The average man is a busy person with his share of life's responsibilities and demands upon his time. If he has married the girl he loves and is not of the analytical and hypercritical type, he is generally perfectly satisfied with his life-partner. Perhaps he omits to tell her so at regular periodic intervals, as if he meant it, and it takes a very clever woman to be satisfied with quiet appreciation without demanding verbal expression of her husband's feelings. Most wives, especially most young wives, delude themselves with the idea that it is the man who talks most about his affection who is the most desirable husband.
The Secret of Married Happiness
They want what they call "appreciation," and the man who gives this to his wife easily, gracefully, and in abundance is wise in his generation. The converse is also true. It is the appreciative wife who keeps her husband's affection when her hair is turning grey and her figure has lost for all time its girlish outline. It is the wife who can judiciously convey the impression that she appreciates a husband's best qualities who brings out the best in a man. In one sense, appreciation is the secret of married happiness, because behind this quality lies an immense amount of tact, understanding, and unselfishness. There is no doubt that human nature tends to depreciate what it has already gained, to get accustomed to the possession of what has at one time seemed ideal. The greatest joy of the newly engaged girl lies in the fact that she is keenly, enthusiastically, and sensitively "appreciated." The man who is honestly in love discerns qualities in a girl which the rest of the World may not perceive, but which are there all the same.
Deep down in every one of us there are possibilities, latent qualities for great deeds and high thoughts of which the world has no conception. Love sometimes brings them out, and the commonplace man displays unexpected capacity in consequence. In the same way, the woman who is capable of an absorbing and unselfish love has the best in her brought out at that time. The divine spark that is in everyone burns brightly for the time being at least. She receives for the first time appreciation from the one person in the world who counts. This appreciation is like a stimulant, an incentive. Alas! so long as human nature is what it is, it does not endure, and if a woman's sense of humour and understanding fails at this juncture, disillusionment will probably result.
It is the wife who is exacting when the ardent lover emerges into the everyday man, who nags her husband into ill-humour. The woman who has a sense of perspective knows only too well that the first ecstasy and ardour of love inevitably settles down into everyday affection, comradeship, and domestic love. By useless brooding and resentment over the inevitable, discord will arise, and the barque of matrimony will sail into troubled seas. Tact and unselfishness are the only qualities which will steer it safely beyond the rocks, and these include the quality of appreciation.
The Power of Appreciation
The wise wife cultivates the power of appreciating the good qualities her husband possesses and lets him realise that she does. It is the weak woman who nags a man when the first ecstasy of love begins to subside into quiet acceptance and renewed interest in work and everyday affairs. At the same time, the Woman who has studied the art of appreciation can do almost anything she likes with her life-partner. If he is punctual, orderly, and reliable, she will cultivate the same qualities, and thus save the inevitable jars that the unpunctual woman prepares for herself when she is invariably five minutes too late. She will not ask the impossible from ' him, and will see that the busy man absorbed in working for her cannot be expected to remember to tell her that his affection is unchanged perhaps three times a day. The man who is apparently not affectionate by nature may hide a capacity for strong love under his silence and undemonstrativeness.
There are men, and these are not invariably the best of their sex, who have the art of pleasing women in little things. Small courtesies, little kindnesses, and remembrances mean much to the woman who has no absorbing interest to take up her thoughts. She will forgive a great deal in the husband who remembers to inquire for her headache, who plans a treat for Saturday, and brings an occasional bunch of violets home in the evening.
But there are many types of men, and the wife who has married the undemonstrative type is only making unhappiness in the home when she expects him to display the qualities which are not part of his nature. He may have far deeper and better traits. He may be more faithful, more trustworthy, although he is not naturally sympathetic in trifles and incapable of realising a woman's point of view. The great need of most women's lives is affection, and the husband who can give the wife the small tokens of affection, the signs of appreciation, makes life's journey smoother for himself in consequence.
Flattery is not Appreciation
Everybody loves appreciation. Those who realise this fact can get almost anything out of people that they wish. Appreciation is not flattery, which is a less powerful weapon because it is insincere and false in so many instances. Appreciation simply means the power of realising the good, the kindness, the ability, and capacity in others. We all know that we work far more for those who appreciate what we do for them. Appreciation brings out better service, finer work from the individual who gets it. Tempered with judicious criticism it is the most educative factor in daily life. The wife who knows how to appreciate the good qualities can afford gently to criticise and point out where there is room for improvement. But appreciation requires verbal expression in most instances. The majority of husbands know very well that their wives are unselfish and thoughtful on their behalf. Most wives realise that the average husband is a good-hearted, hard-working individual, anxious to do his best for his wife and bairns. Unfortunately, sometimes, neither of the two remember to express their good opinions. They are ready enough with words of encouragement to friends and acquaintances, but they give meagrely and with ungenerous hand to the person who has the most right to their appreciation. Half the married unhappiness in the world Would be cured if all the discontented wives and the disappointed husbands would sit down and count up the good qualities of their partners, and then give verbal expression to their appreciation in speech.
The woman who wishes to be happy must never allow selfish, depressing thoughts to absorb her. She must cultivate the power of appreciating the good qualities of other people and especially of her nearest and dearest. Petty criticism and resentment of qualities she dislikes brings out not the best but the worst in the husband. In this world we get what we give. If we give kindness and appreciation to others, they somehow come back to us. Particularly is this true in married life. The wise women, the clever women especially, if they have a sense of humour, make the best of their husbands and their marriage. They realise that a little disillusionment comes to every one of us, and that very often it is due to some fault in ourselves. Too many women let themselves drift into a morass of discontent and disappointment simply because they do not appreciate the great amount of good that is in their lives and turn it to account.
Every woman can be happy if she likes, especially if she has a husband and child to work and think for. Happiness, like all the other good things of this life, has to be cultivated and earned. Mutual appreciation is an important factor, and if husbands also would realise what an enormous difference to the happiness of the wife appreciation and small attentions make, a condition of affairs somewhat approaching the ideal would result.
After the first mysterious glamour has worn off, marriage must inevitably descend from the realms of glorified idealism to those of prosaic common-sense; it is merely a change of state. That change of state, however, for always may remain ideal, as ideal as it was when first contracted, but it will not do so if left unaided. Mankind is frail and mortal, fretful and petty, and these, his characteristic traits, are the bitterest foes of married happiness. But the gift of mutual appreciation is a force - perhaps it is the only force - strong enough to grapple with and overcome these enemies.