When our three children were little we worked with them on their table manners. Keep your elbows off the table. Don’t talk with food in your mouth. Don’t interrupt.
It took about 1/2 of a meal to realize there needed to be some reinforcement, but it had to have some fun in it. Heidi found a small, 4 inch, stuffed pink hippo that she introduced to the family (parents included). Whoever transgressed a manner, got the hippo in front of their plate. At the end of the meal, whoever had the hippo had to clean the dishes! For the most part it worked. The kids learned their manners, and they kept us in line on our manners as well!
We certainly don’t advocate a hippo or negative reinforcement for manners in marriage, but there are five marriage manners that we believe are important for fostering a healthy environment of connection and respect. Write them down, talk about them, and apply them this week to your marriage. Watch what happens!
1. Reciprocate positive overtures
Responding in-kind to your mate subtly affirms that you appreciate their gesture. It provides positive reinforcement of an everyday interest in your life.
When your spouse asks you about your day, ask them about theirs. When they compliment or affirm you, offer back similar sentiments.
Be on the lookout for any positive overture made toward you. Instead of being a sponge and soaking it in, be a mirror and reflect that goodwill back on your spouse.
In intimate conversation we want to be heard and known. As a result, we often jump in with our opinion or insight without fully listening to what our spouse is saying.
Be patient and wait until they are done. Then, before giving your insight check back with them to be sure you heard accurately. You might respond, “So what I hear you saying is…?”
By waiting you communicate that your spouse has value and worth. You communicate that they are worthy of all your attention.
3. Put down your _______ in conversation
Fill in the blank with whatever electronic device captures your attention. Brad’s parents have been married 56 years. As Brad shared this with is father, his dad jokingly said, “The way I solved this one was by getting her an electronic of her own!” (No, Dad, that doesn’t count! 🙂 )
4. Be polite in your speech
The simple manners of how we speak to each other can slip in the dailyness of marriage. Here are a few to re-institute in your marriage:
- Remember to say “please” and “thank you.”
- Make requests of your spouse, not directives. (“Would you hand me the remote?” vs. “Hand me the remote.”)
- Use a gentle tone of voice.
- Compliment instead of criticize.
5. Act like a gentleman or lady
The very mindset of how you respond to your spouse changes when you think of yourself acting as you would in the presence of the finest dignitary or person of honor. Your spouse is worthy of your greatest honor and your finest behavior. Yes—you can still be “yourself”—in the most well-mannered way possible. But for this week, try behaving as a gentleman or lady would…and enjoy your spouse’s reaction!
These are just five manners to bring into your marriage. What else can you think of to share? Start now, mind your manners and build your marriage!