Seems simple right? Following a simple directive to be kind to one another isn’t difficult, or is it? The truth is it’s not that simple. There are couples that make it look easy; and that’s the point. I am going to give you some clues / tips to help you and your partner do the same. It’s not always easy, but it does finally come down to that simple directive. Be kind.
Marriage is hard no matter how much you love your partner, how long you’ve been together, or how wonderful your life is otherwise.
We are a product of our family of origin, our past relationships and our current stuff. These issues that we’re dealing with aren’t always easy to bear, not always easy to work through, and they can cause stress on our relationships, simply in the living with them.
Your spouse has their own issues, and may or may not deal with them in the same way that you do. Your spouse’s issues may not even be known to you, or it may be all you hear about. Whether you discuss them or not, they’re a factor in your marriage.
Marriage stuff together
As you go through the day to living with your partner you develop habits and routines in your relationship. You can also find those things about your partner that absolutely drive you crazy. These are the little things that can become big things if left to fester and simmer; towels on the floor, dishes in the sink, and those other habits that drive you crazy. These can build to a breaking point if not addressed and solved between you and your partner.
Outside stressors can be a factor as well. The things that you bring home with you; whether it’s from your career, job stress, long hours, financial stresses and travel are all hard on a relationship. Often there’s one partner that ends up holding down the fort while the other is striving in the job world. It becomes doubly challenging when you both are in pursuit of career goals and focusing your time and attention on those rather than on your partner and having a fulfilling relationship with them.
Family pressures, disagreements with our about time spent with extended family, siblings and in-laws can be taxing on your relationship. You may have a very close knit family group who is used to being together all the time and your spouse may be an only child who was raised by a single parent and has very little in the way of family attachments. This can make family time stressful for them, or they may ask you to forego that family time to spend it with them. This causes stress on the relationship.
Kids in themselves are challenging, but having kids changes the “twoness” of your relationship to an inclusive group where it’s not just about you anymore. You may be missing that precious couple time that you used to spend before there were children in the home, the freedom to be spontaneous, to pick up and leave when you wanted to or to stay up late and party together.
Social life changes when you get married and changes again when you have a family. You don’t get out to see friends or to functions or events the way you did when you were single, even just when you were dating .When you’re making a home, making a life with your partner, it’s less about friends and social time, and more about partner/couple time. This is something that can become a point of annoyance or a trigger for argument. It can be hard to strike a balance, and it is nearly impossible for everyone to be happy about the results of these arguments. Friends feel left out, and maybe you do too. You may resent your partner for keeping you from your social life.
So how do we make it easier? What is it that makes marriage go more smoothly? Kindness: It really does come back down to that. When you choose to be kind instead of snarky, be kind instead of critical, you change the dynamic and flip the script.
Instead of keeping score and going over and over past history (which does no good for anyone), make an effort to be present, in the moment, and think about what your partner is trying to say to you in this conversation. Don’t assume you know how they feel, but really listen to what they’re saying and internalize it. Practice mindfulness in your interactions with your partner and you will end up being kinder and having more positive exchanges. This makes everything easier.
Pausing for perception
Before you react, pause. Before you speak, pause. Consider your words. Are they kind? Before you assume, pause and consider what may be an alternative to your assumptions. This in addition to your mindfulness practice will bring out more kindness between you.
Remember to add the love
It seems simple to say, “Show love to each other”. It really is, but when we’re in the midst of the chaos of life and family, we become impatient, snappish, short, or grumpy and we forget this simple truth. This is your partner, the person you’ve chosen to live with and make a home with. They, above anyone else in your life, deserve to be shown love every day. If you don’t, who will? I’m not talking about empty words. Showing love doesn’t mean just saying I love you, even though you should be saying it. Showing love means doing thoughtful, considerate and respectful actions that make your partner feel loved and important.
Remember to do little things for these are the big things. Bring them coffee, make their favorite foods, buy their favorite wine, pick up little gifts that show you were thinking of them when you were apart. Order stuff online for them that will be delivered when you’re out of town. Something as small as putting fuel in their car, or bringing home take-out after a busy day really lets them know you’re thinking of them. These small favors go a long way towards letting your partner know they are important to you.
Kindness in a love relationship can manifest itself in a myriad of ways. If you’re sensitive and pay attention to what your partner is showing and telling you, sometimes that means what they don’t say… you can find opportunities to be kind and ease your partner’s burdens for them. That’s truly a loving action.
Show kindness in hugs and hand holding. Give backrubs (that don’t always lead to sex), do the heavy lifting. Show kindness in just giving your partner that physical touch that lets them know you’re there beside them.
Emotional support – You don’t always have to agree, but you can show kindness to your partner by simply being there to listen and lend emotional support. Let them know that they are the most important person in the world to you and that their feelings matter to you.
Don’t be a fixer – Sometimes a shoulder to cry on or a listening ear is all that’s needed .Your partner wants to be heard. Being kind means listening to their issues even if you don’t have a dog in the fight. You don’t have to always fix their problems, sometimes simply listening and empathizing with what they’re going through is a huge help. Only give advice when it’s asked for. Otherwise ask, Can I help? If they say no, then stay out of it.
Don’t be a critic
It’s very easy to get into the habit of criticizing your partner but that doesn’t show kindness. Instead, give helpful alternatives if asked for, and just be nice. Your partner doesn’t need negativity from you on top of what they’re already dealing with. It’s such a help to have someone that will listen to our problems, offer some options for solutions, and then just be there and listen to how we really feel without judgment. Remember, if it’s important to your partner, it should be important to you. Don’t minimize or discount what your partner is going through, especially if they trusted you enough to be vulnerable and share it with you.
Tell the truth in love. Don’t give unwanted advice, but if your partner asks you, tell them the truth. It might not be the truth they want to hear, so be kind. Tell them in love and with the intention of helping and not making their situation worse. Be that person in the world that they know they can tell anything and not have to fear rejection. That is a huge kindness that you can do for your partner.
It really does come down to “just be nice”. Be nice when you don’t feel like being nice, be nice when it doesn’t benefit you. That’s the way to show love to your partner. Marriage is hard and when the two of you work together to solve your problems and ease the burdens for one another it becomes much easier for both of you.
Stuart Fensterheim, LCSW helps couples to overcome the disconnection in their relationships As an author, blogger and podcaster, Stuart has helped couples around the world to experience a unique relationship in which they can feel special and important, confident in knowing they are loved deeply and that their presence matters.