It happens to all of us. As we get complacent in our marriage, the common courtesies that came so easily during the dating phase begin to fall away. Here is a list of 11 key manners you (should have) learned as a child that may need to be resurrected in everyday exchanges with your spouse.
Manner #1: Say “Please”, “Thank you”, and “Excuse me.”
Michael and I were recently at a friend’s house and the complete absence of these niceties was very noticeable. As our married friends bumped into each other in the kitchen, she looked at him and said, “Move!” Dishes were passed around the table without so much as a nod and the lack of courtesy was transferred to us as we gave them a housewarming gift without any acknowledgement. It seems like a small thing, but sometimes the smallest things make the most difference.
Manner #2: Learn to listen without interrupting (and act interested).
Hands down, one of the most important skills to master in marriage is the skill of listening actively and listening intently. This implies that there is a minimum of interrupting and – even when you do need to interject – you will first say “Excuse me” and then add something like, “I’m sorry to interrupt but I’d like more clarity on your last point”. This is also one area where you can often influence your partner by modeling the behavior you’d like to see from them in return when you’re the one speaking.
Manner #3: When in doubt, ask first!
This applies specifically to making plans without consulting your partner. While you may both maintain very active schedules without the need to coordinate with one another, doing so when plans impact your spouse is the polite thing to do. And beware of those special times when someone puts you on the spot to attend a function or event you know your spouse won’t be interested in. Simply say, “I’ll check with [my wife] and get back to you.”
Manner #4: Don’t gossip. If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.
This is one that may save you from much grief if you learn the lesson early in your marriage! If I had a nickel for every time a spouse told me that he or she had run to a family member or friend for support when things were rocky at home – – and how much they regretted it – – I’d be a rich woman. Remember that your loved ones want what’s best for you (and think they know what that is), so even if you resolve a conflict with your partner, they will remember the gory details long after you have made up and moved on. Speak well of your partner to others.
Manners #5 and #6: Don’t say mean things, and if you do, apologize quickly.
Why do we reserve our most hurtful comments and words for the person we love most in the world! Do everything in your power to limit needless insults and – if something does slip out in the heat of the moment – go to them as soon as you’re able afterward to ask their forgiveness. While the Bible admonishes us to avoid “letting the sun set on our anger”, there are times when it can be helpful to let things calm overnight and gain a new perspective on the situation, but don’t wait too long to say you’re sorry and get back on solid footing.
Manner #7: Don’t comment negatively on your spouse’s appearance.
It’s one thing to mention a concern that your better half looks tired or stressed. It’s quite another to demean the newest set of love handles or complain about a hairstyle you don’t quite understand. Whenever possible, give sincere and heartfelt compliments, and remember that what gets rewarded often gets repeated.
Manner #8: Knock on closed doors (and wait for a response before opening)!
Perhaps this one is a stretch, as kids really do need to learn this rule in the house, but spouses often assume they can go “wherever, whenever” when their partners are concerned. However, depending on how firm this rule was for each of you growing up, this may be something you need to continue to practice regularly (particularly as it relates to the bathroom). ‘Nuf said.
Manner #9: Don’t make fun of your spouse, especially in front of others.
Michael and I have known couples whose biggest hobby was to ridicule each other and it was downright uncomfortable for everyone around them. Not only can this level of sarcasm and mockery negatively impact others (including your children), but it can become a bad habit that is extremely difficult to break. And make no mistake: even though your partner may “give as good as they get”, it can feel inside like death by paper cut.
Manner #10: Use good hygiene.
It should go without saying (but I’m going to say it anyway) that you should cover the basics like covering your mouth when you sneeze, wash your hands when they’re dirty, and refrain from picking your nose in public. (“Public” includes your spouse). Guys: ask yourselves if you need to shower more often. How many days have you been wearing those socks? Ladies: have you “let yourself go”? It’s wonderful that he loves you as you are but take the time to powder your nose and put on some lip gloss before he gets home (or before YOU get home)!
Manner #11: Ask how you can help.
If you see your spouse struggling with something, step in. Don’t wait for them to ask! This can be something as simple as opening a door when they’re carrying something heavy or offering to do the dishes after they’ve had a long day. In this case, the Golden Rule (“Do unto others as you would have done unto you”) is wonderful, but the Platinum Rule is even better: “Do unto others what THEY would have done unto THEM.”
Manner 12: Use good table manners!
Pardon yourself before reaching across the table for a food item. (Better yet, ask to have it passed to you instead of reaching). And speaking of reaching, don’t go for your partner’s food without first asking – and getting permission! Use your utensils properly (Google it if you’re not sure) and use your napkin liberally. Try to avoid belching at the table and say “excuse me” if you can’t.
I hope this list has been helpful. Keeping these rules in mind can really make your home life pleasant and keep your love life humming along!
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What did we forget? What manners are important to you and your spouse that aren’t listed above?
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