Tag Archive for communication

The Vulnerability to Invite Intimacy in Conflict

We all know words are powerful. They can encourage or discourage, offend or mend, pull together or tear apart. In families especially, we want to use words that encourage, mend, and pull together.  Unfortunately, we often use words that divide, discourage, or offend. We may not say such words with the intent to divide, discourage, or offend. Instead, we often say them mindlessly, with little or no thought to their impact. Or, we might say them impulsively when we are anger or upset. Like a toddler throwing a tantrum in an effort to get his parent to stay close rather than leave him with the babysitter, we might say words that offend, divide, and discourage in response to feeling our relationship threatened or in an ill-conceived effort to “get the other person to listen” and draw near to us. It doesn’t work. In fact, these words are often dishonest; they don’t communicate what we truly believe or feel. They hide, even betray, the love we feel for our family.

To develop the habit of saying words that encourage, mend, and pull family together, we have to pay attention to our words, listen to ourselves and the words we use. As you listen to yourself, pay attention to how others respond. Remain mindful of the impact your words have on the people around you. Then, do two things:

  1. Become honest and vulnerable enough to take ownership of your feelings and communicate them to those around you. Don’t blame them. Be honest enough to state your deeper need.
  2. Offer words that can encourage, mend, and pull together—words that connect. This can prove challenging when you have a genuine disagreement. Realize, though, that the ultimate desire is not to be proven right at the cost of the relationship but to connect in an intimate and meaningful way.   

Let’s consider a few statements I have heard families say and what might be a more honest and vulnerable statement that invites the other into a deeper relationship. I hope these will simply help you think about how to use words that encourage, mend, and pull together. They are not simple rote statements that solve a problem. Use them as a starting point for any specific situations you might encounter in your family.  

  • “You never listen.” This statement reveals a fear of being unheard and thus unvalued by the one we love. Stated as is, defensiveness is sure to follow. “What do you mean never? I always listen to you. I’m listening now, aren’t I?” Instead, you might say, “Sometimes I can’t tell if you take what I’m saying seriously. Maybe I didn’t state it clearly enough to be understood. Can you tell me what you think I said so I know you heard and understood me?” Rather than accusing the other person, this offers a possible explanation that even takes at least partial responsibility for the problem. Also, it offers a solution, a way to enhance communication, a way to pull together.  
  • “You’re such a nag” or “Alright already. Man, what a nag!” Hear the discouragement, offense, and divisiveness of this statement? Make a change in your response. Begin by taking a look inward; then take the honest and vulnerable step of giving voice to your deeper feelings and concerns. “When you keep telling me over and over again, I begin to think you don’t trust me” or “When you continue to tell me to (whatever task it might be) over and over again, I don’t know if you really appreciated what I have done.” Once again, offer a solution with each of these statements by adding, “It would really help me if you let me know when you notice other things I’ve done.”  
  • “You are so selfish. You think the whole world evolves around you.” Consider the fear being communicated in this accusation—the fear that “you” won’t “be there for me,” to “love me” and “care for me.” It feels very vulnerable to communicate that fear, but doing so may bring you closer rather than pull you apart. Try saying, “Sometimes I feel like you’re so caught up in the things that interest you, that you won’t be there for me when I really need you…like I’m not important to you. ” Then, finish the self-disclosure with a request, “Could you tell me how important I am to you? And could you reassure me more often in the future?”

You get the idea, I’m sure. Statements that encourage, mend, and pull together in the midst of disagreements or tensions represent a step of honesty and vulnerability. However, the closeness they invite and the intimacy they nurture are well worth the risk. Will you take that risk today?

The Word With the Power to Save Your Marriage

What if I told you that I know a word that possesses the power to save your marriage? Of course, all words have power, but this word is especially powerful. You might even say it has been endowed with the superpower to strengthen relationships.  In fact, this one word is particularly powerful for overcoming repetitive arguments. It breaks through negative communication patterns that threaten our marriages, like the demand-and-withdraw pattern.  This word, spoken often and sincerely, communicates commitment to your marriage, nurtures a sense of value in your spouse, and protects your marriage from divorce. All in all, couples who speak this one word on a consistent basis rate their marriage as having a higher quality of intimacy and security. Yes, this is one powerful word.

You may be wondering; “what word could hold such power in a single syllable?” Well, here it is: “Thanks.” And it’s just as powerful with two syllables, “Thank you:” or three, “Thanks a lot:” or even four, “Thank you very much.” However, you choose to say it, say it often. It is powerful…and might just save your marriage and your family.

