Ah, February! Love is in the air! Valentine’s Day brings cards, flowers, chocolate and romance to millions of couples. The question is – will chocolate-covered caramels and moonlit dinners keep love alive?
Tom and I recently celebrated our 27thwedding anniversary at a lovely waterfront restaurant with a spectacular view of San Diego Bay. It was a perfect evening. A stunning sunset…fabulous food…even our server was a delight. In fact, when young Marissa learned it was our anniversary, she couldn’t wait to tell us all about the love of her life.
As it turns out, Marissa is newly engaged. She and her fiancé plan to marry this summer. Her pretty face turned radiant as she described her Prince Charming. “He’s super-smart and makes me laugh,” she effused. As Marissa detailed his impressive list of attributes – good looks, athletic build, great job…I couldn’t stop from interjecting, “He sounds wonderful, Marissa, but I’d love to know, is your fiancé "kind?”
While she may not realize it right now, the answer to that question could determine the success or failure of young Marissa’s marriage. At her age, neither did I.
Tom and I met on a blind date…dinner at Souplantation with the mutual friend who set us up! Like Marissa, I was drawn to Tom’s many positive qualities…his athleticism, military background and eyes so blue I could swim in them. His cute, southern accent and devilish sense of humor were irresistible. But over time, it was Tom’s kind heart I grew to love.
Good jobs can come and go. Good looks mostly go. And sometimes, during the tough times, it’s hard to have a sense of humor. But kind words and actions are ageless and can soften the blow of most any difficult situation.
As a young woman, I had no idea the impact kindness could have on a marriage. For one thing, it’s contagious! My tendency to be picky, negative and cynical is often neutralized by Tom’s ability to be kind, even during times of conflict.
Many experts extol the virtue of good communication in a marriage relationship. But communication skills are effective only when both parties approach problems with a spirit of kindness. With more than half of marriages ending in divorce, many scholars now agree the most important ingredient for a successful marriage is kindness.
Kindness means looking for the good in all the ordinary dealings with a partner. My Tom may not be big into rose bouquets or romantic poetry…but I never know when I’ll find my gas tank’s been topped off or the dry cleaning dropped off. He even changes the toilet paper roll! (Sorry gals…and his brothers are taken!)
Kindness also includes building positive experiences together. I can count on Tom (who can’t even stand sand between his toes) to cheer for me on the beach as I compete in a rough water swim. Tom, on the other hand, loves golf…on the links and on TV. I’d rather watch paint dry. But it makes Tom happy. And what do you know, watching the U.S. Open (with Tom’s personal commentary!) is actually a fun way to spend time together on a Sunday afternoon.
Some experts contend it’s important to tell your partner everything you feel, but kindness means some things simply don’t need to be said. Marriage counselor, Daniel Wile, says there are some differences, even annoying differences, in all relationships…even the very best. “Most,” he contends, “can be quietly accepted as part of the relationship.” Enough said.
We can also appreciate and acknowledge kindness from our partner. It’s not that difficult to say thank you, but so easy to forget. Not surprisingly, when I remember to thank Tom for a tender touch or doing the dishes, I’m likely to be on the receiving end of another act of kindness. Kindness begets kindness!
Finally, kindness involves helping each other. That should go without saying, but it’s not always easy. Selfishness and pride can often keep couples from experiencing the joy of supporting one another.
If you want more out of your marriage, follow singer Glen Campbell’s advice: “Try a little kindness.” You can start by taking advantage of everyday opportunities:
* Say “Good morning!”
* Call during the day just to say hi.
* Run an errand.
* Listen to your spouse and be quick with words of support and comfort.
* Speak gently and respectively.
* Do favors.
* Spend time together before going to sleep.
There are so many ways – planned and unplanned…to behave kindly toward your spouse. The more you do, the closer and healthier your relationship will be.
As for Marissa, I’m excited about her upcoming nuptials. It’s going to be a magical day for the two young lovers. My prayer is together they grow to find the magic can last if only they show each other a little kindness.
“If you want others to be happy, practice compassion. If you want to be happy, practice compassion.” ~Dalai Lama
Contact Carol by emailing her at Carol@palomarhealth.org.