Relationships are like sports. They take time, commitment, and great training to be successful! The problem is that sometimes we are training our spouse in a way that creates pain in our team because we aren’t focused on the things that really score points.

Imagine a basketball game where every time there was a travel, foul, or out of bounds execution error, the crowd booed and hissed. Then imagine that when the team scored a basket, the crowd sat silently as if nothing had happened.

Sometimes in relationships we give plenty of negative attention to the execution errors – such as when our spouse fails to do something or when our spouse makes an effort but does it wrong or incomplete in some way. We sometimes keep score in our minds of all the things they fumbled at.

It is human nature to default to the negative side of things, and the influence of our greatest enemy, Lucifer, causes our natural tendency of criticizing to become the path of least resistance.

So how do we train or spouse – or anyone else – to be a better player on our team and score points that matter?

The first way to create a winning situation within your team is to consider some of the “A’s” recommended by Brian Tracy in his article “4 Steps to Show Appreciation Over the Holidays.”1 These can be shared verbally, texting, written notes or some other creative way.

1) Appreciation – Say “Thank You” to your spouse at every opportunity.

Have an attitude of gratitude and take every opportunity to thank your spouse for everything that he or she does, small or large, in the process of interacting in your relationship.

Every time you develop an attitude of gratitude and say, ‘‘Thank you,’’ to a person, 3 major things happen:

  1. Their self-esteem goes up.
  2. They feel better and more valuable.
  3. They’re even more motivated to do more of the things for which they received appreciation in the first place. A “win-win” for both of you!
2) Approval – Similar to #1 but use different words other than “Thank You”

The second way to help your spouse feel valuable is to express approval.

Give praise and approval on every occasion for every accomplishment of whatever size. Give praise for every good effort. Give praise for every good suggestion or idea.

Especially, praise your spouse when he or she does something that goes above and beyond the call of duty or that was an unexpected surprise.

  • Praise immediately
  • Praise specifically
  • Praise regularly

Whenever you praise people, they experience it physically and emotionally. Their self-esteem rises and they feel happy inside. And whatever you praise gets repeated. In fact, the definition of self-esteem is, ‘‘The degree to which a person feels himself or herself to be praiseworthy.’’

Examples of praise:

  • I am so grateful when you…
  • I really appreciate it when you…
  • You are so amazing how you…
  • You make such a difference in my day when you…
3) Admiration – Give a sincere compliment to your spouse.

The third self-esteem building behavior you can practice is admiration. As Abraham Lincoln said, ‘‘Everybody likes a compliment.’’

Continually compliment people on their traits, such as punctuality and persistence or even their beautiful eyes, smile, hairstyle or choice of outfit.

Give a sincere compliment to your spouse about their accomplishments at work, when they treat you in a positive way, and when they help around the house or with children, if you have any. Every time you admire something about another person, you raise that person’s self-esteem and help them feel happier.

Knowing How to Score Points

Especially in a marriage, it’s important to let your spouse know what scores points for you. For example, if my husband cleans out the dishwasher sends me a sweet text or gives me a foot massage, that scores points big time for him. By expressing my appreciation and gratitude for his actions, I am reinforcing the probability that he will do those things in the future for me.

Also, on the flip side, sincerely seek to find out what scores points for you in a relationship. What do you do or say that your spouse or others express gratitude about? When you’re not sure, just ask them!

Now that you know how to train your spouse or others, you can enjoy your winning team of happier relationships!