Pet Peeve Phrases I Wish I Never Said

Some phrases we say in families are powerful. For instance, “I love you” can energize your loved one, lead to deeper connection with them, and change their day for the better. In a similar manner, “How can I help you?” is a question packed with the power of intimacy and connection. But there are some phrases I hear in families that kind of irritate me. Well, they do irritate me. They’re pet peeves of mine. Let me share three.

  • “I have to babysit the munchkin tonight.” I generally hear this phrase spoken by a father, although I have heard mothers say it as well. Either way, you are the parent, not the babysitter. The babysitter has momentary responsibility and acts under the authority of the parent. A babysitter watches another person’s child. You are the parent. Calling a parent’s role “babysitting” minimizes the responsibility, gravity, and privilege of the parental role. Parents have a responsibility that endures for a lifetime. The gravity of that responsibility is enormous. Our children’s future and our society’s well-being depend on how seriously we take the role of parent. And being a parent is an amazing privilege filled with long-term delight. Parents don’t babysit their children. They have the privilege of caring for a special life that was born out of their love for one another. What a joy. “I have the privilege of spending time with my children (munchkins) tonight.” That’s a better phrase.
  • “I have to….” You know, “I have to make dinner for my spouse.” “I have to go to my kid’s game tonight.” “I have to wash dishes for my family.” “I have to… (fill in the blank with some household or family task).” It’s true. There are tasks that we must do to keep our home and family running smoothly. But, “I have to” makes it sound like we grudgingly do it out of obligation…and that does not lead to a happy family life. Nor does it set a positive example for our children (who we want to participate in household tasks). In reality, doing my share of household tasks is an expression of love. We can make the task more of an expression of love by changing the “I have to” to “I want to.” “I want to” wash the dishes because I love my spouse. “I want to” help with the laundry because I love my spouse. “I want go to” my child’s game because I love my child. This moves the task from an obligation or a duty to a privilege and then to an expression of love. It moves the motivation from the external reward of task completion and a smooth-running home to the internal motivation of love. That is the basis for a happy family. By the way, “I want to clean the kitty litter.” (I’m practicing.)
  • “Just calm down” or some variation of minimizing a family member’s emotion. Yes, statements like this one minimize how our family members perceive something and how they feel about it. It focuses only on their outward expression and dismisses what might be happening to them internally, in their mind or heart. And it shuts down the opportunity to learn important information about our family members. We only get excited or upset or angry about those things important to us. So, when a family member is excited or angry enough that we feel the need to tell them, “Just calm down,” they are probably reacting to something important to them. A statement that will lead to greater intimacy (and that is what we long for) is, “I see how important this is to you.” Or “what’s going on? What makes this so upsetting to you?” Get curious. Find out the value or priority behind the emotions. Discover what they see as so important that it leads them to have such a strong response. Learn about them. It will help you have a deeper, more intimate relationship.

Sadly, I have made all three of these statements in my life. We all feel like we’re “babysitting” because we “have to” at times. We get overwhelmed by other people’s emotions and want them to “just calm down.” Still, these phrases are not helpful, and I wish I had never said them. They can be hurtful, dismissive, and damaging to our relationships. Each time we say them, we have to repair the relationship we damaged. So, they are pet peeves of mine…even when I say them. Join me in putting in the effort to say healthier phrases like “I want to (clean the kitty litter or whatever household/family tasks you do),” “I have the privilege of spending time with my child tonight,” and “I see how important this is to you. Tell me more.”

On the Line of Scrimmage

Let’s face it…we have feelings. Our children have feelings. Our spouses have feelings. Those feelings can impact how we say what we say…and how others understand what we say. For instance, saying “Wait a minute” in an exasperated tone communicates something different than saying the same thing in a calm tone. We read into a statement based on the tone and extract meaning from the tone. The volume and cadence of what we say has a similar impact. As a result, our tone, volume, and cadence impact how others understand what we say. As you can imagine, this has a huge impact on our disagreements and arguments. So, especially when you find yourself in a disagreement with a family member, watch your tone, volume, and cadence.

  • Listen to your tone of voice. Keep your tone as calm and neutral as you can. People will respond to the emotional charge in your voice. For instance, if your voice becomes emotionally charged with anger it may shut people down. Or, they may respond with similar energy, escalating the anger. Remain neutral and calm. Describe the situations that arouse your emotions in as calm and neutral a manner as possible. This will help everyone remain calmer and more able to think of solutions.
  • Keep your volume in check. Have you ever noticed how a disagreement seems to get louder as the disagreeing parties talk. One person starts to get louder to make their point and the other person starts talking louder as well. And so it goes, both parties increasing in volume to make their point. Unfortunately, that loudness increases stress and pushes people toward a “fight or flight response” of defensiveness, criticism, or stonewalling. It interferes with connection and resolution. When you find yourself in a disagreement with your spouse or children, keep your volume low, soft, calm. Keep your volume conversational. This will go a long way in helping you achieve the true goal of any disagreement–connection.
  • Watch your cadence. After Thanksgiving, my friend would ask me, “How was your Thanksgiving, (dramatic pause) turkey?” Now that question means something completely different than “How was your Thanksgiving turkey?” Right? The cadence, the pauses and pace of what we say, impact the meaning of what we say. Keep your cadence as steady and smooth as possible in a disagreement.

