It happens to all of us. As we get complacent in our closest relationship, the common courtesies that came so easily during the dating phase begin to fall away. Over time, we can become boorish, embarrassing, and downright rude. If you’d like to bring some manners back to your marriage, keep reading!
12 Must-Have Manners
Here is a list of 12 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 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 then bestowed on us when we gave them a housewarming gift without a word of thanks. It seems like a small thing, but sometimes the smallest things can make the most difference.
Manner #2: “Don’t interrupt.”
Hands down, one of the most crucial skills to master in marriage is the skill of listening actively and intently. This implies that there is a minimum of interrupting and – even when you do need to interject – you should only do so to get clarity and not to defend your own position. (For example, first say “Excuse me” [see above] 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 influence your partner by modeling the behavior you’d like to see from them in return when you’re the one speaking.
Manner #3: “Pick up after yourself.”
If you look around the room and see random articles of clothing, junk mail, shoes, magazines, leftover food, and all your tech devices, it’s probably a good sign that you need to spend a few minutes tidying up. Perhaps you’re not the most organized neatnik and your spouse doesn’t care about the constant state of chaos in your home, but clutter tends to create low levels of stress, and putting everything in its place can feel good and create time and space in your relationship you didn’t even know you needed.
Manner #4: “Don’t gossip” or “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.”
This lesson will save you much grief if you learn it early in your marriage! If I had a nickel for every time a client told me they 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 and save your grievances for someone like me.
Is your spouse kinder to strangers than to you? Check out this article on
For a Great Marriage, Mind Your Manners.
Manners #5 and #6: “Don’t be mean (and if you are mean, go apologize.)”
Why do we reserve our most hurtful comments and words for the person we love most? Do everything in your power to limit needless name-calling and insults and – if something does slip out in the heat of the moment – go to your partner as soon as you’re able to ask their forgiveness. While it’s wise to avoid allowing things like this to linger, there are also 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 make fun of someone’s appearance.”
It’s one thing to mention a concern that your better half looks tired or stressed. It’s quite another to demean his or her new set of love handles or complain about a hairstyle you don’t quite understand. Your motive may be pure but thoughtless comments can be hurtful and create a memory that lasts a LONG time. Unless your spouse is laughing at themselves, don’t be the one to start the joke! Whenever possible, give sincere and heartfelt compliments and remember that what gets rewarded gets repeated.
Manner #8: “Use good hygiene.”
It should go without saying (but I’m going to say it anyway) that you should always cover your mouth when you sneeze, wash your hands when they’re dirty, and refrain from picking your nose in public. Here’s the thing: “public” includes your spouse! If you don’t want to be in the awkward and uncomfortable position of reminding your spouse to bathe, brush their teeth, and comb their hair, make sure you’re taking care of these things yourself.
Manner #9: “Always knock on a closed door (and wait for a response before opening it!”)
Spouses are often good about teaching their kids this rule but believe they can go “wherever, whenever” themselves, at least within their own four walls. 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). Think of every closed door as an invitation to knock. ‘Nuf said.
Manner #10: “Don’t bicker.”
Michael and I know couples who can’t seem to avoid ridiculing each other and it gets downright uncomfortable for everyone around them. Not only can the constant sarcasm and mockery negatively impact others (including your children), but it can become a bad habit that gets worse over time and be extremely difficult to break. And make no mistake: even though your partner may “give as good as they get”, it can feel like death by paper cut.
Manner #11: “Use your 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 and use your napkin liberally. Try to avoid belching – and, for goodness sake, don’t fart – at the table and say “Excuse me” (see #1) if you can’t.
Manner #12: “Be helpful.”
If you see your partner struggling with something, step in: don’t wait for them to ask! It 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. The Golden Rule (“Do unto others as you would have done unto you”) is wonderful. The Platinum Rule is even better: “Do unto others what THEY would have done unto THEM.”
Good manners aren’t always noticed when they’re present, but their absence may have a significant negative impact on your marriage! They grease the wheels of everyday life, make your home life more pleasant, and keep your love life humming along smoothly. Using the list above to evaluate how you’re doing in this area could help you identify some trouble spots, head problems off at the pass, and make you both a better partner and all-around human being.
This article was originally published on June 11, 2018 but has been expanded and updated for this release.