"Am I really such a horrible person?" It's a tearful question that comes up a lot among new couples in my office. A number of spouses will respond at this point with a "but" statement, "No, you're not bad, but you just don't make me feel welcome when I get home," or some other follow on complaint.
Those moments always my heart go thud.
Two recently published research articles demonstrated that these follow on negative statements are damaging to relationships. Two researchers from the university of Basel found that "changes in the self-esteem of each partner predicted change in common relationship satisfaction." In a separate study, researchers from the university of Maryland and New Hampshire reported, "Perception of being valued by others and desire to be valued by others independently predicted more pro-relationship responses and reduced relationship-destructive response"
In short, taking a moment to find something to boost your partner's self-esteem will likely benefit you both. These findings don't suggest bottling up all of your disagreements about children, dishes, finances, and everything else, but for many couples taking a moment to say something appreciative will go a long way towards increasing the chances that you and your spouse will find a workable resolution to the conflict. That makes life easier for everyone.
So, the next time you get the chance, let your partner know what you think is great about him or her. You'll both be glad you did.