For a variety of personal reasons, I happen to often be an eyewitness of people giving their wives extravagant praise when those wives are not around. At times it is difficult to distinguish how much of that praise is boasting and bragging about having found a far better wife than they deserved, which is perhaps not the most charitable of behaviors when speaking to people who are not married, but who would like to be. At some level, though, I believe that the vast majority of this praise is sincere, and sincerely and passionately meant. When people tell me that they value their wives for being a sounding board for ideas and helping keep them grounded and keep them from going off-base by providing perspective, that is something that I would consider an immensely worthwhile task, as people who are prone to having a lot of ideas are not always the best at determining which of those are good ideas and which are not. Sometimes having a sympathetic but less partial ear can be of great use in helping people to keep focusing on the right things and not letting themselves be distracted by shiny objects of the abstract and theoretical kind.
At other times, I hear men who have reached positions of honor and responsibility in their jobs and other institutions praise their wives for helping keep them out of trouble. I would add to this that the fact that one is no longer thinking and living for oneself alone but has others to think about and to take into consideration is a great aid to the development of maturity. So long as someone only thinks about themselves, their development will only go so far, as it will be lacking in the love and outgoing concern and service that lead people to the highest levels of personal growth and development. This is not to say that people who marry will necessarily think about the well-being of their spouses and children, for certainly the world is full of the sad aftermath of broken families that have fallen apart precisely because insufficient care was taken to the well-being of others while people were in pursuit of their own private happiness or profit. That said, the gentlemen I tend to be around most of the time appear to have married well in the sense that they have sought to preserve the tie of matrimony, and married women who also had the same sort of perseverance in relationships. Not all are so fortunate in either respect.
It is often a conundrum, though, that one seldom hears wives publicly praise their husbands, or hears husbands publicly praise their wives. I do not know how women talk about their husbands when they are all by themselves outside of mixed company, but the gentlemen I spend my time with when it is not spent with any ladies present are not the sort of men who tend to prefer locker room conversation but are genuinely appreciative of the good favor that God has given them with their wives and children. And that sort of honest and heartfelt appreciation is worthwhile, because one of the best ways of preserving such blessings is to show appreciation for them to God. Yet at the same time there is often the question as to how one can best show appreciation to other people. Perhaps it is easier to praise people when they are not there because there is no danger of others getting a swelled head for not hearing praise that is felt, but at the same time something is lost when there is no public acknowledgement of gratitude to the people we are grateful to.
This is not only a problem within marriage, but is a fairly widespread problem within families, companies, and other institutions. We may expect people to be perfect all the time and not notice that we never say please or thank you or acknowledge all that they do, while their resentment at being taken for granted builds. We may only give attention to problems, and not provide any sort of acknowledgement of what is good, leading people to create or manufacture trouble in order to gain the attention that they crave. To be sure, people would rather be recognized for good things, but at least some people would rather be recognized for bad things than not to be recognized at all. Perhaps when it comes to husbands and wives, and in other contexts, there is the feeling that giving praise and appreciation would be to admit that others were loved and needed, as if that vulnerability was a bad thing, because it would be an open admission that one would be hurt if there was trouble with that person. If it is the truth, why not admit it, and then seek to act in such a way that others may know their value, but not take it for granted either. For those who are appreciated need in turn to show appreciation to others, for if we have lived life well, all of us make life better for those around us, and why should we be slow to appreciate that?