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Praise and affirmation are essential to the health and vitality of a marriage. Genuine praise and verbalized thankfulness are like marital fertilizer (think Miracle-GroÆ) in the soil of your spouse’s heart. They have the power to help heal an ailing marriage or strengthen an already healthy one.

So you might expect me to say—just do more of it. Husbands: Be more affirming! Wives: Give more praise! But here’s the thing that’s easy to miss. Praise and affirmation spring from enjoyment—they flow naturally from delighting in and valuing something or someone. This means that not affirming our spouses is deeper than a matter of words; it’s a matter of not valuing them enough. So the question to ask is not, “How can I learn to praise my husband or wife more?” as if just speaking more words would solve the problem. The proper question is: “Why don’t I value and enjoy my spouse more?” Affirmation spontaneously overflows when you appreciate and enjoy someone.

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How then do we cultivate delight in our spouses? Is it even possible to grow in valuing and enjoying another person? The good news is yes, it is possible, but like anything worthy of effort, it requires frequent, intentional thoughtfulness. Paul’s words to the struggling Philippian church give us a great place to start:

I thank my God every time I remember you. In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy (Phil. 1:3-4).

Then later, he writes:

Paul models in Philippians 1 what he emphasizes in chapter 4. He prays with thankfulness every time he remembers them and urges them to focus their thoughts on what is noble, right…excellent and praiseworthy. So to follow his example, pray for your spouse. And always give thanks—with joy—for something that is specific, praiseworthy, and true. Always. You may secretly think, “But...
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