I Caught You…

I spent some time with my grandson recently. I noticed that he had gotten a note that said, “I caught you being good.” Then, it had a specific behavior that he had done. The school that he attends does this regularly. This is a great way to encourage good behavior.

So, I thought about that.

What if you criticize a child for everything they do wrong? You punish the child for it and complain about their poor behavior. Do this for 15 years. What kind of child will that produce? Perhaps angry, resentful, withdrawn, rebellious, with low self-esteem, or full of shame?

What if you appreciate the child for what they do right? You show gratitude and fondness for their positive characteristics. You do this for 15 years. What kind of child will you have? Perhaps one that is willing to be near you, has high self-esteem, is ready to listen, is able to take direction, and is responsible?

How does this type of reaction impact our marriage relationship over time? If you are critical and only catch the bad, you will have one kind of relationship. If you show gratitude and fondness, you will have a different kind of relationship.

Do you ever catch your partner doing something good?

Unhappy Couples

There is a common pattern that I see in unhappy couples. Over time, they change their perspective of their partner. When conflict goes unresolved, they slowly become more and more negative. In many relationships, they start to criticize and punish their spouse. Noticing the negative becomes much easier than seeing the positive. In other words, they focus on catching their partner doing something bad.

It is really easy to point out the negative and forget the positive. Instead of recognizing good behavior, we punish poor behavior. As time goes by, the relationship becomes more and more disconnected.

Responding with Gracious Words

Proverbs 16:24 says, “Gracious words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones.”

This works in marriage relationships. The very act of being gracious can help heal a relationship.

Let’s say you’ve always wanted your spouse to help with the laundry. You’ve asked them to do it many times, and they don’t. Suddenly, one day, they put in a load of laundry. Your response could be, “It’s about time. You never do the laundry. What miracle has happened?”

Your spouse is more likely to react with defensiveness, anger, and resentment. Does that motivate them to do the laundry more?

What if you responded with, “Thank you. That means a lot to me that you did the laundry.”

Which response will be more motivating? Which response will build connection?

A few years ago, my wife thanked me for putting gas in her car. She complimented me on it and explained how that expressed love for her. Ever since I’ve tried to fill her car up when I see that the gas is low. She motivated me to change my behavior by catching me doing something good.

I divide ways to express gratitude, fondness, appreciation, and admiration into two big camps: being and doing.

Fondness & Gratitude for Being

Showing gratitude for being involves complimenting character aspects of your partner:

“I appreciate your generosity.”

“I admire the way that you are kind.”

“You are very responsible.”

“I like the way you are sensitive to others.”

“I like how you make me laugh.”

These are ways to express appreciation for who your partner is, even if they don’t always act that way.

Fondness & Gratitude for Doing

Showing gratitude for doing is responding to specific actions:

“It meant a lot to me when you called me to say were going to be late.”

“Thanks for doing the dishes.”

“You really showed me you love me when you sat down to talk to me.”

“I know I’ve been grumpy lately, and you really listened to me. Thank you.”

“I really felt respected when you involved me in planning for this weekend.”

A great exercise is to look for something that you appreciate in your partner every day. Try this for 30 days and see what changes in the relationship. The very act of looking for something good helps people to change their perspective. If your relationship is struggling, this may take some commitment and work. Eventually, it becomes a language of the relationship. This creates a positive connection.

Tips for Marriage Mentors:

  • Notice the Level of Fondness – Many couples forget to be grateful. They are more likely to complain about the bad. Yet, catching someone being good is a great way to motivate positive spirals in the relationship.
  • Encourage Gratitude and Fondness – This is a way for couples to rebuild their relationship by being more intentional.
  • Be Specific – Have the couple pick out a specific action that demonstrates positive behavior.