As a youngish wife, I really appreciate Christine’s thoughts today and hope you find them to be as edifying and encouraging as I do!
“Never?” I thought. “Seriously?”
At the time, we were in network marketing, and some of the women I admired had decided to take this advice to heart. So I decided to try it, too.
It turned out to be easier than I thought. My husband and I heard a similar message over our years in the organization: speak well of your spouse – and only well – when in the company of others.
Since then, this piece of advice has become so much a part of our mindset that if I am about so say something non-edifying about my husband – something I will only do with family and a few of our closet friends – I start with the qualifying, “Nathan is so fantastic as a husband/father, but sometimes …”
How it affects us
This attitude affects how I see my husband. Because I speak well of him so consistently, it means I am always looking for the positive in him and his actions. I stop seeing the negative things. Does this mean that I don’t notice *any* of the things that might bug me? Heck, no. I’m human. But I don’t see it first, that’s for sure.
When I do see something that bugs me, I tend to follow the advice of that great sage, Thumper’s father: “If you can’t say nuthin’ nice, don’t say nuthin’ at all.” When talking to my friends, I keep those little peevish things to myself. I practice charity in my speech and attitude towards him.
And, because I’ve been bragging on him to my friends, those very same things come out at home – as compliments I pass on to him. What really is wonderful about this in our relationship is that I discovered that we have particular “love languages.” His turned out to be words of praise; he thrives on being told he’s doing a good job, especially from me. Keeping this attitude of edification towards my husband has the added benefit of making sure he knows how much I love him.
How it affects our family
Since I’m already in the habit of speaking well of my husband to others, it’s only natural that I do so with my children, as well. My girls think their father hangs the moon. He is their image of the Father, and their image … well, it rocks! And as they get older, they’ll be on the lookout for someone like him. That would be fantastic, as far as I’m concerned. I tell them all the time that if they marry someone who’s half the man their father is, they’ll be doing great. (But why settle? Find someone just as good – if you can!)
Because I’m not complaining, I see my husband in this positive light, too. If all I did was dwell on his shortcomings, eventually it would be all I see. Pretty soon, there could be some other man (whose shortcomings I’m not privy to) who is “so much better.” But to me, because I’m focused on my husband’s positives, I’ve got little room to even think about someone else’s! And because this all serves to make our relationship stronger, it makes our home more stable and secure for our children.
How others see us
My friends think he’s a great guy. I think so, too, but I can tell you that there have been times when I wonder about some of my friends’ husbands. You see, I don’t see the husbands frequently in our homeschool environment, so each wife’s depiction of her spouse is all I have to go on. If the only thing someone hears about your husband is negative complaints, how will people see him? What will they think of him?
Because he does the same for me, the people in his office think I can do no wrong, either. For someone with insecurity issues (…ahem…), this is great. It’s like a head start in the “Looking Like a Dork” Olympics. I look good *way* longer than I would on my own because he’s given me such a build-up in front of his friends and coworkers. It takes much longer for my inner dork to completely blot out all awesomeness Nathan has told everyone I have. And by that time, I think they might know me well enough that they’ll like me anyway.
People know we’re happy! Some of the people I know are probably happy, but I’m never sure. I wonder what (aside from their knowledge of the Sacrament of Matrimony and their adherence to the Faith) keeps them together. I’ve been acquainted with some families where I hear absolutely nothing nice at all about the husband from the wife. Nothing. It’s so very difficult to form an opinion on someone you don’t see frequently when the connection you have (their spouse) seems only able to complain about him. It’s quite discouraging, to be honest.
My recommendation for YOU
I am sure that some people reading this have been married a while. If I’d heard this advice for the first time now (nearly 17 years into our marriage) instead of as we were starting our marriage, it probably would be a different story. I was blessed to hear this at such a young age.
If you’ve been married a while and know you’re in the habit of complaining about your spouse, go back to the sage advice of the Wise Rabbit. Think carefully about how your discussions about and descriptions of your spouse make him look to others. Don’t save the Golden Rule just for the people outside your family – put it in practice for them first! Start searching for what’s good about your spouse – you know it’s there; you *did* get married, after all! – and then do two things with that information:
1. Tell him!
2. Brag about him to others!
That’s really all there is to it. Look, you got married for a reason. You saw something that you liked. Think about what that was. Think about the good things that are keeping you together. Start small, if necessary. Thank him for something small he did, even if it’s as small as working hard all week or filling the car with gas. Thank him!
Then remember this:
If you love your spouse, everyone should know it. Don’t keep it a secret!