A Trusted Friend in a Complicated World

9 Reasons Giving Tiny Compliments Is the Key to a Happy Marriage

When you're married, it's the little things—like these thoughtful, meaningful compliments—that help keep happy couples, well, happy.

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Compliments do wonders for your brain

If you’re like most couples, you’ve probably experienced moments in your relationship when you feel almost invisible to each other because you allow other things like kids, money, or health to take priority over your relationship. If this is your story, consider the power of the compliment, says Michele Paiva, a psychotherapist in Downingtown, Pennsylvania. “Compliments show you don’t take your spouse for granted and help raise your spouse’s dopamine and oxytocin levels,” she says. “That, in turn, leads to a better emotional connection and more of an upbeat mood overall.” These tips will give your daily compliments extra impact.

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Compliments are best when they’re specific

To compliment effectively, focus on a quality you especially value in your partner, such as ‘I really appreciate how dedicated you are as a mother to our children.’ Or focus on a specific deed, says David Routt, a licensed professional counselor in Caldwell, Idaho. “Instead of just saying ‘Thanks, honey,’ say ‘Thank you for washing the dishes, honey, it means a lot to me.’ Being specific is always much better than being generic.” And it goes without saying that the compliment should be sincere. (Check out these other tips for giving sincere compliments.)

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Compliments pair well with emotions

Turns out, compliments are even more impactful when they’re paired with a deep feeling. “If you say, ‘the landscaping you did looks great and makes me feel really at peace in our home,’ your partner will have a completely different reaction than if you just say that you like the landscaping work,” says Joshua Klapow, PhD, a licensed clinical psychologist in Birmingham, Alabama. “Sharing the emotion behind the compliment adds a more intense personal connection.” Here are other tiny ways to make your partner feel loved.

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Compliments offer encouragement

Sweet ‘nothings’ said off the cuff should actually be ‘somethings.’ Consider using your compliment as a way to make your partner feel invincible. “My husband doesn’t think he’s very handy around the house, but he tries to fix things that are broken anyway,” says Gayle Katz, a happiness coach in Philadelphia. “I always compliment him no matter what, and constantly say things like, ‘You’re so handy around the house!'”

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Compliments take just seconds

Affirmation is one of the most important things to give to a spouse because you’re basically affirming that he or she is loved and that they matter more than anyone else. That’s why even the smallest of compliments will go a long way. “Take 10 seconds to tell your spouse ‘Wow, I love to watch you dance,’ or ‘That lasagna was delicious,'” suggests Chandra F. Johnson, PhD, an assistant psychology professor at Argosy University in Atlanta.

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Compliments can be asked for

If your spouse isn’t naturally effusive around you, don’t complain about it—ask for ongoing compliments. “Be open about wanting to hear compliments,” Paiva stresses. “It isn’t shameful to desire kind words. Rather it shows self-esteem.” On the flip side, there are some things you should never, ever say to your spouse.

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Compliments can follow an easy template

Ready to compliment your spouse? Here’s one simple template Paiva uses to ensure that it strikes all the right notes.

“I like ____ when you ____ because it makes me ______.”

“Remember when ____? That was so funny/sweet/memorable!”

“When I look at ____ I see you there. I think of you.”

Here, Paiva fills in the blanks:

“I like moments like this when you watch my TV show because it makes me remember that you make sacrifices for me.”

“Remember when you and I went on our first date? Such a funny memory!”

“When I look at the stars I see you there. I think of you.”

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Compliments help communication

When you compliment your partner’s communication style (not just the fact that he or she has shoveled the sidewalk), it feels deeper and more personal. “For example, say something like ‘I really love it when you call me honey, or babe, or sweetie,'” Klapow says. “Tell your spouse ‘It makes me feel loved and secure.'” Here are 15 signs your relationship is solid as a rock.

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Compliments can spice things up

Every once in a while a compliment can even convey deep feelings and intimacy, Klapow says. “Try this: ‘Sometimes when I see you walk into the room I just get turned on,'” he suggests. “‘I don’t know why but I wanted you to know that.’ This doesn’t imply that sex is next, but it does remind your spouse—in that one statement—that you are attracted to them.”