I’m a natural-born critic. Really, I am. In Latin, my name means, “dark” or “pessimist.” Not a good start. So, maybe my parents are partly to blame for my critical nature. But who knows.
I tend to focus on everything that I should improve about myself. Which turns into having a critical nature. Which then turns into being critical of others. Being critical of yourself and others doesn’t work so well when your significant others’ love language is “affirmations.”
He needs affirming words. I need quality time. He doesn’t want quality time with me when my words are critical. And I feel more critical of him when I don’t receive quality time.
On and on the cycle goes, and no one feels loved.
It took a recent marriage crisis for me to have a revelation about affirmations. I learned this: Affirmations are just as important for the affirmer as they are for the affirmed. In other words, affirming someone changes you, from the inside out. It leads to a heart change.
When I first committed to affirming my husband once a day, I couldn’t think of anything to say. That may seem silly, but I was so used to telling him all the things he was doing wrong that I’d forgotten what he was doing right. Couldn’t he just tell himself kind words? Didn’t he get enough affirmations from people at work, anyway? I began to realize that the person he needed to hear from most—-was ME.
Each day I set aside time to send my husband a note of gratitude. Even if the affirmation felt small and insignificant, I wrote it down.
I affirmed him for holding my hand on walks around the neighborhood.
For emptying the dishwasher.
For taking one of the boys to school.
For picking up groceries.
For playing catch with our son.
For going to work everyday and providing for our family.
At first, sending affirmations just made me mad. Maybe for some, affirming others is an easy task. But for this “dark” and “pessimist” gal, creating a habit of affirming my husband was a tremendous undertaking.
I would think to myself, “Not one praises me for raising the kids and managing the house.”
I wanted an immediate return on my investment. I wanted to receive from him as much as I was giving. And that attitude kept me anchored in bitterness. Still, I kept affirming even when I didn’t feel like it.
I began to search for anything and everything that I could affirm about him.
Pretty soon, I had a growing list of affirmations.
And somewhere along the journey of making this list, I became less critical.
My heart softened.
My eyes shifted from, “Why can’t you do XYZ” to“I’m grateful for what you ARE doing today.” Then it became, “I’m grateful for WHO you are.”
Of course, the less I criticized him, the more he wanted to be around me, which in turn made me feel more loved by him.
In the end, making a list of affirmations wasn’t just about my husband—I became a benefactor as well. I began to discover things—big and small—that I could appreciate about myself.
I became accepting of my own imperfections, and accepted others for theirs, which brought greater harmony to my home.
Just to say—I’m not perfect at any of this. It doesn’t feel natural for me to be grateful, as odd as that sounds. It’s a constant exercise of the mind.
To me, giving affirmations is an art form. Rare and beautiful. It is a habit that I most likely will not master in this lifetime. But, for the sake of myself and my marriage, it’s one that I’m willing to take a chance at.