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Words of Affirmation: When This Love Language Isn’t Working!

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Ebonny writes to share her thoughts, observations and opinions in the hope they may be of interest or give pause for thought to others.

No one wants their relationship to have a lack of words of affirmation. So, if you want to use words of affirmation with your partner, it's crucial to understand how it makes them feel.

No one wants their relationship to have a lack of words of affirmation. So, if you want to use words of affirmation with your partner, it's crucial to understand how it makes them feel.

Stumbling Blocks With Words of Affirmation

It's wise to be aware of how a person might unconsciously thwart a partner’s efforts to speak this particular love language. This page offers pertinent insight, advice and ideas to anyone tempted to give up on applying this love language to their wife, husband or partner.

Importantly, this page is also aimed at the partner who has been resisting or rejecting Words of Affirmation (WoA) from their spouse.

Recognising the various negative ways in which people receive compliments and WoA and indeed why people often reject the very compliments they may hanker for, not to mention the impact of such cynicism, is crucial if you want this language to benefit the relationship.

Words of Affirmation is one of “Five Love Languages,” identified in author Gary Chapman's book about maintaining and deepening love in long-term relationships. His book addresses the issue of rekindling and sustaining love when that first flush of being “in love” fades or when complacency, boredom or resentment set in. This is a time when even minor irritations take on great significance and a couple may start to take one another for granted and/or drift apart.

Flattery Won't Take You Everywhere

Applying the WoA language is not just a tick-box exercise, giving x number of compliments per day. What matters most is that each praise or compliment is sincere. In applying the principles she learned from The Five Love Languages, the author of this page has further realised how important it is to take the time to think deeply about what you offer up as Words of Affirmation to your spouse and to ensure that what you say is honest, specific and deserved.

If you cannot find anything genuinely complimentary to say about your partner, then you are likely taking them for granted and not looking hard enough hard enough to appreciate their real worth. Flattery, insincere or excessive praise or words spoken to cajole or manipulate a person into doing or giving something, is not conducive to a maintaining a healthy long term relationship.

It is often said that if you cannot find anything good to say about a person, say nothing. Likewise, if you cannot give praise or compliments without requiring something in return, say nothing - lest eventually the other person may see through you and start to doubt everything you say.

Giving Up on This Love Language

The poll in this article reveals that it is common to lose heart when a partner routinely spurns receiving this Love Language.

Whilst wanting to give up is understandable in these circumstances, the thing to do is to allow your partner the benefit of the doubt and gently let them know that it is hoped they will grow to accept that the Words of Affirmation spoken are sincere and freely given, that nothing is expected in return and there is no ulterior motive other than to strengthen the relationship and express true feelings. Moreover,

  • Show great patience in the face of their scepticism and keep on with the affirmations for the long term in order to demonstrate commitment and sincerity.
  • Bear in mind that their rejection, uncertainty and questioning may be as a result of the way an ex-partner (or indeed people generally) may have treated them in the past
  • Be mindful that low self esteem or past emotional trauma can make it difficult for a person to accept WoA.
  • Accept that it can most certainly be frustrating to apply this love language, particularly if someone else's actions are the source of a partner spurning all efforts.
  • Accept that, if you have previously given compliments with an ulterior motive (yes, think about this), your partner may well be justified in questioning or rejecting your tributes and will need time to adjust to you now giving genuine, unselfish WoA.

With the above in mind (and not to mention what follows below) please don't give up too soon.

If your partner rejects your words of affirmation, be patient. Remember that other factors are often at play, including low self-esteem or the residual effects of a prior toxic relationship. Don't get frustrated – reassure and be mindful.

If your partner rejects your words of affirmation, be patient. Remember that other factors are often at play, including low self-esteem or the residual effects of a prior toxic relationship. Don't get frustrated – reassure and be mindful.

Negative Ways of Receiving Compliments (With Examples)

If a person responds to their partner’s expressed compliments by telling them that they are “just saying it” because they feel obliged to and/or that they don’t really mean it anyway, then they may well be inadvertently dooming all efforts to failure.

When on the receiving end of WoA, refrain from automatically rejecting a partner’s opinion or saying things like “it was nothing” or contradicting them by saying “no, this outfit look hideous” People should not put themselves down by insisting that anyone could have done ... /done .... better.

It is counterproductive to say these sort of things to someone who has taken the time and effort to acknowledge and praise in a positive way. If a person thinks their partner is beautiful and says so, then that partner is best advised to accept the compliment, rather than deny it. After all, beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

Moreover, if a husband or wife goes out of their way to honestly observe and appreciate their partner only to be met with continual rebuffs, contradiction, insults and/or suspicion, they may soon give up making the effort to give encouragement, emotional support, compliments and Words of Affirmation.

