I was lying in bed with my wife the other night. We were both enjoying each other’s company and relaxing by talking and touching each other lovingly. Truth be told, we were essentially using up some time until we were sure the kids were asleep so we could progress into more physical and carnal activities.
While sex is often thought of as the main event, sometimes the twenty or thirty minutes beforehand is where some of my favorite moments occur. We connect and discuss the events of the day or week. We touch each other gently. On this particular day, all of that happened. It was sweet, tender, and loving. And then my wife said something to me that hit me harder than I would have imagined.
I have always enjoyed receiving compliments and yet have also always had a hard time accepting them. Or maybe I’ve had a hard time internalizing them is the correct way to say that. I can accept a compliment with a simple thank you. But sometimes, truly believing it is hard.
My self-esteem has never been low, exactly, but I’ve never put too much stock in my physical looks. I’ve come to accept that I am in no way ugly, but I am also not going to be the guy that turns heads in the room as I walk through. I am not the guy who has the girls clamoring to get with him. At least not from a glance at physical attributes alone. I’m cute, I suppose. I have been told that I exude a certain level of confidence with no hint of cockiness. I’m safe. I make people feel comfortable. But in terms of pure looks, I’m fairly average in that regard.
So even after 10 years of marriage, while I was lying on my back with my eyes closed and my hands tucked behind my head, I was caught off guard when my wife whispered with such honesty in her voice, “You are so handsome.” I opened my eyes and shifted my head to look at her. She was staring at my face with such intent that I could tell she was really trying to see me and take all of me in.
You are so handsome.
“Oh, well, thank you. Why do you say that?” It seems silly asking what should probably be an obvious answer.
“Just the way your features are arranged on your face. Your closely trimmed beard with the gray hair starting to take over your chin area. You are just very handsome.”
I don’t know why all of that struck me so heavily. Or why the feeling of her compliment, that one specifically, has stuck around in my head.
Perhaps it is because my wife doesn’t often give compliments like that. It’s not that she is not loving. It’s just that spoken words are not her love language. At least not in the form of her giving the words. Though she has talked about making a conscious effort to express her feelings verbally more often. She is a lovely, kind, tender, loving person. I’ve never met someone more generous with their time and thoughts. But to hear something so sincere in that form and in that moment from her certainly was unexpected.
Or maybe it is because I have been feeling a bit low about myself lately. Nothing too horrible or what I would describe as a depressed state, but I just haven’t been feeling like myself. Having someone see me and recognize me even in my low moments sits even more prominent than it would have if I was already feeling extremely self-confident.
It very well could have been the nature of the complement itself. If she had said something along the lines of “You are so funny” or “I love your intelligence,” I may not have given it a second thought. I certainly believe those things to be true about myself, as cocky as that may seem. I think we are allowed to have traits about our self that we believe and feel confident in. But looking and feeling handsome is not exactly up there on the list for me and how I would describe myself.
So when this woman who has been with me for over a decade, this woman who has seen the good, the bad, the ugly, and all of the bumps and bruises in between, comes out with a compliment that I did not see coming, it made me feel loved. It made me feel taken aback because I’m still not sure I believe it if we’re being honest. But, I believe that she thinks it to be true. And I suppose that’s all that really matters when someone is giving a compliment. Not whether the person receiving a compliment believes it, but whether the person giving the compliment is sincere in their delivery.
Spouses, partners, lovers. Go right now, today, and tell the one you’re with, someone you care about, tell them something that they may not typically see in themselves. Tell them you see it. Tell them you appreciate it. And tell them in a way that is convincing enough that it sticks with them for days after. I can promise you it makes a difference.
This post was previously published on Medium.
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