Please. Thank you. I’m sorry.
Being on your best behavior with strangers is expected in civil society. But what about in marriage? Can practicing basic manners enhance marital love?
Polite people are easy to spot. They apologize when you bump into them by accident. They say, “Yes, ma’am” and “Yes, sir,” though they may be older than you. Words used to describe them include nice, sweet, kind, gentleman, lady, etc. Genuine niceness carries over to marriage.
Best Foot Forward
In classic romantic comedy, a handsome guy and a beautiful woman collide as they try to get on an elevator. The contents of her briefcase fly across the floor except for an important letter now soaking in his spilled coffee.
“Ugh! How can you be so clumsy!” “Well, this wouldn't have happened if you weren’t staring at your cell phone!” Their eyes meet, the music plays, and a more polite argument begins. “It was my fault, actually.” “No, I should have been more careful.” Predictably, they marry and soon start taking each other for granted. Common courtesies become a thing of the past, and marital bliss fades.
Courting couples often give each other the benefit of the doubt. For many, the goal is to win over the man or woman of their dreams. Unfortunately, some couples do not continue after marriage what they began before marriage.
Good manners are signs of respect and decency. Scripture encourages us “to speak evil of no one, to avoid quarreling, to be gentle, and to show perfect courtesy toward all people” (Titus 3:2). “All people” includes our spouses.
A study by The National Marriage Project found that “for both husbands and wives, generosity — defined here as small acts of kindness, regular displays of affection and respect, and a willingness to forgive one’s spouse their faults and failings — was positively associated with marital satisfaction….”
• Is my temperament the same at home as it is at work?
• Do I speak kindly to strangers and harshly to my spouse?
• Do I help my neighbor but ignore my spouse’s needs?
“Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful” (1 Corinthians 13:4-5). Godly behavior equals good manners.
Try it. Your marriage will thank you.
This article first appeared in Birmingham Christian Family Magazine.