Articles from the August 1997 Unification News

Appreciating Your Spouse

Steve Kille -Dallas, TX

Steve Kille is a lecturer and the following is condensed from the series "True Love in Action."

Your spouse is the most important person in your life. Only your relationship with the Divine is more important. Your love relationship with God is vertical; your love relationship with your spouse is horizontal. Husband and wife together are the image of God, exhibiting the harmony of male and female. Your spouse is the one person with whom you are meant to become one flesh. You become a holy entity, centered on God, and manifesting God's love. Through your love, children come into the world, given to you by God in a wondrous manner. Your spouse is the one who knows all your strengths and weaknesses, the one who loves and supports you unconditionally.

Of course, this is the ideal. Do you believe it? How much effort, and what kind of effort are you making? Is your relationship with your spouse wonderful and uplifting, or do you feel something is missing?

Let me describe a scenario that is all too common. A young man and a young woman meet, and feel something special about each other. As their friendship develops, they see so many attractive qualities in each other. They go out to special places and cannot spend enough time together. He brings her little presents and tells her how special she is. She makes him feel like the greatest man in the world. They feel really alive when they are around each other. They know they are in love. They decide to spend the rest of their lives together, and get married. As they begin married life, they gradually begin to find little faults with each other that they had not noticed before. Gradually, they find they are complaining to each other more than they are complimenting each other. They are both trying to help the other change to fit their own image of what a good spouse should be. The husband begins to feel his wife is nagging him. The wife feels the husband takes her for granted and does not bring her little gifts or take her out. They discover qualities in each other that they really dislike. They have trouble communicating, and grow distant from each other. They both wonder how their spouse changed so much.

This scenario describes a common problems, and you can see the results in today's divorce statistics. Perhaps you think you are doing a good job at showing your spouse appreciation. Try this test: ask your spouse to be honest and tell you if you spend more time criticizing or appreciating. Or just watch yourself during the week.

If you find room for improvement, then let me offer two simple steps as a starting point to loving your spouse by appreciating him or her. First, let's talk about finding those qualities that you like in your spouse, and secondly, let's look at how you can actively affirm those qualities by complimenting your spouse.

How can we maintain a positive perspective, and see our spouse from God's point of view? Everyone has some naturally good qualities, and everyone has some weak points, or areas that need development. We need to understand that every character trait can manifest itself in a positive or negative way.

Furthermore, depending on the human perspective you take, the same trait can be considered good or bad. For example, a husband might complain that his wife talks too much. From another perspective, this wife could be considered friendly and sociable. Perhaps a wife thinks her husband is too analytical. From another perspective, the husband could be seen as a good planner. Do you see how this goes? Perhaps the trait that first attracted you to your spouse has become a point of criticism for you. It is the same trait, but your perspective has changed, not your spouse.

Consider some character traits and see how they can be viewed from two different human perspectives. The chart lists some examples.

If we can see that the traits which we originally found charming in our spouse are still there, and the traits that we criticize also have a positive side, we can be empowered to see more from a loving point of view, and less from a judgmental point of view.

Because every trait can be seen in a positive or negative light, it follows that we can find strong points and weak points in every person. If you struggle with your spouse, it is wrong to think that you would be happier with a different spouse. A different spouse would just have a different set of weak points and strong points.

We have a basic nature given to us by God. When God looks upon us, which point of view do you guess God takes? Too often, we look at our spouse from our personal point of view, and not from God's point of view. How do we practice seeing from God's point of view when we look at our spouse? By remembering that every characteristic can be seen in two different ways. By looking for the positive aspect of characteristics that we feel like complaining about.

The second phase of appreciating your spouse is the action phase. Affirm your spouse's good points. Voice your appreciation every day. Give sincere compliments. Your spouse cannot read your mind. Speak up! True love requires action.

We make choices daily in our relationship with our spouses. We can focus on who they are not, what they haven't done, or on how they don't measure up to our expectations. Or we can love them for who they are, appreciate their good points, reinforce them, praise their small accomplishments, raise their value as human beings. Which strategy do you imagine would get the best response from your spouse? Which attitude will encourage and energize your spouse? Which attitude is more God-centered, expressing true love? Which attitude will help build a foundation you can stand upon when you are dealing with serious issues in your relationship?

Here is an assignment for you. Make a list of ten good points you see in your spouse. Make a list of ten weak points. Look at the weak points and reflect on how they could be seen in a positive light. Ask yourself if you have been focusing more on the positive or the negative. Think about the good points you have been taking for granted.

The second part of your assignment: do not criticize your spouse at all this week. Actively look for your spouse's good points. At least once a day, give a sincere compliment to your spouse. See how your spouse responds.

This assignment is simply the practice of true love: seeing the good aspects (original nature) of your spouse and affirming those good points in order to nurture your spouse's original nature.

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