Attention — 25 November 2007
The importance of being valued

Marriages that break up do so primarily for one reason, the loss of feeling valued by the partner. Affirming your mate on an ongoing basis is crucial to the health and wellbeing of your partner and your union.

All individuals seek to preserve and reaffirm the unconditional love and support they received as newborns. Being thought well of is necessary for survival and children figure out early how to please their primary caregivers to receive the greatest benefits. Sibling rivalry is born out of the quest for the favored child status that is presumed to assure greater safety, security and primary access to parental love and resources.

In school, some children surmise that their grades are reflective of how well liked they are by the teacher. In sport, some complain that favoritism by coaches retards their chances to shine. Throughout their education students strive to be noticed and commended. Schools reward students for academic, athletic or civic distinctions by giving awards, recognition, and prizes. The public assertion of one’s accomplishments and talents bolsters the recipient’s confidence and self-esteem as well as the opportunity for future advantages.

The drive for recognition continues throughout life. As adults we become disgruntled when a business concern tells us that our phone call is important to them, yet keep us holding the line for what seems like an eternity. We get annoyed at being kept waiting at long lines, or not receiving the service expected by a waitperson. All these and many other daily frustrations stem from the discomfort of not being treated as a valuable customer/person. We often do not explain it to ourselves as an episode of manifested blow to our worth, but rather act rightfully indignant at not getting the service we are entitled to receive.

As we age, other public hurts to our significance occur. Beautiful middle-aged women lament that they are no longer noticed and older people are shunned, disrespected and at times intellectually discredited. Walking through a nursing home and seeing the lonely elderly individuals who are seldom visited and who spend their hours awaiting their demise, is a heartbreaking site of lost significance.

Many marriages are allowed to go stale. Mates take each other for granted, cohabit and keep up their mutual obligations, but neglect to affirm each other’s uniqueness, preciousness, talents, skills and pure essence. Judith Viorst, in her book Grown-Up Marriage describes ordinary everyday married life as “prose, not poetry”, “We’ve become a little bit boring, a little bit bored. Routine is sinking romance….And we’re trying to find out how to find some delight, some adventure some passion, some surprises in a life in which all our sonnets have turned into grocery lists.”

Many couples cease to talk to each as loving friends. Gary Lee, a researcher at the University of Florida, discovered that: “Although 85% of the women and 70% of the men reported having a confidant, less than 30% of the women and 40% of the men reported confiding in their spouses. Those who do confide in their spouses have markedly higher levels of marital satisfaction than others and also generally score higher on measures of overall emotional well-being.”

For many pairs, emotional estrangement and unresolved hurts erode their physical intimacy as well. Not feeling admired and cherished causes couples to doubt their desirability and their interest in the inattentive mate plummets.

• Do not allow your marriage to be drowned by life. Remember that the most important person in your life is your mate and he/she needs to hear it and feel it daily.
• Provide a few daily appreciations regarding your partner’s actions as representative of his/her wonderful nature. To: “Thank you for a great meal”, add: “I truly appreciate your efforts and culinary talents”.
• Cultivate your ongoing friendship by verbally sharing daily occurrences, feelings of pleasure or concern. Listen intently imparting curiosity and interest as you did during your courtship. Even the mundane content can be a springboard for your caring and affirming response.
• Be vulnerable and share your personal concerns, insecurities or fears with your mate. If it is not responded to tenderly, state how you would have responded to your mate, if he/she shared these feelings with you.
• When your partner expresses self-doubt, or personal criticism, tell your mate how positively you view him/her.
• Tell your partner often how blessed you feel to have him/her as your beloved. Positive affirmation and ongoing enthusiasm only rekindles warm and loving feelings for the mate and a closer connection for both of you.

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About Author

Offra Gerstein, Ph.D. is a licensed psychologist in clinical practice in Santa Cruz, California for over 25 years, and specializes in relationship issues for couples and individuals for improved quality of life. Her work includes: mate selection, marriage, long term relationships, gay and lesbian couples, work relationships, parenting issues, family interactions, friendships, and conflict resolutions. Offra has lectured extensively to various groups, conducted support groups for several organizations, and has been writing a weekly column "Relationship Matters" for the Santa Cruz Sentinel since 2001.

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