What is the secret to having the best relationships? This was the question asked of Betty White in an interview on the Today Show. They asked her this question mainly because of her age at that time, 93, seeking learned wisdom. Her response was “kindness, you don’t say the hurtful things even if you’re irritated or upset. Because that sticks, that sticks around or it just chips off the other person’s self-esteem”. Hmmmm, is kindness the secret? The definition of kindness is being friendly, generous, and considerate. Kindness is certainly one aspect of a long-lasting and happy relationship, and so much more! But let’s dig a little deeper to see what kindness might look like in our relationship.
We are familiar with everyday kindness, such as expressing a thank you to your partner as a show of appreciation for what is important to you. Kindness is expressed by overall friendliness, such as being happy to see your partner in the morning when you awake, or at the end of a long day. And consideration can be expressed by gestures such as making the coffee in the morning. However, can we go further in defining and expressing kindness? I say absolutely, and yet, sometimes it’s not that easy.
The Words We Use:
Kindness can be expressed in the words that we use to communicate with our partner. We all know that communication is complicated. However, we can begin with a particular way of communicating that many do in a relationship, but are often unaware of. I had one couple tell me that it was life changing in their relationship!
Frustrations, hurt, and fears are often expressed through accusations. Changing this can have a huge impact on your relationship as you will be bringing a gesture of kindness into your relationship.
For example, one might say make certain statements out of hurt but they are still accusations. For example, “your work is more important to you than I am” or “if you cared about me you would…..”, or “I feel that you don’t love me”. All of these statements are accusations. The problem with communicating in this manner is that your partner can only defend themselves, and this is the last thing that you need.
It is kinder to say – “I have really been missing spending time going out together and it’s important to me because that’s when I feel really loved” or “I feel cared for when we work on things around the house together”. Keep in mind that communicating in a kind way is never a guarantee that it will be responded to in a kind way. However, you can feel good and confident in how you express yourself, and you can let your partner know that you are working on expressing yourself with kinder words. And keep in mind that you are being a great role model for your partner and others to follow!
How you affect one another:
Kindness can be expressed in being aware of how we affect each other in our relationships. One might say to their partner phrases such as “you always come from work in a bad mood”. Their response might be, “well it’s not about you so why does it bother you?” Here’s the thing, all of us affect each other for various reasons. I’m not suggesting that the partner who comes home in a bad mood should shift to inauthenticity and pretend all is well. I am suggesting that the kind thing to do would be to acknowledge and validate your partner. You might say, “I’m so sorry that my mood from work spills over to our home life. I know that it is hard for you too when I’m in a bad mood. I appreciate your patience while I work through what I’m going through at work”.
Respect and Self-Respect:
We all know things like name calling, put downs, sarcasm, and blame are disrespectful. Respect and kindness can extend to so much more, to things such as listening and valuing each other’s opinions, needs, and feelings. Further examples would be, speaking kindly to and about each other, and supporting each other’s hobbies, career, and interests.
Equally important is self-respect. For example, recognize that if you extend kindness to your partner, you deserve it in return. Also recognize boundaries, meaning that you deserve to not be taken advantage of because you are being kind to your partner. Self-respect and kindness means that we take care of ourselves (not only others) in the best possible way with nourishing food, exercise, taking time for ourselves, play, and rest, among other things.
Random acts of kindness:
Let me say this first, we put our best selves forward when we date and many of us love to do this with acts of kindness! But, it is far easier to tap into our best selves with someone who has not yet hurt us. And yet, it always feels good to put our best selves forward.
Perhaps there are times when you feel that your partner does not deserve your best self, and that’s actually okay. You will have times in your relationship when ‘giving’ does not come easy for many reasons, such as when you’ve been hurt and your partner has not yet responded with empathy, regret, and remorse. However, you can still put your best self forward by not being hurtful towards your partner.
All of this being said, when things are going well in your relationship, consider performing random acts of kindness. We tend to give this to people in need or strangers, and it feels good. The truth is though that all of us have a need in one form or another. You can meet each other’s needs with random acts of kindness. For example, go further in expressing a thank you to your partner. Why are you thankful? Say more about what you appreciate about your partner. Express the things that you value. Balance seeing the best in each other along with the things that frustrate you! Express the kind things that you might think about but never express to each other. Do something unexpected that you know your partner will appreciate. This list goes on and on!
How kind are you to you? Many of us have a difficult time being kind to ourselves. I hope you give this statement major consideration:
“Be as kind to you as you want your partner to be toward you”
We learn what to expect from others when we extend the same expectation to ourselves.
Finally, an important act of kindness is forgiveness. This means to forgive your partner when they have hurt you and expressed empathy and remorse for causing you pain. And it is equally important to forgive yourself for those times that you have caused your partner pain. This is the greatest act of kindness.
* * * * *
If you want to learn more about relationships – I wrote this for you “Ten Essential Things I’ve Learned About Marriage & Relationships” I’ve included the lesson that saved my marriage. I care about the work that I put out to you, and I hope you find it helpful. Let me know!
And you can keep up with my writing on relationships, random thoughts and more by subscribing here.
One more thing… I really would love for you to share your thoughts with me. It’s not easy to do, I understand because it took me a long time to work up the courage to begin blogging! But I want to get to know you. When you feel ready, please feel free to share your thoughts with me in the comment section. And, if you would like me to blog about a specific topic – let me know!
If you think this blog will help a friend, please share it with them or share it on Facebook and Twitter!
Details of any stories told in my blogs have been changed to protect the identity of people that I work with in therapy.
Photo Credit: Nicu Buculei@ flicker.comShare