Good Manners in Marriage
Updated: Jun 3
We all like to think we have good manners in marriage, but with the people that are closest to us, we can sometimes find ourselves slipping a bit. As stated by Cindy Grosso of the Charleston School of Protocol, manners are not about a bunch of rules. Our manners are the outward manifestation of the condition of our heart. If we have a heart that loves, honors, respects and cherishes our spouse, then these traits will show in how we behave. With most marriages, the comfort we feel with each other can lead to laziness if we are not careful. Below are the top 15 tips I would give to help all couples step up their game a bit.
1. Say please and thank you. It shows respect and appreciation.
2. Pick up after yourself. We are all adults, and unless you need physical help, you can take responsibility for your own mess.
3. Show the same courtesies to your spouse that you would to others. They are the most important person in your life. Why would we not treat them as well as we do those around us? If you have children, it is important to model to them how a husband and wife create a healthy marriage.
4. If you opened the door for each other when you dated, don’t stop because you are married. The things we did for each other during our courtship should continue even after we say, “I do.”
5. Have good table manners. As coaches will say, “Practice like you play.” If you develop bad table habits at home, they will surface in public.
6. Help without being asked, but if you truly don’t know then ask.
7. Show random acts of kindness. My husband and I have a card we pass back and forth to help us in this area. It simply says, “Because I Love You.” We will leave the card in the area where we have done a random act (it doesn’t count for the chores we each agreed to do on a regular basis). An example of this was when one of our dogs made a huge mess in the kitchen. I walked into the room, but the only thing I saw was the “Because I Love You” card sitting in the middle of the floor. On his way to work, my husband stopped to clean everything up instead of asking me to do it since he was rushing out the door (which he could have done because he was running late). He displayed a random act of kindness (actually, in this case, it was a big act of kindness).
8. Recognize the little things. Every night I receive a shoulder rub while we curl up in bed to watch a 20-minute sitcom. My husband knows this is a stress reliever and it is a little thing (actually, a big thing) he does for me. He had a stressful day recently and said he wanted to soak in a hot bath. I told him I would get it ready and made sure the water and bubbles were just right. It was small, but it was an act of kindness. We both recognize these little things by showing our appreciation in our words and our actions.
9. Practice active listening. When you are in a conversation, the best way to do this is by regurgitating back to your spouse what they have just said. It shows you are listening, and it helps avoid miscommunication.
10. Brush your teeth and wash your body. Yes, good hygiene is good manners.
11. Knock before entering a room. Especially if your spouse works from home. Just because we live together does not mean we no longer respect each other’s space. This 2017 video has re-surfaced during the coronavirus quarantine. For anyone that has children, it resonates! The short clip is hysterical and confirms why a closed door is usually shut for a reason.
12. Do not be critical of your spouse. Remember that criticism is different than critiquing. Healthy critiquing is important, but criticism can ruin a marriage. The Gottman Institute has identified what they term The Four Horsemen in marital communication. Through extensive research, they found the most destructive and biggest predictors of divorce were criticism, defensiveness, contempt and stonewalling. I think most couples will admit that we have all been guilty of all four of these in our relationships, but healthy marriages go out of their way to rid these from their communication styles and when they do slip up, they aggressively attempt to repair the damage.
13. Don’t accept an invitation from someone without first checking with your spouse. If the invite is for both of you, the best way to respond is by saying, “That sounds great. Let me check with Joe to see if we are free.” Then, the two of you can decide together what you want to do. It’s a bad idea to commit your spouse to something without checking with them first. The same approach is true if the invitation is just for you. If a man receives an invitation to play golf one Saturday, the kind thing to do would be to say, “I’d really like that. Let me check with Debby to make sure we don’t have other commitments.” Maybe Debby had other ideas as to how you would spend your Saturday. It does not mean she gets to control what you do or that you are seeking permission. It means you are being considerate of the fact that you are now part of a team. And a championship team learns to work together on the field if they want to win.
14. Have dinner together whenever possible. If you can, eat around a table that has been set. Mealtime is special and it is often the only time during the day couples will come together. Life happens at the table, and you will learn more from your spouse, and your children, at dinner, than almost any other place. Do not neglect this very important part of family life. I feel strongly that the table serves as a physical anchor in a home. It keeps everyone centered and grounded.
15. Instead of making a list of faults to correct your spouse’s behavior, first make a list of things to correct your behavior. The reality is, we can all get on each other’s nerves. The bigger reality is, there is nothing I can do to change my spouse’s behavior. I do not control him. We can have discussions about things that are bothering us, but I still do not have the power to change him. Only he can do that. When we make changes in our own self, though, usually a positive side benefit is that our spouse often changes, too. Do not make changes in yourself to manipulate your spouse, though. This will be seen and backfire. Make changes, because you value who you are as a person. If you work on changing the only thing you can control (which is yourself), I think you will be pleased with the potential changes that occur in your marriage, too.
If manners are really nothing more than the outward expression of what is going on inside our heart, then we want our hearts to scream: I respect you; I honor you; I cherish you. 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 is one of the most quoted books of the bible in wedding ceremonies. But challenge yourself to re-read these words after the festivities have passed and you are settled into a daily routine with your spouse. With some experience now behind you, they take on new meaning.
My husband and I try to show the condition of our hearts (manners) by speaking one of each other’s top love languages: spontaneous hugs. We were in the cold mountains when my daughter-in-law took this picture of us (unbeknownst to us). My husband looked too cozy not to hug him!
“Love is patient.” Are you? “Love is kind.” Do your words reflect this? “It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.” Do you humble yourself when dealing with your spouse? “It does not dishonor.” Do you stand up for your spouse? “It is not self-seeking.” Are your motives pure? “It is not easily angered.” Do you hold your tongue? “It keeps no record of wrongs.” Do you forgive? “Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.” Do you play a “one-upmanship” game with your spouse? “Love always protects, always trusts, always hopes and always perseveres.” You and your spouse are in this for the long-haul. Make it a good one!
Together with you,