Why Kindness Is An Important, Perhaps The Most Important, Quality In A Loving Marriage
It’s easy to be kind to your co-workers, friends and acquaintances. But after working all day, you are tired and want to “let your hair down” at home. You might even ask yourself, “After a long day at work, why is kindness important to my spouse? He knows I love him.”
Another wrench in the gears in demonstrating kindness is that co-workers and friends appreciate your kindness. Usually they compliment and appreciate what you do for them and say, “Thank you” and reciprocate the kindness.
You might not see or notice your partner performing kind behaviors for you, which can lower motivation to show active kindness to him or her.
Some couples have shared with me that they sometimes overlook their partner’s actions because their partner is “supposed” to be kind, nice and thoughtful. I recommend that we should not take for granted these actions and instead actively express our appreciation for them.
You may believe, “I have to be kind to myself before being kind to my partner.” You need to be kind to yourself, but I’d wonder if you can be kind to both of you.
Marriage and relationships are about fairness and mutuality, so think about how you can take care of both of you.
What Does Kindness Mean In A Relationship (And What Does It Not Mean?
Kindness does not mean being weak, being used or being a dishrag. Kindness in a relationship means being generous, thoughtful, caring, compassionate and supportive to your partner.
Kindness is going out of your way to be helpful the first time your partner asks and not waiting to be nagged or reminded to do something a hundred times.
Kindness is thinking of them and being selfless.
Of course, relationships need to be fair, and your partner needs to define kindness in similar ways; otherwise, resentment will build and destroy your marriage.
It’s crucial to foster mutual support and share responsibilities to maintain a healthy partnership.
What Kindness Is Not
Sometimes, in my couples therapy private practice, I have observed couples take kindness to an extreme, thinking kindness means being brutally honest.
For example, if someone thinks their partner is not wearing something flattering, he or she would say, “That dress makes you look like a cow” (brutally honest), instead of “I like the other dress you wore yesterday more” (honest with kindness). Both statements provide your partner with feedback about their outfit, but the first one will probably be hurtful and the second way will be more tactful and thoughtful.
In addition, performing acts of kindness by fulfilling your partner’s needs and desires tirelessly, day and night is unhealthy and overwhelming. It can create resentment and anger because the giving partner is being kind to a detriment.
Also, kindness is not helping someone when they did not ask for your help. Many people share that they were trying to be kind, but other people usually experience this type of kindness as helping and inserting themselves when not asked.
Why Kindness Is Important In Your Marriage
Kindness is an important element for emotional connection, communication, conflict management, trust, and overall well being.
Couples feel safe and secure when kindness is the norm of their interaction. When couples expect, “We are kind to each other.” then they can relax and be themselves. Partners feel cared for and protected with this knowledge and will feel loving and emotionally intimate.
Couples who communicate kindness encourage listening, validation and open dialogues. Usually these couples do not fear judgment and criticism when they discuss their feelings and opinions.
Rather than yelling and stating hurtful words, couples who diffuse conflict with kindness and respect resolve their conflicts more quickly and easily.
Trust can be built in relationships with displays of kindness and generosity. They strengthen the emotional connection and level of trust in a relationship. Trust is foundational for marital satisfaction.
When you exhibit kindness to your partner it will lower stress levels, promote a sense of partnership and improve health.
What Happens When You Show Kindness?
The major key to marital satisfaction and stability is kindness. Usually, when one partner is kind, it promotes kindness in the other partner*. Reaching out with an olive branch to create peace and harmony improves the wellness and security of relationships. Kindness is reciprocated.
40 Ways To Show Kindness:
Try to perform some act of kindness everyday. If you are unsure what your partner would appreciate, you can ask them. Some suggestions are simple, but meaningful, and other ideas will take some planning:
- Listen and validate your partner
- Give gentle feedback
- Ask them, ”How can I help you?”
- Say “I’m sorry” even when you can’t understand their position or perspective
- Text a smile or heart emoji in the middle of the day
- Bring home their favorite coffee, flowers or something small
- Express gratitude and say thank you
- Leave a love note under their pillow or in the lunch they took to work
- Make their favorite dinner unexpectedly
- When they ask you to go to the movies, even if you don’t really want to do it, go to express kindness
- Give your partner a kiss just because
- Bring them a tissue when they are crying or sick (this is a small act of kindness but when you are not feeling well or sad a tissue is very important)
- Bring them chocolate kisses
- Remove the snow from their car or fill up their car with gas so they don’t have to be outside in the cold
- If they’re sick, make soup or another comfort food or bring water, medicine or something else they need or want
- Write a love letter
- Go for a walk together
- Play their favorite game
- Clean the house, do the laundry or some other chore
- Plan a surprise getaway (if they like surprises)
- Buy a gift card to their favorite store
- Bring them a drink or something to eat
- Give them a massage
- Share a funny joke
- Play their favorite game
- Go to a sporting event or movie of their choice (and have a positive attitude)
- Even if you don’t want to go to bed just yet, give them a hug, kiss and tuck them in bed
- Read them poetry or their favorite book
- Tell them, “I love you,” or say something loving
- Do the dishes without being asked
- Put the kids to bed
- Remember small things that are important to them
- Allow your partner to “win” the argument
- Find a concert they’d enjoy and buy tickets to it
- Learn something inspiring or meaningful to them
- Be romantic
- Be empathetic and compassionate in a way that is meaningful to them
- Verbally tell them how much you love them
- Take time to understand about their day, fears, concerns, wishes, and dreams
- Think-what would my partner think is kind and do it…
Be creative and find ways to be kind.
What Is More Important: Being Right or Being Kind?
You may like to be right (we all do), but how does being right trump being kind to your spouse? It doesn’t. Usually, if you focus on being right, then that means your partner has to be wrong.
This scenario leads to a lose-lose situation in your relationship. Therefore, you may want to think about how you can be kind in this situation and consider the reasons why kindness is important in this situation.
Contempt in Relationships : How To Fix It
Some couples take the mindset of “I’m right” one step further to contempt which is one of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. Dr. Gottman, internationally renowned for his research on marital stability, found that contempt was the most dangerous of the four horsemen and led to divorce because of the mockery, insults, name-calling, and hostile humor.
You should be cautious not to use arguments as a way to retaliate for any hurt you are experiencing after a disagreement. Instead you can explore how you can foster understanding, curiosity and empathy. You can change the dynamics in your relationship by seeking resolution rather than trying to prove your superiority. In additon, you should look for ways to create a feeling of appreciation and admiration between your partner and yourself. You can find opportunities to express gratitude because relationships thrive on healthy communication and connection.
Acts of Kindness Reduce Depression
Acts of kindness is defined as, “benevolent and helpful actions intentionally directed towards another person, motivated by the desire to help another and not to gain reward or to avoid punishment”. Researchers found that performing acts of kindness decreased depression and anxiety and boosted self esteem and well-being.
Therefore, if acts of kindness toward others can decrease depression, then acts of kindness towards your partner can have even more benefits and rewards. When you perform acts of kindness you are nurturing the emotional intimacy in your relationship and bolstering your partner’s mental and physical health.
You can develop a sense of safety, security and trust by engaging in acts of kindness, navigating disagreements and conflicts more easily.
A valuable aspect of any secure and healthy relationship is kindness. When you learn ways to increase your level of kindness, your relationship will improve and build stronger connections. Take five minutes a day to perform a kindness that will be meaningful to your partner.
*I’m not discussing relationships which are abusive, manipulative, toxic or include significant personality disorder.
Additional reading to support your relationship as you explore options for couples therapy and healing: