Post written by premarital columnist Susanne Alexander of Marriage Transformation.

When we are talking seriously about marriage, the phrase “I love you” constantly pops out of our mouths.
Once we are married, we often end cellphone calls with “love you”, but the frequency of loving expressions tends to slow down.
Whatever the timing and quantity of these expressions of affection, you can especially melt your loved one’s heart by including what specifically you appreciate about them and what they do.
To start, carefully observe what’s happening and look for specific positive actions that you appreciate or admire.
Perhaps she remembered to put a tool back after using it. Maybe he washed her car without being asked or reminded. He helped her father with a building project. She took his mother shopping. He helped a child with homework. She got a great promotion at work after completing a project. Whatever you observe, make sure that you sincerely applaud the action. Sincerity will cause your appreciation to touch the heart and soul of your loved one.
Next, link the action to a quality of character.
This takes more skill.
Some excellent qualities to consider connecting to actions are:
• Caring
• Compassion
• Confidence
• Cooperation
• Courage
• Creativity
• Enthusiasm
• Flexibility
• Helpfulness
• Honesty
• Patience
• Responsibility
• Thoughtfulness
When you use qualities like these in an acknowledgement, it spreads light into the recipient’s heart, encourages them to be aware of and keep practicing the quality, and creates a positive bond of appreciation or love between you.
Here are some examples using the above list:
• “You were very caring with your friend Justin today when he shared he was diagnosed with cancer. I appreciate what a compassionate friend you are to people.”
• “Your courage in asking your manager for a raise today was totally awesome. I love that you are so confident in your abilities that you could approach her with your request.”
• “Thank you so much for helping me out with cleaning up this mess. I was feeling overwhelmed, and your patience with organizing everything made all the difference.”
• “I appreciate how thoughtful you are in our relationship. Making sure we have coffee every morning, carrying the laundry baskets to the basement, and getting the oil changed in my car make our lives together smoother and easier.”
This practice is called using Character Quality Language.
Remember to observe, be sincere, include at least one character quality, and be specific about the actions involved.
Now step back and think about the effect you can have on your children when being consistent with a practice like this. As parents, we have a primary responsibility to rear our children to have good characters.
We can influence the development of their qualities by modeling good character to them, by encouraging them to practice character qualities, and by using Character Quality Language with them when we observe their successful behavior.
I recently noticed a woman in a store repeatedly and impatiently scolding her children for acting out and asking them to “Just wait a minute!”. She then commented to the clerk that “Children these days have no patience.”  Then she took them for ice cream to compensate for making them wait while she did the transaction. Unfortunately, this dynamic is quite common.
From the time children are very small, parents can say to them, “Please be patient” or “I need you to practice patience for a few minutes”.  This reminds the parent and the child both to use their best behavior.
When the child is successful, the parent can say, “Thank you for being patient while I put dinner on to cook.” Affirmation can be one of the biggest encouragers of good behavior, especially in children.
Character Quality Language makes all our interactions more gentle, more thoughtful, more connecting, more kind.
We can close an email with “Thank you for your flexibility” or “I appreciate how helpful you are”. We can send a text message that says “Great cooperation!”. We are more attentive to what the people around us are doing. This helps us strengthen and unify our relationships through expressing sincere appreciation that melts their hearts and touches their souls.
It’s one of the many paths to having an excellent and happy relationship and marriage.

(photo source)

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