“No one has a finer command of language than the person who keeps his mouth shut,” Sam Rayburn, former Speaker of the House, once observed. He's right, … most of the time.
Endless criticism and caustic remarks kill relationships. When you're tempted to make such statements, think of Rayburn and don't.
But sometimes silence is not golden. When spouses withhold words of love from each other, the resulting silence screams disapproval and rejection. This happens when husbands fail to tell their wives “I love you.” But, it also happens when wives fail to tell their husbands “I'm proud of you.”
In “He Said, She Said,” Jay and Laura Laffoon explain that “Every man is searching for significance.” Men are goal oriented. Their goals may involve their career, hobbies, home-improvement projects or rearing their children. They want to know that they've succeeded and be recognized for their success.
A woman wants to share her love by being loved, especially by her husband. Likewise, a man wants to share his sense of pride, especially with his wife. A wife who fails to regularly express pride in her husband shouts “Failure!” and rejection through her silence, whether she means to or not.
Laura Laffoon warns wives of dangerous mind-sets that often interfere with a willingness to express pride in their husbands.
1. “I'm not going to feed his ego.” Many wives believe it's their duty to keep their husbands humble. They don't put their husbands down, but they also never express pride.
But men live in a world of constant competition and challenge, whether their job is in the factory or as a CEO. They already have countless people keeping them humble by regularly pointing out their failings and minimizing their successes. They need their wife's admiration as a husband and a man to balance the other humbling forces.
2. “What's the big deal?” Men and women are wired differently. Men often wonder why it's important that they regularly tell their wives, “I love you,” and that they're beautiful. That's because men don't need to hear those words the way women do. Likewise, when women ask “What's the big deal?” about expressing pride in their husband, it demonstrates they're only seeing the world from a female perspective.
Put simply, it is important. As Laffoon explains, expressing pride in your husband gives him “a precious gift: significance in the eyes of his beloved.”
3. “He does nothing to make me proud.” If this is true, the Laffoons raise an important question: “Why did you marry him in the first place?” Was it his fun-loving nature, his integrity, his work ethic, his creativity, his ability to think logically, or his loyalty? Those characteristics are probably still there. The Laffoons explain that “with a little effort, you can find areas of your husband's life that make you proud of him.”
4. “He doesn't deserve my admiration.” This mind-set typically results from a husband's sexual infidelity, financial irresponsibility or addictions that leave his wife feeling betrayed and vulnerable. Withholding admiration becomes her way of punishing him and protecting her heart.
The Laffoons warn, however, that even the coldest of shoulders can't “freeze your husband” into change. Expressing your disapproval of inappropriate behavior is one thing, but it is not a reason to withhold your pride in his successes.
Men's “feelings are tied to their accomplishments,” Jay Laffoon explains. Acknowledging your husband's accomplishments inspires him to become better than he is.
So say it in front of family, friends and your kids, in both good times and bad. By building him up, you'll also build up your relationship.
©2012, All Rights Reserved. James Sheridan’s website is www.marriagedoneright.com. This column is the personal opinion of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the views or opinion of The News-Sentinel.