Your marriage needs kindness now more than ever.
This pandemic has forced us into isolation with our families, making it more difficult to show kindness to your spouse than it was before. The usual stresses of life like juggling kids, cooking, school, work, and sports have now been compounded by a feeling of uncertainty about the future. If you or your spouse have been laid off, the stress builds. If you are both working from home while trying to educate your kids, it adds more to the pile.
Kindness is the one trait most people look for in a mate. But what is kindness? It’s more than just being nice. It means you go out of your way to help, serve, and support someone.
If you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. Luke 6:33
It’s weird how something we never expect can set us off. Take this story for example.
Miranda came home with several bags full of groceries and texted Cory asking him to come out and help carry them in. Their apartment is on the fourth floor, and the tenants were still waiting for the elevator repairman to get there.
She was excited to make dinner that night. It had been a hard week because Cory was laid off on Monday, so she’d decided that she was going to make his favorite meal. He’d been working so hard looking for a new job, and she wanted him to just relax for the evening.
She woke up with the idea that morning and was determined to turn tonight into a date night at home since they couldn’t eat out. A friend had a gift card to Miranda’s usual grocery store that she wasn’t going to use, and had given it to her the day before. So she took the card and joyfully picked out Cory’s favorite foods.
When Cory arrived at the car, he greeted her with a smile and a quick kiss and then went to pick up a few of the bags. That’s when his demeanor suddenly changed. He scooped up the bags and huffed up the flights of steps.
Miranda followed him, unsure of what had just happened. When she came through the door, he held a package of steaks that he had found in the bag.
“What is this?” he demanded.
“Steak,” she said.
He rolled his eyes. “I can see that,” he snipped.
“Then why did you ask?” Miranda said, feeling anger and disappointment bubbling up inside.
Cory sighed and slammed the meat down on the counter. “I can’t believe you wasted money on these. We have plenty of meat in the freezer.”
Her excitement about the plans she so carefully made during the day suddenly evaporated. She decided that he didn’t deserve all the great plans she had made.
“I was going to surprise you, but never mind. You never appreciate what I try to do for you!” She pushed him out of the way and put the groceries away rather emphatically.
The evening turned into a night of the cold-shoulder and silent treatment.
This story by no means is saying that only men are the first to start conversations like this. We women are not always the innocent victim of a misunderstanding. Members of both sexes are equally capable of being unkind to their spouses.
Both Miranda and Cory felt completely justified in their unkind words and actions. But no one won. They both lost, and that’s what often happens when we don’t think about how we can be kind in every situation.
What excuses do you have?
Do you make excuses on why you can’t be kind? These reasons, no matter how valid they seem to you, are holding you back, not only in your marriage but also in every area of your life.
If, after an outburst, you tell yourself, “Well, that’s just who I am. That is how I react to ______. I can’t change it,” you are limiting what God can do in your life. More often, it’s just a way of holding on to a feeling or idea that feels comfortable, and you just don’t want to let it go.
I can relate to that one. That idea held me back for years. There are people in my life who still refuse to give up their old comfy mindset because it’s all they know, and they like it that way.
If you want to be kind, you need to put it into action, but you can’t do that until you change the beliefs that keep you from being the best spouse you can be.
What happens when we are unkind?
When kindness is not a priority in your marriage, it puts your brain on alert. If you argue a lot, you and your spouse may be subconsciously expecting arguments at any moment. Your brain has seen a pattern of unkindness, and even though it’s not useful, it is normal. It is familiar, and your brain’s job is to protect you and keep you safe. So it looks for hints that an argument may be coming, and when it notices that, it starts preparing you for the fight.
When this happens, the connection between spouses begins to erode. You no longer feel close, and the longer it goes on, the less you believe that your marriage will ever be like it was in the beginning. More negative thoughts about your spouse and yourself creep in. You feel beaten down, and maybe worthless. You feel resentful because you now automatically think that your spouse thinks of you as worthless.
Thinking this way is a bad habit that you can change, and it starts with identifying specific negative thoughts that are holding you back.
Create a new belief
I believe God has shown kindness toward me, so I should be kind to others.
He sent His Son, brought you to Himself, and saved you. The kindness He shows you each and every day should inspire you to show that kindness to other people, especially your spouse.
I am capable of significant changes with God’s help
The best way to keep arguments from destroying your marriage is to think of what is better for your marriage, and not what’s best for you.
No matter what your life has been like to this point, you can renew your mind and become kinder. Choose a new thought, a verse, and particular habits to put into action. Model your behavior off of someone you think treats their spouse well.
Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Ephesians 4:31
I can look for reasons my spouse isn’t kind, and try to help instead of throwing fuel on the fire.
