Do You Give Compliments To Your Spouse? It’s Important!

Too often in my therapy sessions do I hear the words, “I don’t feel appreciated”, “my spouse rarely gives me compliments”. The related feelings are of hurt and sadness, or anger. People need attention, recognition, affirmation. Whether it be in the workplace, the family, or in a marriage, this need is present. Compliments serve this purpose.

Let me give some underlying theory to back up this premise. Two prominent psychologists, Alfred Adler and B.F. Skinner, have given a credible theoretical basis for this human need.

Alfred Adler, an early contemporary of Sigmund Freud, emphasized that when we are encouraged, we feel capable and appreciated. This contributes to a feeling of connectedness and, therefore, one becomes more cooperative. Is this not a desired end game in any human interaction?

B.F. Skinner is the founder of the operant theory of conditioning. He showed that positive reinforcement led to repeated behaviors. If reinforcement did not occur the behavior died out or was extinguished. Does it not make sense to reinforce a person for doing desirable things, understanding that more of that will be forthcoming?

Given such a theoretical framework it makes great sense to develop the skill set of giving compliments. In a marriage, where individuals are particularly vulnerable to the thoughts, feelings, and behavior of one’s partner, this is a very important. In every marriage each individual wants to “feel capable and appreciated … having a feeling of connectedness … and more cooperative.” And, if you want certain behaviors of your spouse to continue, reinforcement is the vehicle.

Part of my training in graduate school was learning to look for and find positive qualities in another person and then give him or hera sincere compliment based on that observation. Emphasis on being sincere. I have found that skill to be of great value, both personally and professionally.

I love to give compliments, as well as receive them! I am fortunate personally in that my wife Sherry is a pro at giving compliments, as well as our two adult kids, Kris and Brittany. This shared gift of complimentary communication is one of the main reasons we love each other so well and feel so connected.



So, please, Respected Reader, look for and find positive qualities, behaviors, etc… that you like in your spouse and give those compliments – over and over again. Certainly you can find some of these to share. If not, see me. You are in trouble! Your spouse wants and needs that from you. Also, you may show this article to a non complimentary spouse and ask him or her to give you some of the “good stuff” compliments that you would like to receive. Doesn’t hurt to ask!

“The unexamined life is not worth living”    Socrates

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