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Love is patient, love is kind. — I Corinthians 13:4
I’m not sure that communication in marriage comes easily for anyone, but I got some good advice early on which has served me well. If I were to summarize what I learned in one word it would be kindness . . . . during two critical times:
The first lesson I got in communication kindness was from one of the few books on marriage available in those early days, Letters to Karen by Charlie Shedd. Written from a loving Dad to his soon-to-be-married daughter, Dr. Shedd tells Karen to be intentional about the “hellos” when her husband came home:
“Do greet him with gladness when he first comes home. One husband made this picturesque statement: ‘She throws the garbage in my face first thing when I open the door.’ Then he went on to explain that she had a knack for saving the worst news of each day and giving him this promptly on his arrival. You will recognize that he was a master with words as he mimicked her patter: ‘Junior broke the neighbor’s bird bath!’ . . . .’That left rear tire on the station wagon is flat again!’ . . . ‘Won’t you please fix my kitchen faucet?’ . . . ‘I understand the Watsons are getting a divorce!’ . . . and so on in woeful detail. These evil tidings are strictly no good for his homecoming. Occasionally there must be exceptions, but every good meeting of minds will lay certain items aside for later consideration . . . . From what I’ve seen, it’s a good idea to now and then check your words of greeting.” (p. 49,50)
What I learned was that the first few moments we spent back together after a day of work apart were “the most important five minutes of the day.” It set the tone for the evening, and was a way of reminding each other that they were missed, valued, and appreciated and loved! It was so easy to “dump” all of the details of the day on him when he first walked in . . . . and that just isn’t kind.
Recently I heard a talk about this very subject, and the speaker recommended that a suitable greeting for a couple coming back together after time apart (even a short time) was a “twenty-second kiss.” He cited a story of a couple whose relationship was strained but decided to try this one seemingly little gesture to try restoring their once-vibrant romance. The couple was amazed at how simple this one act of kindness in a greeting was at getting them back on track.
Stop . . . . look . . . . listen . . . . and a nice, long kiss makes for a wonderful greeting, no matter who gets home first and gets to welcome the other. It is a beautiful way to show love to your spouse.
The second thing I learned that was so helpful in practicing good communication skills was to always make sure that my “good-bye” was a sweet one, followed by “I love you.” Granted it was a psychologist who instructed our squadron wives on this principle (yes, I was that ignorant), but it was true then and true now. Training accidents and enemy actions happen, and you never know what a day is going to bring—so the advice penetrated my heart. If something tragic happened to either one of us while apart I wanted our last words to be kind. I realized this one practice was not just an attempt to assuage guilt, but was a purposeful approach to maintaining peace between us as partners in life. It was smart to make our “good byes” as tender as possible.
We had many “hellos” and “good-byes” during our military days—with plenty of TDYs, deployments, training, exercises, and the Vietnam War. The “good-byes” were always difficult (understatement) . . . and the “hellos” were always glorious. Whether we were parting for a day, a week, a month or a year I always tried to stick by the training I had gotten from that one book and that one wives’ meeting.
And as much as these principles apply to physical greetings and farewells–they also apply to written ones. Yes, even during deployment communication of email, text, letter–also phone and skype . . . be kind.
I’m not naïve . . . . and life is complicated. But these two simple rules—greet each other with kindness; depart from each other with kindness—are as important as any two rules in marriage you will ever find. I’m glad I found them early.
For when we are kind to each other, we are demonstrating the very character of God: “You are kind and forgiving, O Lord, abounding in love to all who call to You.” (Psalm 86:5)
Shedd, Charlie W., Letters to Karen: On Keeping Love in Marriage (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1965)
Questions to Share:
1. Share with your spouse a time when you remember the way they greeted you was especially kind.
2. Share with your spouse a time when you remember the way they said “good-bye” to you was especially kind.