Our Partners in Love Deserve Courtesy and Kindness, Too

“Remember that true friendship is the basis for any lasting relationship. The person you choose to marry is deserving of the courtesies and kindnesses you bestow on your friends.”—Jane Wells

Such a simple concept, yet so hard for some of us to accomplish, particularly when we are either in the wrong relationship, or have let too much time pass in what was once a promising relationship.

Courtesy and kindness should… nay, MUST… be the basis of our interactions with others.  If not, those relationships will become sources of irritation, anger and resentment. Or – equally as sad – the initial caring and love will just wither and fade away.

My first marriage was a battleground from day one (I was just 18 when we first got involved), and I spent 30 years terribly unhappy.  It seemed that every day was turmoil and drama, and I was always exhausted from the negativity, the anger, and the just plain awfulness of it all. My education and training told me life could be otherwise, but I didn’t think it was possible for me.  (A note here: my ex-husband had a form of brain dysfunction that left him with few social skills, and the inability to empathize with others even though he loved me greatly.  I felt trapped in a world of broken mirrors…a world where every look, every gesture, every action came out magnified, distorted and just plain wrong.)

Then John came along completely unexpectedly, and I found someone who was as eager and ready for friendship and communication and connection as I… he is my best friend and I am his. We are both very aware of the value of what we have, and we nurture that relationship, rather than ignoring it or taking it for granted..

In a relationship with constant pain, anger and drama it’s reasonably easy to point fingers and say “It’s your fault. You weren’t kind.  You said horrible things.  You didn’t watch my back because you were too busy protecting your own.”

But what about a relationship in which there are few disagreements or overt difficulties, because there is little communication, where signs of affection are absent and where each individual does his or her own thing without consulting the other?

It might be surprising to outsiders looking in that this type of relationship is just as lacking in kindness and courtesy as the battleground of my first marriage.  “But they don’t fight!  They’re living in such harmony… the relationship seems so ideal!”. And so there is shock when one partner leaves… and the sympathy goes to the obviously wounded partner left behind.

Yet in such a relationship the emotional distance is as substantial – or perhaps even more so – as in the battleground marriages… the acts of kindness and courtesy are just as lacking.  For when two people live together without discussing issues, and without occasionally disagreeing, they are not being honest with themselves or the other person.

All relationships have areas of contention that should be acknowledged and worked out in some mutually agreed-upon fashion.  To ignore those issues is not a kindness; it suggests the relationship is too fragile, or not important enough, to pursue a more meaningful understanding of the other person’s values and points of view.  The same goes for relationships in which there are no signs of affections.  How can it be considered kind or courteous to withhold the simple daily acts that show you care?

Ms Wells, author of the opening quote, has with very simple clarity, identified the foundations of a successful relationship.  It is up to the rest of us to define kindness and courtesy as they apply to our relationships with others.

Thanks to one of my former high school teachers, Rodney Abbott, for posting the Jane Wells quote.

 
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Published in: on September 16, 2013 at 9:17 am  Leave a Comment  

Resentment: Death By 1000 Cuts

Resentment is like drinking poison and waiting for the other person to die.

— Carrie Fisher

Resentment in a marriage could be called death by 1000 cuts.  Few marriages fall apart because of one major issue… it’s usually the accumulation of many small resentments over time, dozens and hundreds of them, that just add up.

Several years ago, when Husband and I had just started living together, I was describing to an acquaintance how much I appreciated his attentiveness to small household-type details.  For example, he doesn’t leave his dirty socks and underwear lying around, and in fact, one evening when I happened to pick them up before he had a chance to, Husband said, “Hey, I’ll get that”.  My response was, “It’s okay, I’m heading towards the hamper anyway.”

My acquaintance commented: “Yeah, but I’ll bet he saw that look in your eyes that told him you were p*ssed off.”

I was taken aback for a moment, and then realized two things… a) had it been my first husband, that resentment would have been there, and b) she was saying more about her own relationship than she was about mine.  But with Husband, there’s no resentment about the little things that most couples squabble about.

Does that mean he’s perfect? Ha! Absolutely not.

Does that mean I don’t notice the annoying habits he has?  Of course I do. 

I notice that he often leaves me to do the dishes, and like most men doesn’t seem to realize that cleaning the counter and range are part of that job…. and after 4½ years he still doesn’t know where the fire engine red collander goes (which is in a different place than the cheap stainless collander). 

He can’t be trusted to wash my clothes, and when folding laundry will pair one of my black ribbed trouser socks with a plain one.  He snores.  Loudly.  He smokes like a chimney and our garage—which is now called The Clubhouse—reeks as a result.  He forgets to shave sometimes which makes his face really scratchy. 

But I also notice that if I lose my keys (a daily occurrence), he’ll hunt high and low for them, even though it isn’t his fault and even though it’s the 90-hundredth time it’s happened. 

He always helps bring in the groceries without being asked; he will eat anything I put in front of him even if he doesn’t like it or it’s vegan. 

He prefers to be a homebody, but if I want to go out (with friends, to a movie, a restaurant or whatever), he’ll go… and not gripe too much.  

He calls me several times a day (even if he’s in The Clubhouse and I’m just yards away inside) to tell me little things he’s just seen, heard or thought of.  He looks for movies we can watch on television together, and he remembers anniversaries.  He thinks of things my daughter would like.

He doesn’t complain when I forget to shave sometimes (okay, often) and my legs get really scratchy.

He is as excited by our love as I am.

Given all this… why in heaven’s name would I waste time on resentment?

 

 

Soul-Mate Marriages is saddened by the high rate of divorce in the U.S., with even fewer second marriages succeeding.  We recognize the reasons are complicated but believe the trend can be reversed with trust and hard work.

Neither of us is a relationship saint, but our marriage, the 2nd for both of us, has brought more joy, satisfaction, and peace than we could have imagined. 

We hope our insights will be helpful. 

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