In relationships, people have a tendency to use things known as “invalidations.” This term isn’t as complicated as it might seem. Invalidation is something that subtracts value. In a marriage, invalidations are the things that take away from your spouse’s worth and from what they contribute to the relationship. They’re ways we hurt each other: Name-calling. Glaring. Complaining. Comparing. Isolating. Sarcasm. Cruel criticism. Ignoring the good. Assuming the worst. Refusing to listen. Withholding sexually. Disconnecting emotionally.
In order to improve a relationship, many couples begin by adding affectionate behaviors: they try to call more regularly, buy big and little gifts, give new nicknames, spend loads of time together, hug and kiss more often. Put simply, they try to do more. What couples often miss is the step that comes before adding affection. This missed step is often the more important step, the more cherishing step. It’s also easier. It’s doing less.
Think about something you cherish. Maybe it’s a rare antique or a collector’s item. For me, it’s a basketball signed by some of legends of basketball: Michael Jordan, Shaquille O’Neal, Larry Bird, and Magic Johnson. I cherish this item so dearly that I have enclosed it in polyurethane plastic so that no harm can come to it. No dirt will rest on it and no unauthorized hands will hold it. I don’t ever speak negatively of the ball, because I adore it.
Now, you might be reading this thinking that’s silly, but what inanimate object is in your possession that you cherish? I’ve seen men salivate over cars or yards or sports equipment. Are you giving this same time and attention to your wife? Some of you are trying, but others aren’t even coming close.
The first necessary step toward cherishing in a marriage is to do less by ditching the invalidations. Eliminate behaviors that are harming your relationship, and you might realize that you don’t need to do more, because you’ll find that the good you’re already doing is more able to shine through.