Entrepreneurs are amazing individuals. They are visionaries and creative thinkers who are filled with larger-than-life ideas. They are deeply passionate and highly motivated. They are optimistic thinkers who are not afraid to go after what they want. They are hard-working, driven, and persistent toward their goals. They are natural leaders with charming personalities. And they are easy to fall in love with! I am guessing these are all the traits that attracted you to your spouse in the first place, but I bet that all of these traits you once admired are the same traits that can also drive you crazy. After a while, I know that I started to see my husband's creativity as aloofness, his persistence as stubbornness, his passion as addiction, his confidence as arrogance, his leadership as bossiness, and his optimism as only seeing the world through rose-colored glasses. I often found myself wishing that he had a little less bravery and a little more caution and prudence. I began to think about what our life would be like if he had a little less passion and drive; if he was more content with where we were in life. It became easy for me to point out his faults and I started to lose sight of what I admire most about him. As a result, this critical mindset slowly started to chip away at our relationship.
Valuing and showing deep appreciation for what makes your spouse extraordinary and what they bring to the relationship is so important and it can go a long way in repairing and strengthening your connection. A simple tool that can help you to show you an appreciation for your spouse and remember why you fell in love with them in the first place is called “strengths spotting.” Challenge yourself to be on the lookout and to begin noticing your spouse's strengths on a regular basis. Then be sure to share with your spouse the strength you observed, how that strength was used, and why its use mattered. Trust me, your spouse will appreciate it. And on that same note, a funny thing began to happen when I started noticing and pointing out my spouse's strengths. Not only did he appreciate it, but it also began to soften my heart toward him and appreciate all of the positive characteristics and strengths he brings to our relationship. In addition, when I would point out one of his strengths he tended to reciprocate and share with me a strength he noticed in me or something positive I had done. This, in turn, made me feel appreciated and helped me better recognize my own strengths. Over time, this mutual positive regard served to boost our relationship. The practice of strengths spotting is like putting money in your relationship piggy bank and there is a big bang for your buck! It has been shown to build connection and increase positive regard, mutual understanding, and confidence in one another! This simple tool has been extremely helpful for our relationship so here are a few ways that we can begin to intentionally use strength spotting to boost your relationship as well.
1. Plan a strengths date night. Set aside time for both of you to take the VIA survey, which is an empirically validated survey that assesses your top character strengths. It can be accessed for free at www.viacharacter.org. You can also check out my previous blog post for more information on the VIA. I’m sure at this point you know each other's strengths on a basic level, but taking the survey can help you to go deeper and have a common vocabulary for noticing and talking about each other's positive traits.
2. Share your results with one another. Talk about how you see the signature strengths of your partner show up. Give specific examples of where you see each signature strength being used and what you admire about each of those strengths in them.
3. Have a discussion. Here are a few questions to get you started. How are your signature strengths the same and different? Do any of the differences explain why you might approach situations or problems differently? How can you appreciate each other's different strengths? How do your strengths complement each other? How can you use your combined strengths to achieve the goals you have as a couple?
4. Make a practice of noticing and pointing out one another’s strengths regularly. You can use the skill of strength spotting to notice and point out your partner’s strengths at the moment. For example, “Hey, I love how you just used your humor to make me laugh and lighten the mood during this stressful time.” Or if you realize that they used one of their strengths at a later time, the skill can be used to follow up with your spouse by saying something such as, “I noticed how your bravery really showed up when you had that difficult conversation with your parents.” It may sound cheesy at first, but it can be very powerful in helping you notice and remember the best parts of your spouse!
As always, thank you for reading and I would love to hear examples of how you value and appreciate each other's strengths in the comments below.