding.” It is "when both people feel that at the end of the day their partner is still there,” said Chaplin Ditolla.
Understand Your and Your Spouse’s Love Language
Everybody needs appreciation, but not everybody feels appreciated by a simple “thank you.” The five love languages listed on 5lovelanguages.com are words of affirmation, acts of service, receiving gifts, quality time and physical touch. Figure out which one is your and your spouse’s love language and show them appreciation with their love language in mind.
Catch Your Partner Doing Something Right
Chaplain Ditolla mentioned most people have a negative bias, which Dr. John Gottman mentions in his therapies. If you have 10 things happen to you today and nine of them are good, but one of them is bad, what are you going to remember? Having a negative bias means that you’ll remember that one bad thing.
“So it’s easy for us when we look at our spouse to remember all the bad things. Appreciation takes some work. Like the army talks about hunting the good stuff. We have to look for the good,” Chaplain Ditolla suggested.
Maybe you or your spouse grew up in a household where doing the right thing isn’t praised because it’s expected, but something will be said when you screw up. Work on focusing more on the positives than on the negatives.
“Gottman talks about the idea that for every bad/negative thing you say to your spouse, you need to say five positives. You need five positive interactions for every one negative. So, if you’ve got that turned around and your spouse and you are having five negatives for every one positive, the marriage is in trouble,” warned Chaplain Ditolla.
Talk and Listen to One Another
I know this one may seem like a no-brainer, but sometimes we can become so caught up in the necessities of our lives, such as work, errands, events and other stuff, that we forget to sit down with our spouse and talk about the simple things.
Just about every night after putting my son to bed, my husband and I will talk at the kitchen table about our day, the news and have our little political debates. It’s nothing big, but I know that we both appreciate each other listening to our thoughts and world peace solutions. Haha!
Care About What’s Going on in Your Spouse’s Life
“The idea that if a guy and his spouse are fighting and she’s got some issue and he thinks ‘it’s not an issue for me,’ but he’s willing to take some time to step out of his world and say what’s going on? The ability to look at your spouse and say, I wonder what’s going on with her right now? And I care about what’s going on with her, regardless if you agree or not,” suggested Chaplain Ditolla.
Another idea from Gottman to learn more about your spouse’s world. It’s a fun game that offers the opportunity to dig a little deeper into your spouse’s life. Chaplain Ditolla practices this activity with the couples he works with. You can also learn more HERE
Ask your spouse about his/her day. Speak about yours. Engage in small talk around the dinner table, on the couch, in bed, or ANYWHERE/ANYTIME.
Assume That Your Partner’s Motives Are Good
“Throw that in there,” Chaplain Ditolla insisted I put this in the blog!
I think a lot of people automatically assume our spouses are doing something wrong or have bad intentions. He said that we shouldn’t assume the worst in our partners and stop assuming our partners are bad people.
What are some ways you show your spouse your appreciation? Or how does your spouse show you appreciation? Please share!