Rejecting Compliments From a Spouse

It’s vital to check oneself and determine if rejecting compliments etc has become a seamless habit. When this happens it becomes a case of one step forwards, two steps back in terms of rekindling romance and strengthening a couple’s bond.

It helps to remember that the other person is NOT a mind reader. Thus communicating that more acknowledgement and praise is wanted is a way forward to obtain what is desired. With this in mind it's futile to effectively snub compliments when recognition of worth was recognised as needed to help advance the relationship.

Be cautious of giving mixed signals by fishing or asking for something and then rejecting it when it is given because of resentment at having had to ask for it in the first instance! For example a spouse might complain that their partner barely or never has anything good to say about them but then go on to dismiss any subsequent Words of Affirmation that come their way. An analogy of this would be requesting/ordering a salad in a restaurant and then dismissing a delicious salad when the waiter subsequently serves it because you feel you should not have had to tell the waiter that you wanted a salad and the waiter should have read your mind and served up the salad unsolicited. Madness, no!

Many men and women may not spontaneously realise that they are seeking more compliments but then shooting things down in flames by not accepting them! If the cap fits, it's advisable to muse along the lines of

"well maybe he/she is initially just saying stuff because I told/reminded them I wanted more compliments - but I will now simply accept each compliment as graciously as possible and, if the compliments and WoA keep coming for the long term without my continual reminders, then I will know they are genuine."

Thus, over time, a person can become more naturally inclined to feel warm and accepting of a partner's earnest affirmations.

If you can identify with dismissing WoA too frequently, aim to put effort into accepting praise graciously and allowing yourself some time for feeling comfortable about the authenticity of such praise.

Further Reasons Compliments Might Be Discounted

  • Embarrassment
  • Lack of confidence
  • Assuming the compliment is not deserved
  • Disproportionate humility
  • Skepticism

When low self-esteem is a factor in not being able to graciously accept praise or compliments, it's time for the wife or husband to work on themselves and to consider employing positive thinking to help with self development.

Again, it must be noted that if compliments and WoA are constantly rebuffed, the person giving them may well just stop.

Is It Trust or Cynicism?

Some people are automatically and/or blatantly cynical and ask their spouse what they are after if given a compliment of any kind. This may be passed off as a joke and is probably fine once in a while but it’s wise to do some self examination to ascertain whether or not this is happening too often. Whatever method is used to rebuff Words of Affirmation, if it happens too often, there are likely to be fewer and fewer compliments in the future.

Solid Principles to Rekindle Relationships

For those wanting the tools and know-how to nourish, sustain or rekindle love and romance in their relationship over the long term, then the book Five Love Languages is a worthy investment indeed.

Words of Affirmation is one of five Love Languages that author Gary Chapman identified, the other four being Gifts, Acts of Service, Quality Time and Touch. His book, The 5 Love Languages, is a highly rated best seller, and after reading a selection of reviews from those who had read the book, I purchased an unabridged copy of the audio version to listen to with my partner. I gained much from this endeavor. It's not a magic relationship formula and it involves effort, but it is certainly an insightful read with solid principles which can lead to both partners feeling much more loved and fulfilled in a long-term relationship.

Make a Conscious Decision About Your Partner

To move on from the past, be very conscious that if you have previously been in the habit of giving your spouse compliments with a hidden ulterior motive, and especially if your spouse has cottoned on to this, it will be harder (but not necessarily impossible) to successfully apply this love language.

Coming clean and/or apologising about this to your partner could make a significant difference so do consider acknowledging and owning this if it applies in your case.

For the partner who has been routinely rejecting their partner's efforts with regard to this language, whether or not they previously had any conscious idea of the consequences of their past responses, it's well worth considering letting a partner know that past reactions, verbal and/or non verbal, to expressed Words of Affirmation may not have been helpful. Such acknowledgement and/or an apology can encourage further application of the WoA love language.

Habitual or learned behaviour that gets us what we want in the short-term is sometimes unconscious. When it comes to this love language not working, often there is at least some fault on both sides so some honest soul searching, concession and plain speaking is called for.

What to Do If Your Words of Affirmation Are Constantly Being Rejected

You may want to consider showing your partner this article to hopefully give them some food for thought and insight into the WoA love language.

Again, persevere even if your partner doesn't acknowledge their past rejections, because in the end it will be so worth it. There are plenty of unique examples of Words of Affirmation that you can use on your husband, boyfriend, wife or girlfriend that you can adapt to suit your own circumstances.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2013 Ebonny