22 ordinary kindnesses to keep a marriage going
22 years ago, we were 22 . . . and we got married on a day that only “exists” (as one of my boys says) every four years.
And we’ve done a lot of the shoulds of marriage wrong.
Like date night . . . we rarely did/do date night. We were put-the-kids to bed-at 7-so-we-can-enjoy-the-evening people — before they all became teenagers. And now, it seems everyone has something going on always, and the nights we aren’t going five different directions, we’re so tired that going to bed at 9:30 is far more appealing than dinner out. (We do have date days now, now that we both have Fridays off — which is awesome.)
But somehow, as of the non-existent February 29th, we’ve now been married half our lives . . .
So, maybe there are more important things than a regular date night to make it in marriage?
Maybe it’s not the once a week, once a month, once a year date that glues a fractured marriage together. Maybe it’s the every day. And there is nothing more every day – more ordinary – than kindness.
But kindness is a thing you have to practice, I think. Because it’s all about tone, about truth and sincerity . . . and timing. Especially when you’ve had bitterness, selfishness, anger, and resentment between you.
And sometimes, the practice looks a little rough. You make mistakes. You misunderstand.
Like with helping . . . there’s a “let me do that” that’s genuinely kind and there’s a “let me do that” that’s frustrated and snarky. And sometimes, a tone isn’t there at all but just a figment of our own anger. So we hear a gentle “Why don’t you let me do this” as “You’ve failed so miserably as a mother, it’s best if I take over.”
We’re still learning, too, that sometimes you need to let it pass and let it be. That not everything has to be corrected, confronted, discussed. That it’s wise to overlook an offense. To make allowance for each other’s faults. That sometimes, it’s just better to not say a word til a mood has passed.
And that sometimes, kindness is simply doing the unexpected from your heart, sincerely, expecting nothing in return.
Lately, I’ve been noticing the little kindnesses that are mending us. I’ll give you just 22:
1. Cleaning up the cat’s hairball mess in the middle of the night so he doesn’t step in it when he gets up early to make the coffee before he takes the oldest boy to zero hour.
2. Getting up early to make the coffee fresh even though the pot has a timer.
3. Driving the oldest boy to zero hour this year so I can sleep longer, drink coffee longer, or write longer before the day begins.
4. Putting down the book to listen while he divides errands for the day, promising to at least get the baggies we’re out of if I can do nothing else.
5. Going to the store late at night on his way home because I forgot the sandwich bags for the third day in a row, and the boys are tired of wrapping their food in parchment paper and packing tape.
6. Leaving him alone while he works on his car, letting him mutter without asking for clarification or doubting his skills.
7. Noticing my tire — because he’s like that about cars — and changing his early morning alone-time plan to take my car to town and fix the tire before I am even out of bed.
8. Sharing his hashbrowns even though I should have ordered my own –because I actually kind of did want them more than a pancake — but I always order poorly, and we both know it.
9. Greeting him with a happy hello and a kiss when he gets home (in the middle of dinner making) no matter what I have in my hands, unless it’s a knife, and then — he has informed me — I should probably put it down.
10. Taking the boys to get pizza because I’m working on something creative and meals have completely skipped my mind.
11. Doing the dishes because the one who makes dinner shouldn’t also have to clean up.
12. Dropping everything to wash the dishes 15 minutes before he gets home because I let the boys skip chores and it makes us all feel less stressed when there is actual counter space on which to eat when the dining room table is covered in projects.
13. Making the phone call about the bill because he knows I hate phone calls — especially about bills.
14. Surprising him by being ready on time for once so we can all ride together to church.
15. Getting to know the mood cycle but not letting me know he knows.
16. Giving him the benefit of the doubt that he did not mean it that way.
17. Hugging me gently and telling me it’s okay and when I’m ready to talk, he’ll listen.
18. Holding my hand while we walk down the street (even though we are still awkward hand-holders after 22 years . . . but it’s our anniversary so we at least have to try).
19. Smiling patiently for the twenty-seventh time because this picture is really important to me.
20. Indulging my whim and making homemade ice-cream when it’s so, so much less work for him to just go buy it from the store.
21. Keeping my I told you so to myself (which has maybe never happened, but I think he’ll appreciate that I at least think about it).
22. Appreciating his efforts to think of me more than of himself, and letting him know I do by being generous with the thank yous.
Ephesians 4:31-32 * Proverbs 19:11 * Colossians 3:13
Kindness is needed in every relationship.
What ordinary kindnesses are you practicing?