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Weekly Marriage Blog

Objections to Praise

By Dr. David Clarke, Ph.D

The Big Idea

What to do when your spouse refuses to praise you.

The Teaching

Last week, I recommended that each spouse praise the other at the beginning of a Couple Talk Time.  These compliments create a warmth, a closer connection, and can lead to a deeper level of conversation. 
There are spouses who will not praise at any time.  These spouses usually use this type of reasoning: "If I praise you all the time, it will go to your head.  You will become arrogant."  This argument is flimsy and bogus, but these spouses have convinced themselves it is true.  

If you have a spouse like this, I recommend you attempt to talk with him/her about this issue.  Tell him that praise is important to you and you want to figure out why he is so resistant to it.  Let him know you(and this Dr. Clarke character)believe that there are deeper reasons for his unwillingness to praise you.  
Ask him to think and pray about this issue and jot down some possible reasons why he cannot seem to praise you.  Make it clear that you do not want his usual reasons.  Tell him you will also think and pray and jot down reasons. 

When you meet again, you will both share what you have come up with.  His list may reveal some insights.  You know him well, so your list will very likely reveal some truth.  
Rather than get angry and complain to him about the lack of praise, this method of working togethr to solve a mystery may yield some results.  If nothing else, it will give him things to think about.  

In just about every case I have worked with in this area, there are personal reasons-based on wounds from the past-that cause a spouse to not praise.  Chances are his mom or dad did not praise him, a friend betrayed him, an ex-spouse wounded him. . . It is usually a combination of not being praised by parents, unresolved wounds from the past, and a deep resistance to intimacy.  He knows that if he does praise you, it will make him vulnerable and will lead to intimacy and he is not comfortable with that. 

Finally, ask him to join you in an experiment.  Ask him to give you one compliment a day for a week.  At the end of the week, he will discuss how difficult it was to do and how it made him feel.  Actually doing it will force the deeper issues to the surface.  And, you both can talk about the impact on you.  Far from giving you a big head, you will feel loved and closer to him. 
Next week, more on communication. 

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