I am an editor by trade and by natural bent. This means I have spent most of my adult life noticing and trying to correct mistakes. My husband, Robert, says I can spot an error on a billboard while speeding by at eighty-five miles per hour. My ability to open a three-hundred-page book and spot the solitary typo is legendary.
But while that skill is useful when it comes to proofreading, it’s not particularly helpful in relationships, least of all in marriage. If I’m not careful, I am prone to notice and point out the one thing that’s wrong (in my view) and much slower to identify the ninety-nine things that are right.
On occasion, Robert has said, “I feel like you’re editing me.” Ouch. I know that in those moments he feels I’m not pulling for him. What he needs in those moments is an encourager, not an editor. So I’ve made it my prayer and aim to build Robert up and to be a means of grace in his life.
From what I hear from others, I know I’m not alone in my “editing” tendencies. And I know that focusing on our spouse’s faults and failures can be highly toxic in a marriage relationship.
Does that mean you should never point out needs in each other’s lives? By no means. We all need honest input from those who know us best and can help us see blind spots we may be oblivious to. But our ability to give humble, helpful critique and have it be well-received is in direct proportion to the effort we make to give the gift of encouragement.
Knowing how important (and neglected) this gift is in a marriage, I have often urged married people to take what I call the “30-Day Encouragement Challenge.” The challenge has two parts.
First, for the next thirty days, don’t say anything negative about your spouse—to them or to anyone else about them. That doesn’t mean they won’t do anything negative. It doesn’t mean there won’t be anything you could say. It just means you’re not going to say it. You’re going to choose not to think about or focus on those things.
Then comes the second part, the positive one, which is equally important: Every day for the next thirty days, encourage your spouse by expressing something you admire or appreciate about him or her.
Say it to your mate, and say it to someone else. Tell your children. Tell your mother. Tell their mother. Each day, think of something good about your spouse and tell them about it, and then tell someone else.
Now, you may be thinking, I can’t think of thirty things I appreciate about my spouse! Well, then just think of one thing and repeat it every day for thirty days!
In the years that I’ve been offering this challenge, I’ve seen marriages change in a way that has been nothing short of amazing. On a scale of one to ten, your relationship with your spouse may be at a negative two right now. And this little challenge is probably not going to give your marriage an overhaul overnight.
But if you persist for the full thirty days, I believe it will change you. It will give you a different perspective. And in time, as you water the soil of your spouse’s heart with affirmation, appreciation, and admiration, you may see them change as well.
Either way, you can’t go wrong.