For the final week of the #BeKind campaign, we uncover the secret to happily ever after – kindness.
What is the key to a healthy, lasting relationship? As it turns out, it’s kindness! American psychological researcher, John Gottman explains that kindness is the single most consistent predictor of a successful partnership. “Kindness makes each partner feel cared for, understood, and loved,” he wrote.
But isn’t kindness supposed to be automatic among couples? While that seems to be the case in theory, that does not always happen in practice. With stress from work, responsibilities of raising children, and demands of life piling up, we tend to forget to be kind to our partners. As we focus on other areas surrounding the relationship, sometimes we neglect our partners’ needs. Neglect leads to emotional distance, which slowly breeds contempt as we glare over each other’s mistakes. It is this breakdown in kindness that affects the quality of the relationship.
Here are some tips on how to keep the flames of kindness burning:
1. Simply listen
Nothing expresses kindness than listening to your significant other. Listening shows that you care what your partner has to say. Listening is understanding that your partner has deemed the topic important enough to bring it up in a conversation. When he rants about a bad day, listen. When she excitedly shares good news at work, listen. When he explains his side of the story, listen. Listen fully. Listen emphatically. Listen without judgment.
2. It’s the thought that counts
Imagine this scenario: Your husband is late for your dinner date. The excitement you initially felt for a romantic night out has turned into frustration because you feel taken for granted. He runs toward your table, bouquet in hand, only to find you in an already sour mood. What if the reason why he did not make it on time was that he made a stop to pick up those beautiful flowers?
How about this? You enter your home office to do some late night work. You look for the drafts you left on the table, and they’re gone. As it turns out, your wife put them away for you. Feeling tired, you can’t help but be annoyed because she invaded your personal space. In your anger, you fail to realize that she was only trying to help by tidying your work area as a thoughtful gesture.
We have to learn how to appreciate the intent. When overcome by negative emotions, we highlight the actions we feel offend us, and we forget to understand the good intentions behind them. When we take time to step back and look at the big picture, we will be surprised to find out that most of the time, our partners’ hearts are in the right place. The plan might not have worked out the way it was intended, but it was done with sincere motives.
3. Be kind even when you’re mad
It is hardest to be kind during a fight, but it is also the most crucial time to practice kindness. Here’s the ultimate challenge: How can you be kind and mad at the same time? Kindness is not about repressing anger; it is about choosing how to express it constructively. In times of conflict, you always have two options. You can respond with hurtful words and actions that may help you let our your emotions but will do irreversible damage to the relationship. Or you can express why you’re mad and then discuss how to best resolve the issue. Instead of shouting, “You did not wash the dishes again. You are absolutely useless!” you can say, “It’s irritating when you come home earlier, but you don’t make time to wash the dishes. It would really help me out if we could take turns with the chore.” Disagreements need not be destructive. When dealt with kindly, they can make relationships stronger.
4. Be genuinely happy for each other
Be kind when the going gets tough. Be kind when the going gets right. We tend to associate practicing kindness during difficult moments. But it is just as important for couples to treat each other with compassion during good times. Kindness comes in the form of being genuinely happy for your partner’s success, no matter how big or small. Congratulate her when she gets promoted to a more senior position. Celebrate with him when he tells you how he launched the project he’s been working on for months. These shared joys create stronger bonds in the relationship. They also make partners feel supported, encouraged, and worthy.
5. Show kindness every time
Small acts of kindness and thoughtfulness are the building blocks of every relationship. Buy flowers on your way home, to remind your partner that you thought about them today. (Our September partners, Flowers for Dreams has a breathtaking selection you can choose from.) You know they have a busy day at work, so pack their favorite lunch. Leave sweet notes for each other on the fridge. And no matter how busy you are, take the time out to enjoy each other’s company. That’s the power of kindness. It shows itself in the simplest and smallest of ways.
The backbone of a relationship is not grand romantic gestures; it’s the daily interactions that count. If there is one lesson we want you to take away from this article; it’s exercise kindness. Be kind always. Be kind when it’s difficult. Be kind even when you don’t think you have to be.
This wraps our #BeKind campaign. A big thanks to Flowers for Dreams for choosing the Chicago Public Library Foundation as their non-profit partner this September. 20% of the month’s profits will fund education programs for Chicagoans of all ages at Chicago Public Library. Flowers for Dreams has joined the Curious Movement, have you?