Good Manners in Marriage
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. 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 15 tips that will help all of us become a better mate.
1. Say please and thank you. It shows respect and appreciation.
2. Pick up after yourself. We are adults, and unless physical help is needed, 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, do not stop because you are married. Things we did for each other during our courtship should continue after we say, “I do."
5. Have good table manners. As athletic coaches say, “Practice like you play.” If you develop bad table habits at home, they will surface in public.
6. Help without being asked. If you truly do not know what to do, then ask.
7. Show random acts of kindness. My husband and I have a card we pass back and forth to help in this area. It simply says, “Because I Love You.” We leave the card in the area where we have performed a random act. A good example was when one of our dogs did the doo 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. Although running late to work, my husband stopped to clean up instead of leaving it for me. He displayed a random act of kindness.
8. Recognize the little things. Every night I receive a shoulder rub while we curl up in bed to watch a show. My husband knows this is a stress reliever for me. Recently he had a stressful day and wanted to soak in a hot bath. I told him I would have it ready for him when he arrived home. It was a small act of kindness. Recognize the little things by showing appreciation in your words and 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 re-surfaced during covid quarantine and it never gets old! The short clip 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 we have all been guilty of these in our relationships, but healthy marriages go out of their way to rid these from their communication styles. When a spouse does slip up, they aggressively attempt to repair the damage.
Always check with your spouse, first, before committing to plans (even if the plans are family).
13. Do not accept an invitation from someone without first checking with your spouse. If the invitation 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 is 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, the kind thing to do is 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 controls what you do or that you are seeking permission. It means you are being considerate of the fact you are now part of a team. And a championship team knows they must 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 with a place setting. Mealtime is special and it is often the only time during the day couples will come together to talk. You will learn more from your spouse, and your children, at the dinner table than almost any other place. Do not neglect this important part of family life. The table serves as a physical anchor in a home. It gathers people together for the most precious moments in life.
15. Instead of listing your spouse’s poor behavior, first make a list of things you need to correct in 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. He does not control me. We can discuss our frustrations, but I do not have the power to change him. When we correct our own behavior, though, usually a positive side-affect is our spouse adjusts, too. Do not change yourself to manipulate your partner, though. This is deceptive and will backfire. Make improvements to yourself because you value who you are as a person. If you work on things you can control (yourself), I believe you will be pleased with the positive outcomes in your marriage, too.
If manners are nothing more than the outward expression of 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 a little experience now behind you, these words 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 kindness? “Love does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.” Do you humble yourself when dealing with your spouse? “Love does not dishonor.” Do you stand up for your spouse? “Love is not self-seeking.” Are your motives pure? “Love is not easily angered.” Do you hold your tongue? “Love 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,