Yesterday was focused on communication in marriage and how even small changes can improve the health of a relationship. Communication is often a joint effort, but there are also many ways that we can improve our marriages by focusing on our individual actions. Kindness is a trait that can increase intimacy and the positive interactions we have with our spouse.
Kindness is a virtue that we often discuss with our children and an act we practice with friends and even strangers. It can be difficult to define but easy to spot – especially in a marriage. Kindness can be displayed in the way we interact with our spouse through our words, actions and physical connections. It is the way we show how much we care and how we demonstrate our regard for the other person.
While kindness is usually easy to show at the start of a relationship, with time it can start to slip away. Unresolved issues, annoyances, resentments and other priorities can reduce the interactions you have to the most basic level and remove the softness that used to be commonplace. Without kindness a sense of loneliness often sets in and the sparkle of what made the relationship special begins to dull.
Kindness can be brought back into a marriage and it starts with a few changes by you.
Assume Positive Intent
Deciding to assume positive intent can be a big change. When we are hurt or angry, it can be easier to assume the other person is trying to hurt us or that they are looking to cause trouble – don’t fall for this line of thinking. Not only will positive assumptions help your marriage, they will also help your mental state. It can be a burden to always jump to negative conclusions and it can drain you of happiness.
Let’s choose to assume our spouses means well. They likely are not looking to cause arguments or trying to make things difficult for you – perhaps their actions were taken with the best of intentions or they just didn’t know that an action would bother you. With friends or co-workers it is easier to brush things off (“they didn’t realize that this would cause trouble…” or “they thought that they were helping…”). With our spouses we usually hold them to a higher standard and with that can come a harsher analysis of their actions (“they should have known…” or “they are just trying to get back at me for…”).
Learn What Does and Does Not Need to be Said
Honesty is an amazing tool in relationships and it is necessary in order to create a trusting environment, but all things shouldn’t be said in the name of honesty. Some things are better left unspoken. Do we really have to tell our spouses that we think their new favorite shoes are hideous? Would they be happy to hear that we find our mother-in-laws exhausting? Or that their best friend grates on our nerves?
There is a balance in communication that needs to be struck. This doesn’t mean that you avoid difficult topics that need to be discussed, but it does mean that perhaps your spouse doesn’t need to hear about every action that annoys you. Bring kindness into your words with your spouse, just as you would with a friend or other relative.
Acknowledge the Good
Everyday, no matter what state your marriage is in, your spouse is doing something positive for you, your relationship or your family. See the efforts that are being made, choose to see the good in your spouse and verbalize it. If this is difficult, start small.
“Thank you for taking the kids to school today, it saved me time this morning and helped me to start the day without being rushed.”
“I appreciate that you stopped for milk on the way home from work so I didn’t have to make another stop.”
“Thank you for taking out the trash, I appreciate that you take care of it each week.”
Once you make a habit of recognizing the positive actions, it becomes easier to see their contributions. Don’t fall into the trap of comparing their actions to yours or bringing in negativity (“thanks for bringing the kids in, even though you only did it because I nagged you” or “so glad you could go out of your way for milk when I do all of the grocery shopping the rest of the time”). Remember that each person in the relationship likely does a dozen things on a normal basis that the other person will never even notice. It’s not about comparing your contributions, but deciding to recognize the good.
Go Out of Your Way
Take the time to do something for your spouse. It could be as simple as putting away the laundry, making a cup of coffee in the morning, or letting your spouse sleep in. Small acts of kindness can go a long way and they can start a cycle of positive interactions. When someone does something nice for us, most of the time we have the urge to return that kindness. This change likely will not occur overnight, but it is a start. Regardless of whether or not your spouse responds to your gestures, don’t give with the expectation of receiving. Give and go out of your way for the health of your marriage and in the spirit of bringing more positivity into your home and heart.
Choose Your Company Wisely
This is such an important topic that is often more of an issue for woman. Man bashing. Husband bashing. Wife bashing. There will come times when you may need someone to talk to about an issue in your marriage or a problem that needs to be addressed. Woman more often than men, will find comfort from a friend or a relative to help them sort through their feelings. Who your choose to talk to is extremely important and how you discuss your concerns matters. While you may think that it initially feels good to get together with friends and talk about how horrible your husband is being or how miserable you are, in the long run this is not a good idea. It’s important to find a friend or spiritual leader who you can talk to that will help you come to a resolution and not engage in bashing and negativity. It’s vital to have at least one person in your life who can be objective and give positive encouragement instead of only agreeing that he was wrong and you are right.
Engaging in spouse bashing launches a downward spiral. While the initial rant may be a relief, you are welcoming more negativity and bitterness into your marriage. You are choosing to focus on the negative traits of your spouse and sore spots in your marriage. A focus that is intended only for entertainment purpose and not for the health of your marriage.
Small acts of kindness and reintroducing kind exchanges into your marriage can help to strengthen your bond and partnership. Whether your marriage is thriving or hurting, there is always room for an emphasis on kindness.
Tomorrow’s topic: Respect in your marriage and the role it plays.