Yesterday, I was tired and frustrated. In my world those two often coexist. The funny thing is, today I can’t fully remember why things seemed so bleak yesterday. The day was filled with good and bad just like any other day, but being tired made all the little irritations grow into a sticky ball of frustration. Fortunately, I’m married to a good man.
One of the best characteristics of my good man is his ability to help me feel loved and valued even when I’m not having a great day. He’s not one to “talk things out” – I have to reach out to girlfriends for that. He’s not quite sure how to say the right things to make me feel better. But he knows how to get me out of the house and involved in something I enjoy. Last night, it was great music at a local jazz venue. Sometimes it’s just a walk through the neighborhood. He knows a kiss can smooth out a rough day, and he’s generous with his comforting hugs and kisses. And to his eternal credit, he knows how much I hate buying and schlepping groceries, so he does it. He even offers to do it.
It’s easy for me to take these things for granted. He’s always done them, so they aren’t unusual or flashy, which ultimately means his gestures of love and kindness could be ignored or viewed as predictable and mundane. My good man could end up wondering if his attempts at comfort were worth the effort.
B.F. Skinner’s research showed us the value of reinforcement in shaping behavior. Most of us learned about his research in our Psych 101 class. So if I neglect to tell my good man how much I appreciate his attempts at comfort and support when I’m having a frustrating day—if I don’t respond positively to his gestures, how will he know, and more importantly, will he feel they are worth repeating?
I can’t end this blog post with details of exactly how to do that, because frankly I’m still learning and each relationship is unique. What I can say for certain is this—good men try to give comfort. If he’s doing it successfully, let him know. Even one thank you or one hug is better than nothing.