Gary Chapman helped millions of couples with his book The Five Love Languages, in which he identified five “languages” that communicate love to those around us.
I quickly saw that I was a “words of affirmation” and “quality time” person, whereas my wife Debbi valued physical touch above all others.
Many couples are frustrated when they discover that they do not share a common love language with their spouse, reinforcing just how different two people can be.
As insightful as the love languages can be, I want to suggest we all “speak” one language that can strengthen our marriage - kindness.
“Kindness is the strongest indicator for a successful long-term relationship,” according to Professor Arthur Aron in Discovery Health.
What is kindness?
Kindness is a biblical virtue and is often defined as charitable behaviour towards others. It also involves care and consideration.
Investigators from the Open University discovered individuals take great heart from the simple acts of kindness their other half shows to them, including making cups of tea and taking out the bin.
Entitled Enduring Love - Couple Relationships in the 21st Century, the study considered the views of more than 4,000 adults and suggested washing the dishes can almost be as effective as giving a dozen red roses as a means of expressing love.
They found that a generous marriage has a much greater chance of being a happy one.
Feeling appreciated goes a long way to making someone feel good. In fact research shows it makes both the giver and the receiver happy. Kind acts help engender a sense of gratitude, which is linked to positive feelings. And the giver benefits from the altruism, another important factor in studies of well-being.
As a culture we underrate the importance of kindness in our romantic relationships. We are enamored of the grand gesture – such as being whisked away on a holiday at short notice. But the researchers have concluded it’s not the big displays of affection but rather the small, frequent, even mundane, ones that matter.
- Look for the good
Be on the lookout for small acts of kindness and service by your spouse. Notice them. Maybe even write them down. What things has your wife done for you lately that you appreciate?
- Actively build positive experiences into your relationship
What are some of the activities and traditions that you and your wife enjoy together? Sitting and talking for a few minutes every day? Taking walks? Watching a favourite program together? A certain hobby? Discuss together the things that build your relationship and make them a regular part of your life together.
- Some things simply don't need to be said
Each of us has limitations and weaknesses. It is not helpful to think about our partner's weaknesses a lot or to talk about them. Most of us are motivated by being loved and supported. When you are tempted to say unkind things, you might make a practice of saying instead, "Right now I am frustrated. I want to wait until I'm feeling better to make any requests and suggestions."
- Help her
What are some things that are especially difficult for your wife? How can you help in those areas?
- Practise spontaneous kindness
Do something nice just for the sake of it! Pick up a cute greeting card, buy some flowers, give a back rub or cook her favourite dish. Kindness between you and your wife can definitely help improve your relationship and help you grow closer. Start with a small act of kindness today!