4 Rules That Can Save Your Marriage: Rule 3
Hard-hitting advice from a seasoned marriage therapist. Discover the 4 rules you should follow to perfect, improve, or save your marriage. Part 3 of 4.
You are reading the third installment in a series of four articles about rules of marriage. Each rule is designed to move a couple toward better relating and more harmony. If you have missed any in the series, you can find them at http://www.savethemarriage.com/blog/blog.html
Rule 3: Be Kind and Loving
This is a rule that definitely needs some clarification. I don't mean that you have to have warm, gushy feelings toward your spouse at all times. That is not, unfortunately, possible. And I don't mean you won't act in unkind ways toward your spouse. That will happen from time-to-time.
At the same time, I have seen couples treat each other as if they were worst of enemies. There was no sense of "you and me, in this together." Instead, there was a strong sense of "you versus me." And with that comes the undermining of the marriage. A marriage is the decision by two people to come together and act as a unit, be a team, become one.
Yet we often find ourselves responding to spouses in ways that we would never dream about acting toward a friend. I almost named this rule "be civil," because I have said that to so many couples. They will sit in my office and be nice toward me, then rude and unkind toward their spouse, and I would admonish them to "be civil."
Being civil would be level one. The next level is to actually be kind and loving. Which raises the question "how can I be kind and act loving when I am angry? How can I pretend feel love when I don't?"
That, in my mind, is a misunderstanding of what love is about. I use the word "love" as an action verb. Love is something I do, not something I feel. Actions are loving. This is, in fact, one of the major constructs of all the major religions: act lovingly toward those you don't like. In other words, our major religions are noting the potential to act in loving ways toward even our enemies, much less those we love.
I place the action of love in a marriage into two categories. The first is kindness. That would be defined as acting in kind ways -- not calling names, demeaning, insulting, or hurting. Instead, kindness would call for being supportive, caring, concerned.
Loving actions add another layer by asking "what does my spouse need from me in order to feel loved?" We all have a need for love, and by meeting our spouse's needs, we secure the relationship.
The Golden Rule is "do unto others as you would have them do unto you." The Golden Rule of Love takes that one step further: "love others as they need to be loved." What makes me feel loved does not make you feel loved, and vice versa. So we strive to act in loving ways, but in loving ways that make sense to the other person.
Unfortunately, our tendency, when we don't feel loved, is to refuse to act lovingly. This creates a vicious cycle, and in the end, both feel unloved. Which leads to either acting on automatic or choosing our relationship destiny. On automatic, we run the vicious cycle.
But we can choose to act counter to that. We can choose to act lovingly, even if we do not feel loved at that moment. We choose to act in loving ways because the emotion is absent.
Here is the irony: when we do loving actions, we feel loving emotions. When we wait for the emotions to act lovingly, we get stalled. But by acting lovingly, we begin to nurture our own emotional state. Think back on how you fell in love. Sure, there was likely an initial attraction. But the love came because you did loving actions toward each other. Likely, you chose bigger and bigger actions to express your growing emotions. The emotion of love, put simply, is nurtured by the action of loving. The reverse is not true.
Thus, rule #3 is "be kind and act lovingly." This puts us back into the driver's seat of our relationship's destiny. We take control back from our emotional state, and make a choice on the direction to take.
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Dr. Baucom is a 15-year veteran of marriage therapy. He works day-in and day-out to help people save their marriages. Dr. Baucom is creator of the best-selling ebook, Save The Marriage (http://www.savethemarriage.com). He also created an online marriage workshop (http://www.transformyourmarriage.com), and offers podcasts on marriage at http://www.marriagemoment.com.