During courtship, couples often do nice things for each other. They give compliments, share secrets, and tell each other how wonderful they are. Once marriage takes place; these things are often left by the wayside as the everyday demands of life take their toll. Familiarity may even breed contempt as weaknesses become blatantly obvious.

Marriage is the most intimate of relationships. Spouses are privy to information that others do not know. In this vulnerable position, they trust that the details of their lives will be safeguarded by their loved one. Divorce is especially painful as these intimate details are laid open for the world. The medical adage "do no harm" is an insufficient plan if one wants to build self-esteem. Active participation in the life and well-being of the partner is necessary.

First and foremost, choose to look for and recognize the good

Find something you like about your spouse daily. Let them know how much it means to you. Smile each time you are in your spouse's presence. Exchange pleasantries and affection. Schedule problem solving and grievances for another time. You will grow in your unconditional love and acceptance, and your spouse will feel it.

When your spouse initiates communication, stop what you are doing and look him or her in the eye. Listen carefully to what they have to say, and reflect back what you heard. Doing so indicates that you value them as a person, and what they are saying is important. The quality of your communication with one another will increase, along with feelings of self-worth.

During problem solving time, use "I" messages to express feelings and concerns

For example, "I noticed that Tommy is not doing well on his homework" or "I see that the bank balance is getting low." This keeps fault finding to a minimum. Work together toward win-win solutions, and be generous with expressions of gratitude when you notice your spouse working towards solving the problem.

Allow your spouse time and space to pursue talents and hobbies. T

hese are integrally tied to personal feelings of self-esteem and increase enjoyment in life. If your spouse does not think that he has any hobbies, make suggestions when you notice things that make him or her happy. Give gifts that encourage broadening horizons and development of interests.

Finally, make it a point to be flexible. When your spouse wants to do something, allow yourself to enjoy it. This requires a bit of humility and patience, but the benefits, in the long run, include increased feelings of self-worth for them, and a better relationship for the two of you. You may have to make special arrangements for the children or get others to fulfill responsibilities that you thought were important, but you will grow together as a couple and find out things about your spouse that, perhaps, you didn't know.

Feelings of self-esteem in marriage are delicate and with the intimate nature of the marriage relationship, can be easily damaged. As you look for the good, emphasize high quality communication, allow your spouse to develop personally, and enjoy time together. You will find your spouse's feelings of self-esteem increase, and in the process, you will feel better about yourself, too.

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