It’s likely that, at least once in your early years, you heard this directive. You were instructed to be thoughtful, gracious, appreciative and kind by some adult in your life. Perhaps this was a parent chiding you for taking your friend’s toy or a teacher encouraging you to welcome a new student to the class
The message came through loud and clear that we should be nice to others, not only because it’s the “right” thing to do, but also because it builds relationships and community.
And it’s also how just about every single one of us wants to be treated.
As we go along in a long-term love relationship or marriage, this golden rule is forgotten. Life gets busy and stressful and patterns develop that push the niceness out the door. At a certain point, interactions between you and your partner are dominated by sarcasm, criticism and broken promises.
You might not cheat, yell, or call your partner rude names, but it’s possible you still aren’t being kind, and that hurts. It hurts your partner and it hurts your chance at creating the close, passionate and joyful relationship you really want.
Here’s what often happens…
When a couple meets and fall in love, they usually go out of their way to be kind to one another. They send loving messages, ask questions to learn more about each other and express gratitude. They are “being nice,” in part because they are attracted and interested in keeping the relationship going.
Once the newness of being together wears off, things tend to change.
The couple falls into a routine and become comfortable sharing day-to-day life. They start taking their relationship for granted. The quirks that used to seem so “cute” become annoying. The differences between the two that used to add spice are suddenly sources of conflict.
They look at one another and wonder, “What happened to the person I fell in love with?”
This is the trajectory of a relationship crash and burn. This is what happens in countless relationships…even the ones that seem harmonious on the surface. Even if there are rarely any big angry blow ups, the combined effects of “little” slights, put downs, unspoken gratitude and assumed love are just as damaging.
The residue of habitual unkindness builds up and drives a couple apart.
We’re here to remind you of what those adults in your life taught you all those years ago…but with a twist.
Remember you manners.
The downside of being told to “mind your manners” tends to be a whole lot of guilt and obligation. If you were ever told to, “Say please,” as a sandwich or toy was held above your head, you know what we mean.
There’s no benefit to anyone if you are motivated by a sense of “have to” or “should.” Guilt and the fear of being rejected or denied are poor motivators and don’t produce genuine kindness. We aren’t suggesting that you pour on the niceness with your partner to manipulate him or her to go along with your plan or to see things your way.
We ARE reminding you of how great it feels to hear that your efforts are appreciated. Think about the warmth and well-being that comes with hearing someone you care about say, “Thank you” and “I love you.”
We bet these things feel good to your partner too.
Treat your partner like your best friend.
A helpful exercise is to think about how you do (or would) treat your best friend. How do you speak to your friend? How do you act when you’re with your friend? Do you give him or her your full attention and when you two together, do you show that you value and appreciate that time and connection?
Even if you consider your spouse or partner to be your “best friend,” do your daily words and behaviors really show it?
When you make a shift and treat your partner as you would your very best friend, a new chapter opens up in your relationship. Tension eases and problems resolve more easily leaving you two with more energy for fun and passion.
If you can’t get past the frustrating things your partner does in order to be genuinely kind more of the time, this is your cue to go within. Remember what attracted you to this one you love in the first place. Even if he or she has changed in some ways, think about how your partner is still that interesting and engaging person you once couldn’t get enough of.
Also, remind yourself of how wonderful it feels when you and your partner are close and working together. Come up with some examples of how you have cooperatively met a problem or challenge in the past. Even if things didn’t turn out the way you planned, recall how it was to be a team.
Create space in your awareness for not just the aspects of your partner that get on your nerves or the disagreements you two have yet to resolve, but also for what’s going well in your relationship. In your mind, highlight what you truly appreciate and adore about your loved one.
Now, it’s time to go say a heart-felt “thank you” and a meaningful “I love you and I’m so happy you’re in my life.”