What marriages are made of

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Whereas it is okay to do and give things to your better half, trying to understand them is the best sign of appreciation, writes ZAWADI LOMPISHA

“When is the last time you said ‘thank you’ to or appreciated your spouse?” the speaker began his lecture that morning.

We were attending a marriage enrichment seminar recently and its focus was making positive contributions to your relationship. There was general agreement from the participants that often, we fail to take note of good things happening in the relationship, but magnify the bad things whenever they happen.

“Would you rather let your spouse know how irresponsible, lazy, careless, unkind or silly they are, or is it better for them to know how much you appreciate their dedication to you; their beauty, creativity and such things?” the speaker continued. He then asked us to break into discussion groups and discuss how to appreciate your spouse.

as expected

Our group had four couples. The eldest had been married for more than two decades while the youngest were barely a year old. We asked each person to give two examples of what they thought would be appreciation from their spouse. We decided to start by asking the newly weds what they thought were good ways of appreciating a spouse. We wanted them to start because they probably had not fallen into any bad habits because of the monotony of time.

As expected, their list was what we had all started out with in our formative years. The wife, Molly, expected to receive flowers on a weekly basis from her husband, Mike, in appreciation of her home making. They were both honest enough to confide that they were already having arguments about this because Mike did not think that he needed to spend such kind of money weekly to buy flowers that wilted in three days. He was of the opinion that saying thank you, and buying flowers once in a while, should suffice to express his appreciation of her.

Apart from the flowers, she also thought that she would feel very appreciated if he had her photo at his office desk. This would communicate that he was proud of her and wanted to show her off to the world.

Mike, on the other hand, expected Molly to show appreciation by taking note of anything he did around the house to help her. For instance, if he helped clean the dishes, he expected her to thank him for helping her and not take it for granted. Molly’s reaction to that was another thorn in the marriage as she felt that since he was just as much a tenant in the house as she was, why should she thank him for cleaning dishes that he had also utilised?

We asked the oldest couple, Jane and Tim, to intervene in that situation from their own experience.

The why

“Why you need to be appreciated might be a good place to begin,” Jane said.

She continued to say that appreciation of your spouse helped invigorate them to be better persons. It served to say that they were doing a good job. It was saying “keep it up”, similar to what a teacher used to mark on the examination report at the end of term. Such a message would give the student the fuel to work even harder the next time.

Tim then added that appreciation from one spouse communicated an “I thank God I married you” to them and such communication would always go a long way to keep that relationship firmly rooted.

It is when you began taking each other for granted that a door for disappointment was opened, which eventually led to discontent and other maladies in the relationship.

“So what have you guys done through the years to show appreciation for each other?” I asked.

“Well, one of the things we realised a long time ago is that whereas it is good to openly appreciate each other by doing things to each other, that is not the only way,” Jane answered.

They then explained that they had agreed to be very keen to understand each other’s character well enough to be able to read between the lines. Jane explained that because of Tim’s shy character, he had always found it very difficult to express himself to her. She, on the other hand, was extroverted and would easily express herself.


“Even though I love flowers, for instance,” she continued, “I know that it has always taken great effort for Tim to go to a flower shop and get me flowers.”

However, she explained that, by taking time to know him, she had come to understand that whenever they were out shopping and Tim directed her to a flower shop, he was, in his own way, expressing his appreciation of her. He might not necessarily pick the flowers and bring them home, but his being there said it all.

“I am not advocating for remote control appreciation. Oh no!” Jane remarked. “It is important to do things for one another that communicate your love and gratefulness for your spouse.”

“What I am saying is that it is really not what one spouse does or does not do to show appreciation. It is possible for one to do the things expected by your spouse to show appreciation and not mean it. However, Tim and I realised a long time ago that the greatest appreciation you can have is being able to understand your spouse.”

“The world out there is hostile enough and geared to getting its own at your peril.” Tim said. “You only need to use some of our Members of Parliament as an example. But when you come home and find a man or woman who fully understands and accepts you, what other appreciation can you get than that?”

It was time to break the discussion group and we returned to our chairs with a new appreciation of what to appreciate really means.

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