Guys who find it hard to compliment their spouse: how do you manage?

I like (no, make that need) to get compliments. My husband hates giving them. That must be a common situation. So guys, how do you deal with it?
There’s a popular relationship book called “The Five Love Languages” by Gary Chapman. He posits five different ways that people have of expressing love and feeling loved.

They are:
-Words of Affirmation
-Receiving Gifts
-Acts of Service
-Quality Time
-Physical Affection (which goes far beyond sex)

So that would make me a “Words of Affirmation” (and Acts of Service) type of girl.
My husband is isn’t very affectionate, although he likes to sit with me (while doing his own thing on some electronic gadget). He also does compliment me, but only once, and after that he doesn’t like to repeat himself, you know?

Since you asked for our opinions…

You may as well nip this one in the bud and get some couples therapy now. A personality change has to happen for your relationship to work, am I right? You need to become the sort of person who doesn’t need compliments, or he needs to become the sort of person who gives them when that is not something he naturally does. Something big would have to happen for a change that big.

Do they need to be physical compliments, or just about anything? Do you find him the sort of person who vocalizes most thoughts, or keeps things to himself?

My husband is certainly not the gushy, complimentary sort, and I like to hear these positive things. So over the years, I’ve learned to ‘translate’ the stuff he does do into compliments, in my head. For instance, while he’s not romantic at all, if he’s in the supermarket, and sees a piece of steak on sale that he thinks I’d enjoy for lunch, he’ll buy it for me. I tell myself "See, this says ‘I love you and value you and care about what you like’ ". So basically, he’s ‘speaking’ sign language, I’m interpreting.

Jesus fucking Christ.

OP, you said that your husband compliments you. But he tends to compliment you once and then leave it at that. I’ve never been married but I don’t trip over myself complimenting girlfriends because 1.) I don’t think it’s normal for someone to “need” compliments and 2.) I tend to think that the more you say something the more it loses its meaning. If he complimented you twice as much as he currently is there’s a chance that it might become the new status quo and you’d feel a need for even more. If I give compliments and praise out sparingly you can bet your ass it’ll feel more special and genuine when you do actually get them.

I wasn’t going to post at all but there are already people suggesting that you get fucking counseling over this and I think that’s ridiculous.

This is very much us. The first few years we were together he’d end up sleeping on the couch while having the best intentions. I’m much better at translating now. Ferinstance, the blender wand he gave me says, “I appreciate the work you do, I wish it were easier for you.” The cutting board and the griddle and the shredder/grater/slicer say, “I know you really want a new vacuum but I can’t afford it”.

Ok, I was trying to support our point, and maybe in my own way I am. These dumb things after 10 years make me feel appreciated. I know how much weight I’ve gained over the last decade, and I know his porn has nothing to do with me, but by reading between the lines I find this absolutely wonderful man who has a hard time telling me how awesome he is.


I think the point of the book is to understand what your love language is, and how to understand and communicate with someone who is speaking a different love language. You don’t necessarily have to speak the same language to get along.

My wife and I read the book together before we got married, and it was helpful for both of us. Maybe see if he would read the book too so he can better understand what language you are speaking. Then both of you can talk about what languages you respond to, and what will work best.

Let me put it this way. Suppose I’m married to Clockwork. (Bear with me here). Suppose that Clockwork felt that me taking the initiative to sex made him feel loved and appreciated. And then suppose I didn’t want to do that, because I didn’t feel that:

  1. he should *need *me to take the initiative and
  2. If I took the initiative once in our marriage and then once a year, that would be enough, because that would keep it special.

Would we stay married, Clockwork?

Is it a “hates to give compliments” or “doesn’t know how” sort of thing?

IMO (and I don’t mean to speak for my gender), but a lot of guys get hung up (depending on family background) on not knowing the conversational or contextual “rules”.

What i would tell your husband, over far too many beers, is… “next time you think something positive about Maastricht – VOICE IT! It doesn’t HAVE to make any fucking sense. All that matters is that you mean it.”

Like, my wife looks adorably geeky in her glasses. Like one of those Willow/Daria/Ugly Betty types. So I tell her she looks dorky, and kiss her lots. She picks up on the feeling I mean, even though I don’t explain it very well.

There may be regional variations in play, too. If your husband is from a different part of the country, he may feel that hyperbole or repetition connote insincerity. So if he really means it, he may only say it once, or quietly.

I’m drunk.

