Marriage/Parenting: Go Ahead – Lie

Let me set two marriage goals before you. First, praise your spouse at least once a day. And I mean, every single day. On a leap year, that would be 366 times.

In Letters to Philip, Charlie Shedd advised his son to fulfill three daily goals. One, tell his bride, Marilyn, that he loved her. Two, do something nice for her. Three, pay her a compliment. Again, DAILY! “If you like it, say so!”

Dale Carnegie used to marvel at the men whose generous words transformed rather ordinary women – almost shrews, really – into creatures of rare value and beauty. How? Simply by praising them, by building them up. By noticing an inner glow, a hidden value, and then waxing eloquent on that virtue. Not once, by the way, but daily. It was an art form with them.

The second goal is this: Be creative when you praise. I believe I’m on safe ground with this counsel, even to fellow Christians: it is acceptable to exaggerate, to paint lofty word pictures, to stretch the truth and build a metaphorical castle of affectionate hysteria . . . when speaking to a wife. Dr. Shedd loans us this “line,” which he guarantees to work. “You’re not a woman, you’re a memorable occasion!”

“Honey, wow – that was the best meal in the history of the western world.” Okay, that’s probably not literally true, but the wife surely does enjoy hearing it.

“That dress really does something for you . . . and it kind of does something for me too; you know what I mean?” Say it like you mean it, and soon you and your beloved will be sitting in twin bath tubs out somewhere in a rain forest – the kind on those TV commercials.

“Sweetie, nobody fills out a bathing suit like you in, uh, all the beaches of California.” Now, I don’t personally go to every single beach and take photos to verify the truthfulness of that assertion, but Lisa blushes and thanks me when I fulminate on and on that way. I remember the wild-eyed good cheer of the husband who pretended to his wife that he was the famed Italian race car driver who lamented: “All these curves . . . and me with no brakes!”

And it’s not just linguini and libido. Tell them how much you admire their personhood, the keen working of their mind. My Lisa is an incredible grandma, and she literally glows when I tell her how much I admire that in her.

As Solomon sagely observed: “As a man [or woman] thinketh in his heart, so is he.”

The bottom line is that our words become reality. Telling your spouse they are great and awesome will become a self-fulfilling prophecy.