In the early days of a relationship, all thought is given to how each can make the other happy. Once ensconced in wedded bliss, the effort often begins to subside. One way to bring it back is to focus on being kind to each other.
In the late 80’s, a huge public service push was made on the importance of words from a parent to a child. The campaign’s message was that “words matter”. While it was fine to let a child know that their behavior was unacceptable, it was stressed that calling a child names was not only harmful, but inexcusable. Oh, that such a campaign existed for spouses.
Upset or Unkind: Being upset with your partner is bound to happen. Being unkind is a choice. Calling your partner names or sitting in judgment on their behavior is not a recipe for a successful, happy marriage.
Relationships are reciprocal. How you make your partner feel is going to be reflected in their behavior back to you. Putting positive behaviors toward your partner into the pipeline will result in good will back to you.
Therefore, the biggest resolution bang for the buck you can make is to be kind to your spouse. According to Lao Tze, “Kindness in giving creates love”. It is also the opposite of contempt–one of John Gottman’s Four Horsemen of the (Marital) Apocalypse. Contempt involves name-calling, personal insults, mockery, hostile humor, and disrespectful body language suchs as rolling your eyes.
If any of these behaviors are present in your marriage, a move towards kindness can reap huge rewards. Even a marriage that has been marred by negative, angry or hurtful remarks can often be rescued by filling the home with words and actions that elicit positive emotions, psychology research has shown.
Kindness: Kindness in a marriage shouldn’t be random, but intentional. Some ideas you can try:
- Smile and nod encouragingly when your partner is talking to you.
- Ask if you can get your partner anything from upstairs, the kitchen, wherever you are going.
- Turn the light or TV down, or go to another room, if your spouse is trying to sleep.
- Soften your tone when you ask your partner to do something.
- Do a chore your spouse normally does.
- Put the toilet seat down, pick up your shoes, or whatever long-term request your partner has made.
- Offer encouragement where you might usually criticize.
- Happily accompany your partner to an event you previously have avoided.
- Let them sleep in if the dog needs to go out or the baby cries.
- Refrain from correcting your spouse when their true meaning was clear.
I’m sure you can think of many more ways to be kind to your spouse. Frequent, small gestures are often more powerful than an occasional large one. Promise yourself to do one kindness a day. I guarantee you will feel more loving by month’s end.
Feel free to comment below or contact my office at (919) 924-0463 and let me know how it’s going. I would love to hear about both your successes and your challenges.
BONUS FEATURE: Click the link here for a special podcast featuring Lesli discussing Resolution 1: Be Kind.
Coming Soon: Don’t forget to join me next month when we’ll tackle Resolution #2. What do you think it will be?