The other day my husband was looking in the mirror, assessing his (not at all) receding hairline and (almost) 39-year-old body and he asked me bluntly, “Am I looking old?”
I sprung to attention right away. I mean, I’m the one usually asking about my hair, my skin, my post-baby tummy, so to hear my husband suddenly be so vulnerable and insecure was new. I answered right away, reassuring him he was still totally hot and didn’t look a day over 30.
This made my mind start whirring, however. How can I—wife, best friend and partner—remind my husband how amazing he is on a daily basis without sounding inauthentic or forced? ’Cause let’s be real, no one wants a canned response or a compliment that isn’t real. But we also all need to be “built up” sometimes, especially when life (as it does) does its best to knock us down.
With more than 10 years of marriage under my belt and with two little ones at home, I have a few tips to share with you for how to make your spouse feel like a million bucks (most of the time).
1) Give that compliment when it pops into your head
Throughout the day I find myself giving silent compliments to my husband—all in my head and I don’t know why I don’t say them out loud. Maybe it’s because the moment passes or I feel he wouldn’t care, or maybe I’m distracted a moment after the thought pops in my head with the million other things going on. Just the other day, I was observing my husband with my kiddos and thought, “Wow, he is such a fun dad.” But I didn’t say those words to him. The best thing you can do is to say those random things to your partner. Tell him he looks super hot with that new haircut, how amazing a parent he is or how cool it was that he brought home your favorite bottle of wine. That compliment could make your S.O.’s day!
2) Try to find a positive thing each day to say to your partner, even on the bad days
I know, this is not an easy one. Trust me, there are some days I can’t think of many good things to say to my partner, but that’s what a relationship is. I try to focus on one positive thing each day that I can say to my husband. Maybe it’s that, even though his long hours at work are sometimes wearing on me, I’m proud of how hard he’s working. Perhaps it’s how quickly he apologized about something, or simply “we fight well.” Whatever you can do to see the glass is half full will encourage your partner on a day he’s having a hard time pulling it all together.
3) Help your partner tackle his challenges head on
A great example I have of this is, say you know your partner is insecure about his weight. Maybe make it a team effort, if he’s open to it, to face that thing together. When my husband started his own company and was feeling very unsure about it all, I told him I had his back, that I was proud of him for taking the leap, and that I was there to brainstorm ideas—and I did! I helped him form the company’s name and design the logo. I even referred a photographer to him for the site. I built him up so he felt like he had the footing beneath him that he needed to soar.
4) Encourage your partner to be the best version of themselves
My husband and I often talk about how we can bring out the best in each other. My husband helps me find the “me” I love best, the one he’s known for 15 years. And when I lose sight of who that is, he is always there to guide me back. That’s what partners do.
5) Find your partner’s best quality and remind him of it
What is your spouse most proud of? What feature or attribute makes him shine? On the good and bad days, sometimes he needs to hear it.
6) Take a day/night/hour to yourselves weekly and really hang out (with no distractions)
Find “special time.” This can mean a standing Saturday date night or a Tuesday night walk around the neighborhood and coffee. It can even mean a “no sitter, sit out in the backyard with rosé” kind of night. Whatever it is, showing your partner he’s worth this “special time” makes him feel important.
7) Partake in things he loves
Even if you have zero interest in xyz, joining in each other’s activities and interests builds a stronger bond and validates those things your partner enjoys and finds important. You might actually discover you do like…golf?
8) On the bad days (which we all have), let him vent and have that bad day, and then be there to pick up the pieces.
None of us are perfect. We all have days we need someone to prop us up. Let your partner have the space to have a day that sucks and don’t offer advice or your opinion. Just listen. It feels amazing to feel heard.
9) Give your partner that much-needed time off and take yours in return
As much as “we” time is important to a relationship, “me” time is, too. Giving your spouse no-strings-attached time to himself is important. This time doesn’t have to be equal in how many hours one took or what they did, but more so in that you just had that time.
10) Kiss (and hug)
Nothing builds me up more than a simple kiss or hug, especially when it’s spontaneous and unexpected. How great does it feel when your partner touches your shoulder or gently kisses your cheek? It’s simply the BEST. Go for it!
*Edited by Ella Stewart. Ella has been a copy editor and editor for 15 years, working in both print and online publishing. She’s currently a full-time stay-at-home mom to two little ones as well as a freelance editor.