ERP 125: How Kindness Can Strengthen Your Love
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A long while back I remember this article from The Atlantic circulating on social media, titled “Masters of Love,” by Emily EsfahaniI Smith.
One of the main points of the article is the key to lasting relationships is kindness and generosity. Based on the research of Gottman and others, “kindness (along with emotional stability) is the most important predictor of satisfaction and stability in a marriage.”
When kindness is expressed in relationship, couples feel more care, consideration, love, and understanding. Kindness contributes to an overall feeling of goodwill and positivity. Partners are inspired and motivated to continue the pattern, which results in a positive cycle of love and generosity.
“There are two ways to think about kindness. You can think about it as a fixed trait: either you have it or you don’t. Or you could think of kindness as a muscle. In some people, that muscle is naturally stronger than in others, but it can grow stronger in everyone with exercise. Masters tend to think about kindness as a muscle. They know that they have to exercise it to keep it in shape. They know, in other words, that a good relationship requires sustained hard work” by Emily EsfahaniI Smith.
As positive emotions increase, so does the relationship satisfaction and fulfillment. This episode will give you some ideas on how to cultivate more kindness and generosity in your relationship.
(Please listen to the podcast episode or read the transcript to hear explanations, stories and examples.)
5 Tips for Building Kindness
1. Do a Loving Kindness Meditation.
As I talked about last week, if we can set a positive tone, it can dramatically affect our interactions in a beneficial way. By doing a short loving-kindness meditation, it can generate boundless feelings of warmth and tenderness.
Excerpt from the Metta Meditation by Metta Institute
“To practice loving-kindness meditation, sit in a comfortable and relaxed manner. Take two or three deep breaths with slow, long and complete exhalations. Let go of any concerns or preoccupations. For a few minutes, feel or imagine the breath moving through the center of your chest – in the area of your heart.
Metta is first practiced toward oneself, since we often have difficulty loving others without first loving ourselves. Sitting quietly, mentally repeat, slowly and steadily, the following or similar phrases:
May I be happy. May I be well. May I be safe. May I be peaceful and at ease.
After a period of directing loving-kindness toward yourself, bring to mind a friend or someone in your life who has deeply cared for you. Then slowly repeat phrases of loving-kindness toward them:
May you be happy. May you be well. May you be safe. May you be peaceful and at ease.
As you say these phrases, again sink into their intention or heartfelt meaning. And, if any feelings of loving-kindness arise, connect the feelings with the phrases so that the feelings may become stronger as you repeat the words.”
Here are a few additional resources:
2. Be a Person of Increase.
Being a person of increase is adding good in some way to the interaction or situation. The idea here is to add positivity and generate a sense of good will.
- Consider how you and your partner’s life can be improved.
- Offer affirmation and encouragement.
- Send a thoughtful or supportive text. “You are doing great. Keep up the great work. I am so proud of the work you are doing.”
- Let your partner know you are thinking about them (leave them a voice mail, send them an email or a text).
- Look for a way to help. Contribute in some way. Be of service.
- Do something nice out of the ordinary.
Ask them how how their learning is going.
Watch a game of theirs.
Ask them to share/show their latest progress.
3. Give unsolicited attention & interest.
People feel important when they have your attention and focus. We are all so busy, and most us feel as though time is extremely valuable. When someone feels they are the priority, it can help them feel significant, important, and like they matter.
- Do you show your partner non-verbally that you are listening, interested, and curious? Open posture, giving good eye contact, and nodding are all signs that show you are deeply listening.
- Do you get curious about their life and what they experienced during the day? Do you take the time to think about it and deeply listen?
- Do you give them the space to talk about what they want? Showing that you are available and present without an agenda.
- When your partner has a complaint, do you take the time to listen? Do ask them to share more, so that you can understand them more fully?
- Do you spend time with them? To just be?
Keep them company with a chore.
Go for an errand with them.
Simply sit next to them.
- Do you express interest in something that is important to them? Like a project, hobby or sport.
Ask them how their learning is going.
Watch a game of theirs.
Ask them to share/show their latest progress.
4. Speak positively about your partner.
Giving your partner a authentic compliment can really brighten their day.
On the contrary, let’s say a couple is getting ready to go out on a double date with some friends. The couple finishes getting ready and meets at the front door. They look at each other and say “Are you ready?” Not acknowledging each others efforts to look nice. They make their way to meet their friends at a restaurant. Upon arriving they greet their friends with hellos and hugs. The husband says to the other woman, “You look nice.” The wife hears this and feels a little bad. I have heard this complaint several times before from both genders.
In parenting advice, it is recommended to acknowledge your child’s strengths and success when talking to others, when they are listening. Not to brag or say something disingenuous, but to focus on some of their positives. It is how you represent them, what you choose to focus on, and highlight. Imagine, if were young and you had made some great progress with soccer, math, and science. And you overheard your mom talking to the neighbor. In response to the neighbor asking about you, she says “Good, but you could be doing a better job keeping your room more tidy.” You may feel bad, a little misunderstood and as though your positive qualities are not being recognized and given credit.
This is one of the most common objections that I get in my sessions with couples and families is how someone unfairly characterises them. We all want to feel loved, appreciated, and valued by others.
When someone fairly and accurately acknowledges your efforts, it can feel really nice. You may feel a sense of recognition and that your positive strides count and make a difference. You may feel valued and an increase in self-esteem.
- Pay attention to how you talk about your partner to others.
- Do you complain or point out their flaws?
- When you are with them, do you feel competitive about earning the approval of others?
A few weeks ago, we had a couple over for dinner. In the midst of the conversation, my husband spoke very complimentary about my efforts and what I created for a previous event we put together for family and friends. It felt really good to hear his expression of appreciation. I felt a warmth and closeness towards him.
5. Be playful.
As adults, it is amazing to me how we forget to play, be silly, and have fun. Whether it is a cultural expectation, we have gotten the impression that adults are to be practical, logical, and serious. With responsibilities and goals, we become driven and focused. Play and humor lighten the mood and allow for more joy and connection.
When I was working on these show notes, I felt my appreciation for my husbands sense of humor. I love his ability to take me off guard with a clever joke. I love that he will get silly and laugh with me. He has told me in the past, making me laugh brings him a great sense of joy. Some of my favorite times are when my husband and I are laughing and being silly together.
Are you available to play? Many, many years ago I took a workshop about the Art of Play. The instructor was amazing. One of the first things she did with us was to get us to think about our “willingness to play.” She brought up the example of when dogs want to play, they communicate it by a certain posture (i.e. front legs low (reading to pounce), tail wagging, looking in anticipation). She asked us to experiment with this quality of engagement. With this mindset shift, it was amazing to me how much more available I was to interact with others in a playful way.
With this shift in attitude, you will laugh more easily at your partner’s jokes, and you will be more likely to find joy with them. The desire to play and have fun can also be a great form of flirtation.
Stay tuned for the next several tips for building kindness in the upcoming podcast episode. Until then, check out the Connected Couple program to develop happy, lasting love:
Click on this link to access the transcript for this episode: ERP 125: How Kindness Can Strengthen Your Love [Transcript]
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If you are interested in developing new skills to overcome relationship challenges, please consider taking the Empowered Relationship Course or doing relationship coaching work with me.