[guestpost]This is a guest post from Jed Jurchenko. Jed is a husband, daddy to four girls, author, therapist, and psychology professor. He and his wife Jenny blog weekly at CoffeeShopConversations.com, where you will find freshly brewed wisdom to help you lead your family, grow your friendships, and mature your faith so that you and your family can live joy-filled, Christ-honoring lives. If you want to guest post on my blog, check out my guest post guidelines and submit your post.[/guestpost]
Small actions can make or break your marriage. Tiny acts of kindness are sometimes the ones that are remembered and impact your marriage most. Unfortunately, tiny acts of contempt are also long remembered, and can be powerful enough to turn a good relationship sour.
The bottom line is that when it comes to your marriage, little actions make a big difference. In fact, my marriage to Jenny started with a simple, but powerful, act of kindness.
Small Acts of Kindness
I knew I liked Jenny from the moment we met. Although she is absolutely gorgeous and incredibly sweet, it was a simple gesture on her part that made the biggest impression on me. Jenny and I connected through an online dating site. The two of us had not spoken prior to our first date, which was at a pizza place on the bay.
I chose this restaurant because the San Diego Bay is one of my favorite places in the world. I figured if the date went poorly, at least I’d get to eat at a spot I had been dying to try. Needless to say, the evening went far better than expected. Her gentle spirit and warm smile won me over instantly. After dinner, I asked Jenny if she was up for a walk. She said, “Yes.”
Unfortunately, what I didn’t do was remind Jenny to bring a jacket. It was late March, and although the San Diego weather was warm, it cooled down quickly once the sun went down. As the two of us strolled along the bay, I noticed my date shivering. I suggested turning around. “No, I’m fine,” Jenny stated. I glanced over a second time and saw goosebumps running up Jenny’s arms. Yet, each time I suggested going back Jenny insisted that everything was fine.
Months after our engagement Jenny finally admitted that she was freezing that evening. But I already knew this—it was that obvious! Nevertheless, Jenny’s simple statement, “I’m fine,” was an ongoing reminder that she wanted to spend time with me, more than she wanted to keep warm. It was a small act of kindness that made all of the difference.
Tiny Acts of Contempt
Just as small acts of kindness create lasting joy, small acts of contempt sour a relationship. Relationship expert John Gottman refers to contempt as one of the four horsemen of the Apocalypse. In relationships, contempt is deadly enough to be worthy of this foreboding title. Contempt can be demonstrated through a sneering look, or delivered in a few harsh words. Contempt goes beyond disagreement by communicating that there is something fundamentally wrong with the other person.
While the phrase, “I think you’re wrong,” conveys a difference of opinion, stating, “You’re an idiot if you believe that!” demonstrates contempt. Contempt rarely changes anyone. It does, however, greatly increase the odds that the relationship will end in heartache.
Increasing Kindness and Killing Contempt
“Kill” is a strong word, and I use it sparingly. Yet, if there is anything worthy of squashing, stamping-out, and killing off entirely, it is contempt. Contempt does not benefit relationships in any way, and even small acts of disdain can wreak havoc.
Song of Solomon 2:15 (NLT) says, “Catch all the foxes, those little foxes, before they ruin the vineyard of love, for the grapevines are blossoming!” Tiny foxes of contempt will ruin the vineyard of love. In relationships, little actions make a big difference. Tiny slights and small acts of kindness are both long remembered. So be sure to drive out the little foxes, and make plenty of room for joyful memories!
This week, my goal is to encourage 3,000 couples to add more kindness into their relationships. I once heard intimacy described as in-to-me-see. It is allowing our spouse to peer into our inner world.
Increasing intimacy is the reason I wrote the book 131 Creative Conversations For Couples. You can download your free copy on Amazon April 11-15. My hope is that this tiny eBook will be an enormous encouragement to you and your spouse, will help you jump-start kindness, and will lead to many happy memories!
[reminder]How are you practicing kindness and driving the tiny foxes out of your relationship? What small acts of kindness have made a big impact on you?[/reminder]
We learned about bucket filling earlier this year from our grandson. And the message is it takes 5 scoops of kindness in to balance 1 scoop of contempt or negativity out. It’s been a great way for him and for all of us to remember the importance of doing little acts of love. So glad to be here today. Thank you Jackie for sharing this!
I love the scoop of kindness metaphor. What an excellent way to teach this concept to kids, and I’ll be borrowing this for my own children 🙂
My pleasure, Deb! Thanks for sharing as well.
Little things add up to make the big picture! Learn each other’s love languages & figure out something you can do every day to “speak” love to your spouse.
So good Jed. A great reminder, even after 30 years of marriage that kindness matters.
Thanks michelle 🙂
Wow, acts of contempt. That’s putting it plain! And you’re right, it’s the little things that add up over time!
So true. A 5 minute foot rub means SO much to my wife. The little things do matter.