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Monday, May 16, 2016

Kindness is like a warm tropical breeze blowing through your marriage.

Love is kind. At least that's how the Bible talks about love in 1 Corinthians 13, the famous love chapter.
It's surprisingly easy to let a pattern of unkindness seep into your marriage. Little annoyances become big ones over time. Unmet needs cause bitterness to settle in. Even if unkindness doesn't characterize your marriage, would you and your spouse specifically describe each other as kind?

I'm not sure I have always appreciated the power of kindness to change the climate of my marriage. I used to be a lot more focused on myself, my circumstances and what I was getting from my wife. All of these affected my happiness and in turn, the amount of kindness I expressed.

When things were going well and I was happy, kindness came pretty easily. But if I was stressed or not feeling like my wife was doing all the things I thought she should to make me happy, I could easily let my pricklies come out. I think I treated kindness like a kind of reward. If I felt kindly, then fine, I'd be kind. If not, then frankly, I could be pretty unpleasant to be around.

Over the years, however, I've discovered that the cool thing about kindness is that isn't really all that difficult or costly. Regardless of whether I'm "feeling it" or not, all it takes is a little bit of awareness and intentionality.

Show a Little Kindness

Kindness doesn't need to come in the form of grand gestures. Here are a few small, simple ways to show kindness to your spouse.

Smile - Even after almost 33 years of marriage, my wife's smile still melts me to the core. Fortunately, she smiles easily and often. There is a look in her eyes when she smiles at me with kindness and love that warms my heart. You can do the same for your spouse.

Touch - Touch ranks high on my love language list. Same for my wife. But even if your primary love language doesn't include physical touch, it's still a powerful act of kindness. Sit close together, knees and thighs touching. Hold hands while you walk. Lightly touch your spouse's arm or the hair on his or her neck. Give a gentle back or neck massage. When we touch our brain releases Oxycontin, a powerful bonding chemical.

Encouragement - When kindness is lacking in your marriage, words of encouragement can go a long way to cause a shift. Text your spouse short bits of encouragement throughout the day.  "I love you."  "I'm praying for you." "Thanks for last night [wink]."  Make a phone call just to check in and say you were thinking about your spouse. Put a post-it note on your spouse's mirror with a kind thought, a word of appreciation or an encouraging scripture verse.

Sift Your Tone - Research suggests that more information is received by how you say something than by the words you use. Sure, words are important but your tone probably does more to convey kindness (or the opposite) than you realize. I know when I'm tired or stressed, I sometimes have an edginess to my tone that can convey things I don't intend to my wife. It's at these times I have to be more aware of how I'm saying things. It's not always easy. It helps to watch  your spouse's reaction to what you say in order to detect that you've sent unintended meaning by your tone or words. Be willing to admit it and make it right.

Grace - Our natural reaction to unkindness (intentional or not) is to react with unkindness in return. After all, we feel justified. The problem is that this only ups the ante in the discord and causes an escalation in the conflict, inviting more unkindness. But when we react with grace and forgiveness, it will deescalate the conflict and inject positive direction in the conversation. As I often say, grace is an invitation to intimacy. I'm not suggesting you allow your spouse to walk all over you, but I've observed that a lot of the unkindness in marriage is unintentional, so start with that assumption.

The Climate Changing Power of Kindness

Here's the coolest thing of all about kindness: when I'm in a funk of some kind, being kind toward my wife actually helps to lift me out of it. Yes, intentional kindness actually changes the climate of my marriage, of our home and in, in turn, within myself.

Further, when I'm having a hard time for whatever reason and my wife extends kindness to me in the face of my prickliness, it often melts off those prickles.

Want to take the chill out of the air of your marriage? Try intentionally blowing a little kindness into your relationship and watch things warm up!

What other simple ways have you and your spouse found to show kindness to each other? Leave a comment and share your ideas.

PS  In case you missed it, Part 1 of my Climate Change series is about the power of Affirmation.

Next Climate Changer: Prayer


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