“The applause of a single human being is of great consequence.” —Samuel Johnson
Linda: To sit down with our beloved in a formal session to exchange what I love about you is an intimate and soul nourishing experience. Such a heavy dose of validation can lift our self-esteem. We see ourselves through the other person’s eyes that may see our gifts and talents more clearly than we can see them. Our confidence can rise. And to lace our appreciation and validation throughout our interactions on a regular basis sets up a powerful dynamic. We often find that we can accomplish things that we had no confidence to even attempt before receiving validation from someone we respect and trust.
Some people are more self-referential than others. There is no right or wrong about this; it’s only a matter of style. There are those who are on the more independent end of the spectrum, and therefore need less validation. But those of us who need more shouldn’t be embarrassed to ask. Often our partner is quite willing to offer those sincere and encouraging words that mean so much. “You’re beautiful; you’re intelligent; you’re creative. I admire your drive and ambition; you’re a terrific mom I am impressed by how well you balance motherhood and career. I’m so happy to have a partner to come home to; I love your cooking; you enrich my life. I’m so happy to live my life with you. You are special. I adore you; you’re sexy; I desire you; I enjoy making love to you. You and I are a terrific fit; I love your values. You make a beautiful home for us to live in. I know that you can do whatever you set out to do. I believe in you. I feel like I hit the jackpot when I found you!”
The one offering the validation and affirmation gets to benefit as well. When we look for things to validate in our partner, we are intentionally cultivating an attitude of gratitude. Then we begin to experience life as sufficient and abundant, and counting our blessings on a daily basis. Giving to each other becomes something that is effortless, natural and to a large degree unconditional. A deep trust grows that our offerings will be appreciated and reciprocated. This trust isn’t based up on blind faith but was rooted in decades of experience that reinforces this sense of confidence in each other’s generosity. The process of giving is itself pleasurable and fulfilling. We enjoy giving for it’s own sake. This generosity is not a means to an end or a way of giving to get. The pleasure of bringing greater happiness into the life of our beloved is an affirmation of the value of what we have to give. It is a validation of our personal worth.
This spirit of generosity shows up in our closest relationship, and then the practice generosity spills throughout our lives and we share our offerings effortlessly with others. We give freely to others when the need presents itself and our gifts are not limited to material or financial offerings. Nor are they necessarily spectacular in magnitude. A spirit of generosity has more to do with an overall attitude that one holds in which there is an ongoing interest in bringing greater ease, comfort, and happiness to the lives of others. This perspective doesn’t come from a feeling of obligation or a desire for a reward, but rather is an expression of an inner sense of fulfillment that naturally spills over into the lives of others in the form of kind words, supportive efforts, and friendly gestures. Upon entering new situations, these people ask themselves the question: “How can I contribute here?” rather than, ”What can I get from this person and how can I get it?”
This ongoing sharing of generosity enriches these marriages and provides an ever-growing foundation of love and appreciation that flows into the greater world. Generosity is a natural aspect of the process of expressing caring for others, an overflow of our own personal well-being. Our generosity does not come from a feeling of obligation; it is an outpouring of the abundance of love we experience in our lives.
We live with a recognition that whenever our partner is diminished, that we are as well. That any gift they give our partner benefits us as well. The generosity and respect that we have towards each other is an expression of caring through offering unsolicited acknowledgements to each other. When we praise our partner in many different ways, acknowledging their intelligence or creativity, it becomes a general feature of our lives to express gratitude and appreciation on an on-going basis.
Lawrence summed it up when he said: “What is good for us is good for me. Even if I temporarily forgo what I desire in the moment in favor of Hope’s interest, I trust that ultimately in the long run, I will gain more than I would if I had held my own desires higher than hers.” Hope added: “I trust that I will receive more than what I give up. I am still motivated by self interest, but understand that it is through the “we” that the me is more greatly fulfilled.”
Our relationship becomes an art form. We are not making unhealthy sacrifices for the sake of the relationship. We have an awareness of our own personal limits. We don’t give and give with no limits at all. We are generous in the way and to the degree to which we give. We give our good will. We give the benefit of the doubt. We give our concern and support. And we hold the well-being of our partner no higher than our own, or not lower than our own, but equal to our own.
When we experience a high degree of fulfillment, our happiness inevitably spills over, overflowing into the lives of others in our immediate as well as distant surroundings. Our relationship is an insufficient container to hold all the love and we naturally extend the area of their concerns to others. We begin to perceive “family and family members” as being inclusive of others beyond blood relatives, seeing family as being inclusive of “all of my relations.” This concern extends beyond even the human family, and is inclusive of all living beings.