To really maintain a loving and vital marriage, you need to do more than just be faithful. For a successful marriage, you need to come home in a way that makes your partner know why you are coming home to him or her.

In his interesting and provocative book, Monogamy, Adam Phillips suggests, “…the cruelest thing one can do to one’s partner is to be good at fidelity but bad at celebration.”

Is he right? I think so.

As much as celebration without fidelity lacks substance and drives suspicion, fidelity without celebration can feel like obligation or habit.

Over the years, I have heard many people struggling in relationships say “To live with a partner who just doesn’t notice, appreciate or want to be with you is lonelier than living alone.”

What Does Celebrating A Partner Really Mean?

I actually think it involves both celebrating your partner and the bond you share together.

Celebrating Your Partner

Celebrating your partner is much more than the surprise party he or she may or may not want. It involves the little things we hear about and but often forget to act upon.

  • It is the extra hug, the compliment, the thank you, the Valentine’s card, the waiting up for each other, the birthday gift, the smile when looking at the other, the praise in front of the children, the expressed pride that says- you are special to me.
  • No matter how old, how many children or how many mountains people have climbed, the “I love you” when voiced or written is celebration of a partner. If it is too hard to say – it may be hard for your partner to feel.

Celebrating Each Other

Celebrating each other takes noticing and registering opportunities for mutual appreciation.

Yes, few people want to give or get applause every time they breathe; but when couples recognize and appreciate not only their individual assets but also their talents as a couple, day to day challenges offer opportunities that reset their bond.

You don’t have to be “lost” in a jungle together to recognize that getting through the week together was a victory or a miracle.

“It’s your turn to sleep–I’ll get this feeding–We’ve become a tag team!”

“How are we paying these bills and still laughing?”

“We made it through the week and everyone is breathing — thank God it’s Friday!”

Improving Celebration

Sometimes celebrating your partner or feeling celebrated does not comes easily. Self-reflecting may enhance the possibilities:

  • Can you celebrate your partner directly?  Do friends, people at work, or other family members hear you praise the great decorating job, the fabulous cooking, the promotion, or brilliance of your partner – without your partner ever hearing or knowing your feelings?  Why?
  • The reason may not even be clear to you. It might reflect self-consciousness, family culture, competitiveness, or even discomfort with the positive reaction of your partner when complimented.

For whatever reason, not directly complimenting your partner is like having the party without inviting the guest of honor.  Risk giving it. It is a gift to both.

  • Can you appreciate being celebrated. Can you take a compliment?
  • Some partners truly stop celebrating or complimenting their partner in small or large ways because their partner will not embrace the affirmation or take a compliment.
  • Low self-esteem, a history of criticism or betrayal can sometimes make anything positive feel suspect, manipulative or risky to accept. Sometimes perfectionism can disqualify anyone’s attempt to show affirmation.
  • The dismissed compliment often fuels the very negativity you may have suffered or fear.

For whatever reason, refusing to take the compliment is depriving for both. Try not to tell your partner that they are crazy if they find something about you wonderful! Risk accepting their feelings. Receiving the compliment is a celebration shared.

Success in a marriage is more than just being faithful. Success in a marriage is fueled by the big and small celebrations of how and why you are together.

“Happy marriages begin when we marry the ones we love, and they blossom when we love the ones we marry.” Tom Mullen