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Dear Dr. Yael,

I read the letter from the husband who loves his wife but has a hard time expressing his feelings (February 6). I too have a very special husband whose love language is “Acts of Service,” while my primary love language is “Words of Affirmation.” However, our financial situation is different from that of the couple in the letter and although my husband works very hard he cannot seem to provide what that husband can. He is very loving and tries to help as much as possible with the children, even pitching in with the cleaning and cooking.

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Although it is always nice to have more money, I am happy with our beautiful healthy children and my loving special husband. At one time I too craved more words of affirmation and after years of asking my husband to show his love more verbally, I tried a different tactic – I began complimenting his acts of service.

When he surprised me and cleaned up downstairs, even washing the kitchen floor, I told him how much I appreciated what he did and that I really felt loved by his “Acts of Service.” While in the past, I would continue by saying, “But why can’t you be more expressive? Why can’t you show me more verbal love by complimenting me?” this time I just focused on appreciating what he did.

Whenever he did anything loving for me, I made a big deal about it and did not do my usual “but” routine.

Guess what? It worked! First he started doing even more for me. Then he began to compliment me on how good I was making him feel. Finally he started noticing the things I did and gave me some words of affirmation.

I think the letter writer’s wife is doing what I used to do. She praises him for his “Acts of Service,” but, at the end, she makes him feel guilty for not giving her what she needs.

I know you suggested therapy, and while that might be necessary, I would hope his wife would try my idea first. After all, no one likes praise that comes with a “but” and a complaint.

I showed my husband appreciation, but in the end all I was really doing was complaining that t he wasn’t meeting my needs. It is a back-handed compliment. It took me a while to realize that all I was accomplishing with this approach was to make my husband feel terrible.

Please share this letter with your readers. Maybe positive energy will do for another’s marriage what it did for mine.

A Happy Wife

 

Dear Happy Wife,

I really appreciate the advice in your letter. You are correct that you can get more with honey since sweet words always make people feel good and create in them in a desire to do more for you.

You are correct that the letter writer’s wife did not really give her husband words of affirmation. She made him feel like a “loser” for not being able to give her the “love language” she craved.

You, on the other hand, used positive reinforcement with your own husband to reinforce his love for you by complimenting all his acts of service. You stopped begging him to give you the love language you craved and ultimately, by being so positive, you got what you needed and more.

You letter teaches us that we all can benefit by being positive with others. Every person has a different way of demonstrating his or her love, and, by learning to appreciate our spouse’s way of giving us love, we will ultimately get more than we ever expected.

Kudos to you for your excellent letter and your wonderful approach to your husband.

Readers, this idea can work in all of our relationships – both personal and professional.

Everyone enjoys a positive person and none of us appreciate those people who focus on the negative attributes we all have.

Thank you again and hatzlocha!

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Dr. Yael Respler is a psychotherapist in private practice who provides marital, dating and family counseling. Dr. Respler also deals with problems relating to marital intimacy. Letters may be emailed to deardryael@aol.com. To schedule an appointment, please call 917-751-4887. Dr. Orit Respler-Herman, a child psychologist, co-authors this column and is now in private practice providing complete pychological evaluations as well as child and adolescent therapy. She can be reached at 917-679-1612. Previous columns can be viewed at www.jewishpress.com and archives of Dr. Respler’s radio shows can be found at www.dryaelrespler.com.