Updated: Oct 24, 2021
“You did it!”
“I’m so proud of you!”
If you’re a parent of young children, you’re probably used to saying phrases like these several times a day. You like to build your kids up. You affirm them. And they often seek it out with “Mommy, look at this…” to which you feel almost obligated to give a positive response back. Even if you’re not a parent, you can imagine the affirmations kids get for learning something new.
Think about all the phases you go through to become an independent adult. Learning how to crawl. Your first step, first laugh, and first word. Transitioning from a crib to a big bed. Boycotting diapers and being forced to go to the bathroom on a toilet. Learning how to ride a bike. Learning how to swim. Learning how to read. Learning how to tie your own shoes. Learning how to play an instrument. Learning how to drive a car. Graduating high school. Getting a college degree.
For the first 18 years of your life, your parents, your teachers, your friends delighted in you. They praised each and every accomplishment with affirmations. Sticker charts, balloons, and Hallmark cards symbolized a job well done. Childhood is often a life full of instant gratification for pretty much doing what “all the other kids” are doing and learning, too.
Then adulthood comes and affirmations change. You’re probably fine with a lull in recognition for some period of time while you figure out who you are, what you want to do as a career, and how you’re going to continue to be praised for your continued accomplishments in life. The affirmations might switch from the words of your parents to the amount of money in your paycheck. There might be one “good job” said here or there for completing a project at work, but most employers aren’t going to pat you on the back for showing up to work on time. And due to lack of affirmations, you can start to lack motivation to grow and learn new things like you used to as a child.
The truth is, we all need and (maybe secretly) crave affirmations. So why do they have to stop when you become an adult? If you’re married, you have the perfect opportunity to try this out and start reaping the rewards. Don’t let your spouse be on the hunt for affirmations elsewhere if you are fully capable of building them up, complimenting, and speaking highly of them both publicly and privately.
In the book Becoming Us, Beth and Jeff McCord encourage you to be intentional about affirmations in marriage. They use the Enneagram personality test to be extremely helpful in the hunt for the positives for your spouse. And if you know your husband or wife’s #enneagram type, here are several things you can always affirm your spouse (taken right from Becoming Us):
Type 1: They are ethical, reliable, productive, wise, idealistic, conscientious, orderly, and self-disciplined.
Type 2: They are loving, caring, nurturing, compassionate, generous, supportive, and empathetic.
Type 3: They are optimistic, motivating, efficient, excelling, accomplished, admirable, and organized.
Type 4: They are compassionate, empathetic, introspective, supportive, creative, authentic, and emotionally deep.
Type 5: They are objective, observant, perceptive, curious, analytical, thoughtful, and innovative.
Type 6: They are loyal, committed, trustworthy, responsible, likable, compassionate, and hardworking.
Type 7: They are fun-loving, imaginative, optimistic, enthusiastic, creative, quick, and joyous.
Type 8: They are compassionate, protective, inspiring, resilient, empowering, self-assertive, and an advocate for the weak.
Type 9: They are great listeners, thoughtful, kind, generous, patient, accepting, and peaceable.
But as Beth and Jeff McCord said, “Affirmation can seem awkward at first if it’s not something you normally do.” It doesn’t have to be hard, though. Make it your new normal.
“You are such a hard worker.”
“You really make me smile.”
“I’m so proud of you!”
That last one is what was referred to as a childhood affirmation, but it is just as important (if not more important) to hear it as an adult. It’s often more challenging for a grown person to learn something new. So the next time your spouse gets a new job, starts a new business, or even launches a new hobby for fun, affirm them!
Be the one to start the positive affirmations in your home. Over time, your spouse will learn to love them and give them in return. And even if you have to dig deep to find something that you could say, thinking of at least one way to affirm your husband/wife each day (and then saying it!) could change the trajectory of your marriage for the better.
And to that, I say: “You did it!”
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