Lead Your Marriage and Other Relationships with Kindness

What happened to us? I’m speaking of “us” in terms of our collective society.

Perhaps I’m waxing nostalgic about the good old days that weren’t nearly as good as I remember. But there is a spirit of flat-out meanness in the world today that is so sad, and unnecessary, and disconcerting. People seem to go out of their way to be mean to others!

There are television shows devoted to giving the world a bird’s eye view to couples literally destroying each other – blatant displays of infidelity, verbal cruelty, taunting, and more. Just tonight, I saw a sweet quote from a woman, Emily Wierenga, a member of an organization called the Happy Wives Club. Emily wrote “I want the kind of marriage that makes my kids want to get married.”

What a beautiful sentiment. We should all say “Amen” to that, right? Well, wrong. In the Comments bar, the comment at the very top said, “They won’t.” I won’t even dignify the respondee by printing her name. But why was that comment necessary? Perhaps she meant it sarcastically and thought it was funny. It wasn’t. Why couldn’t she just let it go? Just say nothing and move on? I was told as a youth, and I’m sure you’ve heard it as well, “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.”

When it comes to my marriage and my relationships, I have learned and continue to learn to lead with kindness. No, I’m not always successful, but it’s a Spirit-inspired goal. It doesn’t hurt me one bit, and the returns are priceless.

In 2020, more than 1.2 million couples got married in the United States. They said, “I do,” committing in covenant to the most important human relationship of their lives. Sadly, the statistics on divorce tell us that around 600,000 of those couples will depart from those vows and one another within the next eight years. Why do so many marriages disintegrate from bliss, caring, and devotion to bitterness, chaos, and dysfunction? And as we know, some do stay married but are disgruntled and unhappy.

A primary reason, according to noted psychologists and marriage gurus John and Julie Gottman is contempt. The Gottmans say that contempt is a major player in tearing couples part. Husbands and wives who focus on criticizing one another actually are oblivious to an astounding 50 percent of the positive things their spouses are doing! They look for the negative, the downside – even when it’s not there.

Partners majorly damage one another by ignoring one another, berating one another, and listening to fight. We damage to our relationships when our partners hear a constant drumbeat of criticism. People who deliberately ignore their partner or respond minimally – a Neanderthal grunt (I’m guilty too!) – can do damage to the relationship by making their partner feel invisible and not valued.

No less an authority than the Mayo Clinic said that kindness is more than a behavior – it’s an art. Kindness, and I quote, “has been shown to increase self-esteem, empathy, and compassion, and improve moods. It can decrease blood pressure and cortisol, a stress hormone, which directly impacts stress levels. People who give of themselves in a balanced way also tend to be healthier and live longer. Being kind boosts serotonin and dopamine, which are neurotransmitters in the brain that give you feelings of satisfaction and well-being and cause the pleasure/reward centers in your brain to light up. Endorphins, which are your body’s natural pain killer, also can be released. ...”

Research tells us that kindness is the most important predictor of stability and satisfaction in a marriage. Much like love, kindness reciprocates! If it doesn’t come naturally to you, treat it like a muscle, and exercise it. Kindness doesn’t mean you can’t get mad and express your anger. Kindness simply dictates the way you express that anger or disappointment or frustration. You can throw darts, or you can explain why you were triggered. And kindness isn’t always about chocolates and diamonds and furs...it’s even moreso being helpful, generous, and considerate.

As the normal stresses of marriage and life pile up – kids, careers, financial issues, intimacy disconnects – couples tend to put less into the relationship. Don’t! Be intentional in keeping your mate first and giving him or her the benefit of the doubt when they are running late or distracted or quiet. Be patient in probing. Ask questions but don’t demand answers.

Our great God calls us to walk the high road of kindness. It may be lonely, but we are certainly not alone. Because He walks it with us. Be kind!

Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen, Ephesians 4:29.

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