On a recent Focus on the Family radio broadcast, marriage counselor Dave Carder suggested an intriguing communication exercise for couples. Every morning for 30 days, he suggested, each of you should write down something you like about your spouse, and then share it with him or her at the end of the day.
My immediate thought was, “Great idea, but 30 seems like a lot. I certainly like lots of things about my wife, but 30 might be a stretch.” When I shared this idea with Annette, she suggested an alternative. “What if we modify it to 20 things I like about you, and 10 things about you that drive me crazy? Maybe we could do two days on, one day off.” (Her reaction reflected #25 on my list of things I like about her: her sense of humor.)
We went ahead with this exercise, and I must say it’s been one of the best things we’ve ever done. I found myself thinking all day about both what I had written for that day – looking forward to sharing it – and pondering what I would say the next. Spending a month thinking about all the things you like about your wife is an awesome experience!
Midway through the month, I started to fear I might “run dry.” Then I realized I could “buy” several days if I started listing things she is not: she is not high maintenance; she is not a gossip; she is not a troublemaker; she is not a “shopper.” (I know this last one makes me the envy of half the men in the country.)
Perhaps the most interesting aspect was how surprised we were by some of the items the other person listed. After being married for 38 years, I heard Annette verbalize some positive things about me that had never even occurred to me.
And it turns out that the most surprising thing she said about me didn’t show up until the very last day when she told me I don’t have a mean bone in my body. She said she has never seen me do anything to intentionally harm anyone. I pushed back a bit and reminded her to the many times I would complain – occasionally bitterly – about some of the jerks in my life. She agreed that I have honed that particular skill pretty well, but she went on to point out that, despite my negative feelings, she has never seen me take action to hurt them. I had never thought of that. What an encouraging observation from the person who knows me better than anyone else!
Interestingly, my #30 comment about her was also an obvious one that I’m surprised I hadn’t tagged sooner – the fact that she feels secure enough in our marriage to be able to express her anger toward me knowing it wouldn’t kill our relationship. I’m thrilled she feels that safe.
And it turns out we didn’t have to worry about running out of ideas. We each even came up with one or two “bonus” items, beyond the 30.
So, I highly recommend this exercise. Give it a try! By the way, you can also do this with your kids or anyone else. Tell them one thing you like about them every day for 30 days.