Not a problem because that’s exactly how it makes me feel when my partners do it.

Sure. I’d just do the initiating of sex myself. Which is what I do most of the time anyway.

In pre-marital counselling we talked about that book. What they did was have us write down one instance where the other person made us feel most loved. Mine was when she made me brownies, hers was when I got her a card.

And it makes sense, I’m a service person and she needs compliments and words of affirmation.

I’ll admit that it’s difficult for me to give her what she wants because I just don’t “speak” her language. I remember once she got upset because I didn’t say how much I loved her and I was like, “What are you talking about? I stood in line for thirty minutes to buy your schoolbook for you!”

So in my head I’m showing I love her by doing things for her. Now, in order to give her what she needs (no matter how much little sense it makes to me), I go out of my way to say something nice, at least every once and a while.

Hates too. Besides, he says it is never enough. When he gives me a compliment, I start purring and want another one. He says it is easier to just not go there…

It doens’t have to be new compliments, I’m just as happy with the old:" tell me again what you thought when you first saw me" -bedtime story…

I would much rather not need compliments and words of appreciation. I’ve tried not to want or need them. But I sometimes feel, what else is there? That is what makes me happy, that is what I need you for, all other things I can do myself, and usually do for myself (and him), because he doesn’t do them.

Some men think that honesty is the best policy. I was like that. However, I realized that a partial lie (e.g. “Honey, you are the best cook in the world!”) has two results: a good feeling, and the knowledge that it’s a lie. What I didn’t realize is that the knowledge that it was a lie didn’t matter. It was the good feeling that mattered.

I already knew that women lie all the time. What I didn’t realize is that lying, to women, is not considered that big a deal. Of course, women always say they want an “honest” man, but that’s a lie. What they really want is a man who doesn’t screw up.

Well … total hijack … I think you and Maastricht should make a go of it. :smiley:

I think each of us is allowed to need what we need and if possible each of us should strive to give that to the one we love.

Even if it’s hard to.

Or doesn’t come naturally.

Or we think it’s kinda stupid.

That’s what I think love means to me, as it grows beyond infatuation and chemistry. It’s trying our best to give to our partner and not judge them for what they need.

I suppose I’m in the “finds it hard to compliment my spouse” category. It just seems cheap and manipulative to keep mouthing the same tired old things just to get a response. That is what the players and users did back in the days when I was dating. They would say whatever it took to get what they wanted and yes, it worked like a charm, but it wasn’t pretty and I don’t want any of that in my marriage.

Maybe if the OP paid her husband some compliments he might start using that sort of language in response? Show him the way. Maybe it’s just me but open, complimentary statements are so rare that they seem startling and insincere when I hear them, so I am disinclined to use them on my wife. I don’t mean that to be so sad sounding. I think a lot of guys don’t get superficial compliments ever and don’t understand the need for them in others.

I don’t think it means superficial- they should be sincere. I, personally, am a words person. Up thread it was explained well- I have to actively translate other signs of affection into words, because the meaning isn’t as intuitive to me as the sincere, spoken word. However, I do try out of respect for my spouses preferred way of communicating love and affection. It’s hard for me, but I try. However, I ask that I hear words of affection/compliments etc because that is what I need, and it is not trivial or foolish to me. It is not unreasonable to ask for compromise. I am also not keeping what I need a secret and expecting him to figure it out. It is not unreasonable for each spouse to try to do what is hard or awkward if it is fair and reasonable simply to give your partner some of what they need.

That sounds seriously high maintenance and exhausting. “Tell me again what you thought when you first saw me”? Honestly, the problem doesn’t sound like it lies with your husband being hesitant to give compliments.

It does? I offered that as an alternative for when he can’t think of anything else. Like I said, it doens’t need to be original. I told him to write some of it down and that I would reread that instead of bothering him, but he hasn’t gotten around to that, either.

No, I do that and he doesn’t really like compliments, any compliments. I do a lot of other stuff he likes, though.

Why? They have a major incompatibility as it stands. It’s pretty unlikely that, on their own, she is just going to up and stop needing validation or that he is going to have a personality change overnight.

I agree.

I am one of those people who needs to hear “I love you” a lot. And I’m someone who shows love through words and physical touch. I couldn’t make it work with someone who wouldn’t say I love you or who didn’t want to be touched, but I can make it work with someone who also says I love you via works and who likes to receive gifts. These things may not be as natural for me, but they aren’t counter to what I need from a relationship.