Sometimes, both men and women can have hormonal imbalances that make us act irrationally. At other times, stress causes our unreasonable reactions. For men, a stressor that could be an underlying cause of unkindness could be a feeling that he is not fulfilling his roles as protector and provider.
That’s very possibly why Cory lashed out at Miranda over meat. He had lost his job and felt like he wasn’t able to provide for her during this time. Men will tend to display fight or flight responses at times like these, and Cory definitely went into fight mode.
Women are more worried about feeling disconnected and alone. Cory’s reaction to the cost of the groceries made her feel unimportant. She felt like all the energy she had spent creating plans for that night was wasted.
Live out that new belief
Don’t be rude
Don’t be rude to your spouse.
I know you don’t think you can help it. You may tell yourself that it’s just the way you are, and when someone says something that sets you off, even if it’s your spouse, you will respond with exactly what you are feeling at the moment.
That attitude brings you to yell at or be mean to your spouse when they make you angry. And by doing that, you are creating more arguments and increasing the emotional distance between you.
Instead of accepting that this is just the way you are, know that God calls you to renew your mind. You can change the way you think, or He wouldn’t say you should.
When you are upset, stop and think. Perhaps recite Colossians 4:6 to yourself, and then respond in a way that will be uplifting and creates a path to peace. You’ll find you have a closer relationship with better communication than you ever have before.
Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person. Colossians 4:6
How many people act like a child in their marriages today? They want what they want, and their spouse should be ready to give it to them.
Look objectively at your own behavior the last time you were upset with your spouse, and rank it from 1-10 on the maturity scale. Are you disappointed in the number?
We all have lapses in judgment. We all get emotional and say or do things we shouldn’t, but if you are reacting childishly often, it’s time to change the way you think about dealing with stressful situations in your marriage.
Don’t play the good guy bad guy game. Don’t look for someone to blame like you did when you were little and didn’t want to admit that you had eaten all the cookies.
Get alone with God, and ask for His help. Then determine that you are going to make changes; that you are going to have different reactions from this point on.
When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways. 1 Corinthians 13:11
Pay attention to even the little things.
How do you respond when your spouse tries to get your attention?
Your spouse trying to get your attention doesn’t mean they are jumping up and down and doing a dance. It can be as simple as talking to you about something important to them.
Do you listen and respond when they talk about a hobby they are passionate about? I probably show my husband about 5000 adorable crochet patterns each week, and he actually looks at them! Just a simple smile or nod is enough for me to know that he at least acknowledged my excitement about it.
Listening to your spouse talk about the things that are important to them or just something that caught their attention or made them laugh is a great way to be kind to them.
Even if you don’t get excited about things like sports, the news, or movies, remember that your spouse does! If you want them to be passionate about you, you need to show that you are excited about them; all of them, not just the parts you are interested in too.
Try making a point of listening and saying something appropriate in response to their bids for attention.
Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Philippians 2:4
Focus on the good
Part of being kind to your spouse is having the best attitude about them you can have.
Instead of focusing on the things your spouse does that bother or annoy you, train your brain to think good things. The more positive thoughts you have about your spouse, the easier it is to forgive and forget when they make mistakes.
And they all will. So will you.
For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, Romans 3:23
Make them feel special.
Kindness is contagious.
Your kind words and actions toward your spouse can bring out the kindness inside of them. It can make it easier for them to be kind to you.
We get comfortable in our unkind behaviors. If it’s been something that has been part of your relationship for a long time, it may seem weird or awkward to step out and change that. But making this simple change can completely shift the way you feel about your marriage.
So, smile. Say thank you. Give them a back rub or bring them flowers or another small gift you know they’ll appreciate.
Do one of their chores, or something that you know they hate to do, like dishes or folding laundry. Make them feel special.
Kindness is a muscle. It gets stronger the more you use it.
So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith. Galatians 6:10
Make your marriage better with kindness
When you make a point of being kind to your spouse, it has many positive effects on your relationship.
Kindness will reduce the stress in your marriage and make you both feel more secure because you won’t be worried that your spouse is so unhappy they might leave.
Your spouse will feel lucky to have you. They will appreciate you more and welcome the effort you put in, even when it’s not perfect. They’ll see what the thought was behind it.
They’ll start to tell people you are the best spouse ever. And isn’t that what we all want to hear?
Reboot your marriage
Regardless of what their reaction will be, what small kindness can you do for your spouse today?
Kindness compounds. The kindness you show will come back to you. Not necessarily as quickly as you think it should, but it will happen. Showing kindness is vital for a successful marriage.
Maybe kindness is not the norm in your marriage. Perhaps it feels weird even to try because you’ve treated each other unkindly for so long. That means it’s time to reboot your marriage and start fresh.