Home Marriage Helpful Advice Bring Out the Best in Your Maddening Mate

Bring Out the Best in Your Maddening Mate

Written by Yolanda Bennett
aa_couple_01When you were dating, your mate possessed fascinating qualities that may have intrigued you and attracted you. But now, after living in the same house, fascination has turned to frustration; intriguing characteristics are now idiosyncrasies. If you and your spouse are so very different from each other, how do you maintain your energy for love? How do you energize, motivate and bring out the best into your mate? That's what we'll discuss today. Many women could learn from men to accept some conflicts and differences without seeing it as a threat to intimacy and many men could learn from women to accept interdependence without seeing it as a threat to their freedom.

The Sixty-Second Boost

When someone praises you, doesn't it instantly give you a lift and make you feel better about yourself? It takes only a few words to praise your mate, only a few of seconds of time, but the impact can be monumental. The opposite of praise is criticism. Think about what criticism does to you. If you are like most people, criticism drills a hole in your emotions and through that hole your energy flows out. Along with it goes most of your motivation to try to do better.

The further we are from what we expect in any area of life, the more energy we lose. Criticism causes us to feel that we have let someone down. We haven't met that person's expectations or our own, because we expected ourselves to be pleasing or acceptable to the other.

Criticism isn't always blatant; it can be subtle, as with the wife who wakes each morning and right off gives her husband a honey-do list ("honey, do this; honey do that"), no hugs, no smile, not even a good morning. No thank you in the evening. She's telling him each day: "I'm not happy unless you're performing. I'm not happy even when you are performing. You can imagine how that implied criticism and lack of love and appreciation makes that guy feel.

But praise, on the other hand, energizes us because it helps to meet two of our most basic human needs: (1) a deep need to feel significant to feel that we matter, that we're important somehow and that we're needed; (2) a great need to feel secure in our closest relationships, to feel that no matter what happens, we belong to each other and will be there for each other. We can give that gift of praise at any time. Don't worry that your spouse will get tired of being praised.

In Praise of Birth-Order Differences

Your place in the birth order of your family has great deal to do with how you live with and relate to others. According to research, if you were the firstborn of several children, for example, you probably tend to be leader type, because you learned to take charge of the other kids. Second-born are usually somewhat competitive and insecure, they had to prove themselves--measure up to big brother or sister. Positive side, middle-born children are good negotiators and adaptable; they often feel little need to "control." And third or lastborn children are often very sociable, knowing how to deal with people.

In Praise of Personal-History Differences

We all have a unique personal history. That means you. It means your spouse. Was your spouse raised by just one parent? Raised with several brothers and sisters, only sisters, or only brothers? Was your spouse abused? Raised in a tough home? Rejected as a child? All these things made a lasting impact and contributed to the person your spouse is. And his or her history is different from yours. How can these differences draw you together? Again, honor and communication are key starting points. Talk about your past events, feelings and resulting needs. Look for positives to praise. How does your spouse's past enrich your relationship?

In Praise of Extrovert-Introvert Differences

Extroverts like to be with people. Even if they have been with others all day, they still like to be with people at night because they get energy from interacting with them. But if introverts have been with others all day, they'll often need some time alone at night. They've had enough of people for one day. Whether you are extrovert or introvert it is important for your spouse to know that part of you, appreciate it, and praise you for it (and vice versa). Your strengths should complement each other so the two of you will make for a great team.

In Praise of Gender Differences

The areas of difference we've covered so far aren't gender specific. But now we want to look at some of the things that researcher indicates do tend to distinguish men from women. Research coming from specialists like Dr. Deborah Tannen and Dr. Bernie Zilbergeld, along with popular books such as Dr. John Gray's Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus, helps us discover that most men and women are in different worlds, and we tend to be confused and sometimes irritated by those differences. There are thousands of differences between men and women. In a recent study, brain monitors revealed strong gender differences in brain activity when the subjects were told to "think of nothing. Not every man and every woman will fall neatly into the categories below:

• Difference 1 - Men love to share fact - Women love the express feelings
• Difference 2 - Men tend to be independent - Women tend to be interdependent
• Difference 3 - Men connect by doing things - Women connect by talking
· Difference 4 - Men tend to compete - Women tend to cooperate

• Difference 5 - Men tend to be controlling - Women tend to remain agreeable

Drawing Closer, Not Apart

Clearly there are a lot of potential differences between a husband and wife, and we tend to be attracted to our counterpart. Some of those differences are general in nature; others are male-female distinctions that usually hold true (though "any randomly chosen woman might do better at a male skill, than a man, and vice versa). Men and women can be critical of one another because of these differences, or we can learn to praise the other for his or her unique and complementary characteristics. In doing so, we can energize the other and strengthen our marriage.
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