Apathy is the opposite of love. Let that sink in for a moment, then keep reading to see if it’s affecting your marriage.
Do you find yourself every day noticing all the crazy, insane, ridiculous ways people treat each other today? Sometimes I think that if *insert celebrity or politician name here* would compliment someone publicly the entire internet would stop because no one would believe it and they would have no ideas what to do next. Especially if it was someone they don’t agree with on most issues.
No one is entirely evil. Not even that Twitter troll that you want to slap. It’s also true of your spouse. Often, we are sometimes more willing to focus on the things about them that drive us nuts than we are to notice the things that they do right. These are the things that attracted us to them in the first place.
I get angry when I hear wives putting their husbands down in front of another group of ladies. It’s like they end up having a competition to see whose spouse is the WORST!
As terrible as that is, it’s even more dangerous not to care at all.
Apathy in Marriage
I recently heard that hate is not the opposite of love. Apathy is. At least if you feel hostility toward someone, you notice them. They are a part of your life that gets your attention. But when we show apathy towards our spouses, we are telling them that we just don’t care. There is nothing there worth noticing, and that can do a lot of damage.
As men and women, we have different primary needs. Men, in general, need to feel respected, and women need to feel loved. When we approach them with apathy, those needs aren’t met. And when that happens? The distance between spouses grows until they are just coexisting. Probably until the last kid is gone, and then they will part ways.
My kids are young adults, 24 and 21. I’ve seen so many of the parents of their friends from high school divorcing once the kids leave. Whether the kids got married themselves, went to college, or joined the service, that trigger ended the marriage. It happened to me. Ten days after I got married, my parents separated. Among other issues, they had just stopped noticing each other during the years I was in college.
Jesus noticed people. He paid attention to the positive traits in the people around him while he was ministering here on Earth. He complimented the good He saw in them.
Sometimes compliments are viewed suspiciously because people think others only give praise to get something from someone. Maybe some do, but that’s not the reason Jesus did it. It shouldn’t be the reason we do either.
The Poor Widow
Let’s think about the story of the poor widow in the temple. This story is found in both Mark (12:41–44) and Luke (21:1-4). Jesus is at the Temple with His disciples. It seems to me that he was people watching. He condemns the religious leaders for their arrogance and ignores others who didn’t stand out in any way.
But he notices the poor widow who put in her two coins into the Temple treasury, following the rule the Pharisee’s had made up. She gave what she thought was right, even though it was all she had. By doing this, she demonstrated that God was all she needed. She believed He knew what she needed, and she was willing to trust Him to provide one day at a time.
When He saw this, Jesus complimented her willingness to give all that she had. He commended her genuine, uncompromising trust in God. He NOTICED her when no one else did.
A Lesson for All of Us
We need to NOTICE our spouses like Jesus noticed the poor widow. No one else saw her, but Jesus had a relationship with her (even if she didn’t realize it at the time) and pointed out her positive traits to others. We have relationships with our spouses. Shouldn’t we be willing to point out their positive characteristics, both to others, and directly to them?
But how do we fight apathy with compliments in a world where compliments seem fake, self-serving, and often backhanded?
Take Notice of Your Spouse
First of all, NOTICE your spouse. Take some time to look for and remember the qualities in them that made you notice them in the first place. Make a point of looking for their gifts, talents, and hard work. Make a note of their appearance, when they look particularly stunning or handsome. Again, do not say it if you do not mean it. And don’t use it as a backhanded compliment either by saying things like, “Wow honey! You look amazing … compared to how you looked this morning!”
Your compliment has to be direct and sincere. Don’t give your spouse any reason to think that you’re just saying nice things to get something from them. The Bible says in Psalm 34:13 “Keep your tongue from evil and your lips from speaking deceit.” Your spouse will quickly find out if you are not telling the truth when you compliment them. Make sure you really believe what you have to say about them before you ever open your mouth.
Use Specific Praise
Be specific. Although any woman would like to hear she’s pretty, what is it about her at that moment that caught your attention? Once, when I asked my husband about my new hair color, (I love playing with different colors. Not crazy ones though!) he said he liked it because it brought out the colors in my eyes. That specific praise has stuck with me for years.
Don’t Be Boring
Add variety to your compliments. Your spouse is not a one-sided person. It’s not only their looks, or their hard work, that makes them unique. Try and find different attributes, especially ones based on their character, to compliment.
Pay Attention to Your Body Language
Use positive body language when you compliment your spouse. Smile. Lean in toward them. Make eye contact. This type of body language will instantly give them more assurance that you are sincere.
If you read about other times Jesus complimented someone in the Bible, you’ll see that Jesus complimented the people he had a relationship with every opportunity He had. Your relationship with your spouse is the most important one you have on this earth, so take some time today and prepare a compliment or two for your spouse. You might be surprised to see how it can quickly make you feel closer.