“Mind your manners” is a phrase that is instilled into us at a young age. We were taught to show respect to our peers and our elders by exhibiting good manners. “Please” and “thank you” went a long way. Guess what? They still matter, even - ESPECIALLY - in our intimate relationships. When we take these relationships for granted, we sometimes forget our manners. Forgetting our manners comes off as disrespect.
A fine example of such a space is marriage. In our committed relationships, it becomes easier and easier to assume we’ve done “good enough.” Unfortunately, this casual slide away from everyday manners can rapidly evolve into legitimate hostility.
Has Your Marriage Lost its Manners?
“For better or for worse” is never an excuse to eschew respect. A couple may fight, disagree, and go through some rough patches. They may also fall into comfortable routines and patterns. None of this has to mean one or both of you has lost respect for the other. However, respect is not something to be assumed. It must be demonstrated through word and deed, e.g. manners.
In the honeymoon phase of a relationship, we’re typically careful to mind our p’s and q’s. We put our best foot forward and never hesitate to go the extra mile to make it clear how much we respect our new partner. Over time, we may fall back on lazier habits. This can manifest in our verbal language, our body language, and the actions we do or do not take. All of this can “sneak” up on us if we aren’t mindful and careful to pay attention to how well we communicate.
Manners are a form of communication and communication is the foundation of any relationship. Tackling a loss of manners is a golden opportunity to learn new skills while reaffirming your connection with your partner.
5 Simple Ways to Restore Civility, Consideration & Goodwill
1. Set Ground Rules, Enforce Them, and Talk About Them
This is where you put the communicate in communication. The first meaningful step toward good manners is simply not taking for granted that you understand your spouse and they understand you. Open the conversation to mutual input and consideration.
Ground rules and their enforcement are part of an evolving process of deeper understanding and discussion. Prepare to do the work and commit to a regular schedule of check-in conversations.
2. Monitor Your Tone, Timing, and Non-Verbal Cues
Quite often, it’s not what you say (or don’t say) but how you say it. Our body language adds tons of context to our words and behavior. Create a safe environment in which such details can be openly and fairly discussed.
3. Recognize the Importance of Setting an Example
If there are children present in this marriage, never forget how intently they are watching. And learning. It may seem they ignore you but children take cues from your behavior. They learn from the examples you set in your interactions.
4. Don’t Take ANYTHING About Intimacy for Granted
Intimacy just may be the place where the most unexplored patterns of inconsideration exist. What was once unbridled lust can devolve into a familiar script or self-fulfillment rather than mutual care. You both have intimacy needs and expectations. Do your best to touch each other carefully and creatively in emotional and physical ways. Go beyond your usual routine to foster a deep sense of intentional goodwill and loving care.
5. Turn Off Your Devices
It’s a cliché that our tech advances have made us all more isolated and rude. It’s a cliché, of course, because there’s some truth to it. Stay connected to your spouse via face-to-face interactions. Don’t let that phone become a dangerous distraction.
For Those Times You Require an “Etiquette Coach”
There’s no user’s manual for marriage. No one prepares us for how unhealthy patterns form without our awareness. Once these insidious habits take hold, they can be difficult to uproot. That’s why so many couples are saying please and thank you to their couples counselor! Working as a team with a therapist is an ideal safe space to help restore your marriage to a place of regularly expressed love and respect.