Jun 292020 1 Response

Is Your Spouse Kind to You?

It’s never the kind of question they expect. Coming to my office, they are prepared to be asked some difficult questions. There is a common set of questions that must be asked to figure out why this couple has reached a point of unhappiness to land on the couch of a pastor who writes about marriage.

  • Is addiction present in the marriage?
  • Has there been any form of emotional or physical abuse?
  • Have either of you engaged in an affair?
  • Is there any medical condition currently impacting the relationship?

These are pretty standard questions that must be discussed before we can move forward. A “yes” to any of those questions does not mean the marriage is over, but it does show that the couple must seek intensive care for the marriage to survive.

Yet after we move beyond the most pressing questions, there are some other inquiries that can reveal more hidden problems within the relationship. Everyone knows an affair is a serious threat to a marriage, but we downplay many other issues, never realizing how destructive our behavior can be.

One simple question I like to ask:

Is your spouse kind to you?

To most couples, it feels like a question out of left field. But it is unbelievably telling. Kindness matters. When a single woman calls me to discuss whether or not she should move forward in a relationship, I will ask, “Does he love you?” She often answers quickly, “Yes.” When I ask, “Is he kind to you,” if there is any pause I say, “If you even have to pause, then he simply doesn’t love you.” He might feel love for you, but he is not acting lovingly toward you because love is kind.

Kindness

The characteristic of kindness has wrongly been separated from love. We pretend as though it is possible to love someone without explicitly showing kindness toward them. This is false. When kindness is absent, so is love.

Of course, we must get our definition of kindness right. Kindness is not weakness. It is not a denial of truth or deception as difficult topics are avoided and everything is given the appearance of peace. It’s kind to tell the truth. It’s kind to encourage friends to do the right thing. Much of what we assume to be kindness–quietly holding our tongue as evil runs rampant–is actually unkind behavior. Sometimes the kindest person you know is the one whom some feel doesn’t have a filter or others call blunt. Yet they are kind because they are saying what needs to be said and doing so with the best of intentions.

At its heart, kindness is compassion. It’s to look at the other person with a sense of understanding and grace. In most cases, we fail to be kind simply because we fail to truly see the other person–their pain, need, struggles, frustrations, etc. In a marriage, that’s why kindness and intimacy are so intertwined. True intimacy requires being seen. For sex to be more than just a physical connection, husband and wife have to connect in a meaningful way. This connection is built on seeing one another fully and yet loving each other completely. Kindness fuels intimacy. (See: Intimacy Is Far More Than Sex)

To You

Notice the “to you” part of my main question–is your spouse kind to you? I know plenty of scenarios in which a husband and wife are as kind as can be…to everyone except each other. They give of themselves in amazing ways. They see the hearts of the people around them in a much more meaningful way than most. Yet when it comes time to give that same effort and compassion to the person they sleep beside, they simply do not do so.

In most cases, this is because of fear. It’s one thing to be kind to another, but it’s another thing to receive it in return. We can show kindness to strangers all day because they don’t know our struggles or failures. We can be kind to them and go on about our lives. Yet our spouses know us better than anyone. At any moment, there are one thousand failures they can bring to our attention which we cannot deny. To show kindness to someone who knows you so well is dangerous. What if they don’t respond kindly? How do you know they won’t abuse your kindness? What if they use what they know against you? What if the vulnerability is not returned?

Fear often prevents kind people from having kind marriages. (See: 5 Acts of Kindness to Add to Your Marriage)

Yet that fear must be overcome. We must be willing to truly love one another with a love that is expressed in kindness. This means we intentionally take time to understand our spouse, to see their struggles, to know their fears, and to do everything in our power to be gracious and compassionate to them.

Is He/She Kind?

Is your spouse kind to you? If the answer is no, there is a problem. It doesn’t mean your marriage is over, but it does mean that it needs help.

Yet there is an even better question–Are you kind to your spouse? The first question you have very little control over; your spouse must choose whether they will be kind or not. Yet with the second question, you are completely in charge. If you aren’t kind, why aren’t you? And what are you going to do about it?

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