If someone compliments my dress I’m likely to respond with a disclaimer. “Oh thanks, but I need to hem it”. The disclaimer is so unnecessary. A simple thanks would suffice. I do this in almost every category of life. At work, when I’ve done good work and its complimented I’m quick to deflect. It’s annoying and I’m working on stopping. But the one area where it’s more than just annoying, is when talking about your significant other. Downplaying, giving disclaimers or even deflecting the positive can be downright harmful when it comes to discussing your partner.
Before I was married I dated my share of busters. I love that term, “Busters”. It literally makes me laugh out loud. After a bad breakup or a terrible date I’d confide in my friends and trade war stories. They’d share their stories about bad exes and bad dates, and I’d feel better. Somehow knowing that someone else also had experienced trouble with men made me feel consoled. But why? And was this even helpful?
“Yeah Girl” Moments vs. Real Advice
When I started dating my husband I knew he was a good guy. His character was obviously good. This didn’t mean that dating went perfectly and there were never doubtful moments. After three months of dating I asked him if we were in an exclusive relationship. “Am I your girlfriend?” “No,” he said. “I like you a lot but I need more time before I’m ready to make that commitment.” I was pissed. I called a friend loaded with ammunition ready to bash him. “How dare him say he needs more time? Clearly he’s playing and he’s not ready for a real relationship. He’s wasting my time.” “Yeah girl!” my girlfriend responded. A few days later on the phone with another girlfriend, the conversation was the same. And after a few of these conversations I was even madder, even more amped up and ready to kick him to the curb. The Taboo Question: Is Purposeful Dating Still Okay?
About a week later I had dinner with a married slightly older friend. She asked how my new guy was doing. I told her. “Well if you like him, keep dating and give him time.” Was she serious? No man bashing? No “Yeah girl!” She was so calm and patient. “There’s nothing wrong with him needing more time. He said he likes you a lot. So be patient.” Why hadn’t my other friends said this? Her advice seemed so simple and obvious? And why had I welcomed the “Yeah girl!” response?
Searching to Share the Bad
Now that I’m married I find myself sometimes slipping into dangerous habit. If a friend is telling me about a marital problem or detailing something terrible her partner has done, I feel an urge to let them know I can relate. I want to console them, and the only way I can think to do so is by thinking of something bad my husband has done and sharing it. What sense does this make? And honestly, my husband is awesome. He doesn’t do everything perfect, but he doesn’t really ever do much bad either. He listens, he apologizes, he’s considerate, he compromises and etc. Trying to console a friend by contributing to the story of “men suck” or “my man is frustrating” is pointless. It’s not helpful and it’s cheap consolation. It’s playing into the idea that misery loves company.
If you are in misery, having company is only consoling for so long. Eventually you need real advice and real solutions.
Usually when I deflect a compliment it’s because I’m trying to be more humble. Likewise if a girlfriend is upset about her significant other, I don’t want to share that my husband just did something super romantic. I’m afraid it will sound like I am bragging or that it will make her feel worse about her situation. Relationship Envy: 5 Ways to Avoid it In my attempt to avoid doing this, I end up doing the opposite. I end up searching for his negative so that I can share it and say, “girl don’t worry, my husbands bad too.” But that’s such bullshit because he isn’t bad. He’s great! Searching my mind for negatives is unhealthy, unfair and in the long term not helpful. Instead, sharing the positives can be insightful.
Helping by Sharing the Good
Recently I spoke with my sister about the challenges of compromising in marriage. She shared with me her challenges. Instead of saying “yeah girl” and bashing my husband, I instead shared what works for us. I told her that from an early point in the relationship I could see that he was unable to be happy if I was unhappy, even if he’d gotten his way. I, on the other hand, would argue for my way, win and consider the compromise won. But ultimately I want him to be happy too and so getting my way or “winning” isn’t really a win if he’s still unhappy. This mindset of constantly valuing the other person’s happiness guides us in compromising. I shared that with my sister and she appreciated it. She said she would try to carry that mindset in compromising with her husband. She didn’t perceive my positive story about my husband or our marriage as bragging. She appreciated the positive advice and valued it. Ultimately it was a lot more helpful than man bashing or creating a “yeah girl” moment. Marriage, 4 Things I’ve Loved and Learned from my 1st Year
If you are reading this, I’d like to give you a challenge. If you’re married or in a serious relationship then I challenge you to share 3 things you really appreciate and value about your partner. Share them in the comments below, and/or call up a friend and share it. Don’t worry that it might sound like bragging. If it’s a true friend it won’t sound that way.
If you are single, I challenge you to call a friend who is married or has been in a long term happy relationship for a while. Ask them to share 3 things they value about their partner. Ask them to be specific and explain the importance of what it is they value. Consider if you value these qualities in a partner as well? Consider if these are must have qualities to look for when dating?
My list is below: Thanks for reading….
- His Patience / the fact that he rarely gets mad- My husband is incredibly patient with me. If I take too long to get ready, break something, forget to do something important,etc. He is really patient and never upset. In the grand scheme of things there is no reason to be upset, life is too short. It’s comforting for me to know that I don’t need to walk on eggshells apologizing all the time. It would be really hard to live that way. Are you Apologizing Too Much in your Relationship?
- His positive energy – My husband’s name literally translates to mean Happy. In general he is a very happy person. He smiles all day and even sometimes smiles in his sleep. If he has a bad day at work, he may vent for 5 mins. but he is quickly able to transition and leave work at work. He is the ultimate optimist. This is important because I am NOT. I can be a pessimist. I can dwell on bad news and obsess about a problem or frustration at work. But it’s challenging to stay mad when your partner is always smiling and actively working to get you to smile also. I love that he makes me work harder to choose to be happy. Be Happy NOW!
- His Considerateness – In dating I put up with a lot of inconsiderateness. The stakes were low and so I didn’t really realize just how important a considerate partner is. Now that I’m almost 8 months pregnant I can not express how grateful I am that my husband is so considerate. When the stakes are high, you are sick, pregnant, going through a rough emotional struggle, financially struggling or whatever the issue having a considerate spouse will mean everything!
Thanks for reading! Can’t wait to read your list!