Your tone, volume, and cadence will have a huge impact on how well a potentially heated conversation ends. One of my friends compared the tone, volume, and cadence of a disagreement to football. As both teams line up at the line of scrimmage, the quarterback begins to his cadence. He calls out numbers and colors. He may slow it down, speed it up, yell some louder than others. He changes his tone, volume, and cadence in an attempt to draw the other team offsides. When it comes to our families, however, we don’t want to draw a penalty. We want to keep everyone on the same side. We want to keep our tone calm, our volume conversational, and our cadence smooth so our family remains in the line of healthy communication, connecting with one another in a healthy, loving way.

Are You There For Me?

Our families are filled with people—spouses, children, us—who crave connection. But you already know that. You have experienced that craving in yourself and seen it in others, I’m sure. In fact, the #1 goal of arguments is connection. We desire emotional connection with one another. Emotional connection makes us secure. It communicates our acceptance. And fortunately, we can nurture emotional connection with our family. It is nurtured by everyday interactions. Each time we respond to our spouse, our children, or our parents, we build trust and emotional connection. We communicate acceptance. We let them know that “we are there for them.” Ironically, even benign statements open the door to building emotional connection, if and when we respond. For instance:

  • “It’s a beautiful day today” becomes more than a comment about the day. It’s an invitation to engage, a request to “join me in paying attention to something I find interesting.”
  • Your response to “Can you grab me a drink while you’re up?” becomes the answer to the silent question of “Will you listen and respond to my simple requests? Will you help me?”
  • “How do you like this recipe? It’s the first time I tried it” is an invitation to show interest or excitement in “my experimentation and my accomplishments, my life.”
  • “Did you have a good day?” seeks more than a simple “yes/no” response. It’s a request for you to take the time to share your day. Your response answers the silent question, “Will you take the time to share your life with me?”
  • “I’m exhausted” becomes an invitation to “help me destress and relax.”
  • “Remind me when we get home to tell you what happened” is an invitation to have a private conversation and hear something about my day.

These statements often sound like simple conversation starters, but they are much more. They are open doors inviting you into greater emotional connection. Take the time to respond, walk through the door, and connect emotionally with your family. Each time you do, you answer an important, albeit silent, question everyone asks within their relationships, a question asked indirectly through subtle statements like those above: “Are you there for me?” Answer wisely. Be present. Respond. Connect.

Marital Conflict, Fathers, & Children

If you’ve been married longer than your honeymoon, you know that marital conflicts will arise. Even people who love one another and want to spend the rest of their lives together have disagreements. Those conflicts and disagreements also impact their children. On the one hand, angry, stressed-out parents might take their anger out on their children in small and subtle ways or in loud and obvious ways. They may withdraw emotionally or physically from their family and children. On the other hand, they might manage their conflict in a way that teaches their children how to love a person even while you disagree with them…and to love enough to work toward some type of resolution. It can go either way, depending on how the couple responds to conflict in their marriage. With this in mind, you can image the impact marital conflict can have on our children’s long-term emotional health and well-being…for better or for worse.

To understand the impact of marital conflict on our children, one study analyzed data from 3,955 heterosexual intact families (both mother and father were present in the family). They discovered an important role fathers play in how a married couple’s conflict impacts their children. Specifically, when fathers reported more frequent conflict with their marriage partner, they also reported increased parenting stress and decreased warmth toward their children. In the same surveys, this was linked to the mother’s report of children struggling to develop social skills and emotional regulation skills.

On the other hand, when fathers used more “constructive conflict resolution” skills, parental stress was minimized, parental involvement increased, and warmth toward children increased. All this leads to healthier social and emotional development in children. So, the big question I have from this research is: what are constructive conflict resolution skills? Let’s name a few.

  • Open communication. Children benefit when both parents, fathers in particular, learn to communicate openly. This requires exhibiting enough vulnerability to express emotions and feelings, to risk being misunderstood while patiently listening to understand the other person. Couples can help fathers communicate openly by starting conversations “gently” and soothing one another as the conversation progresses.
  • Compromising. Being a family involves compromise. Not everyone can have everything they want all the time. That sounds obvious, doesn’t it? But it’s true. We don’t live with Burger King. Every person in the family is going to have their own opinions, perspectives, and ideas. Meshing them all together into a happy, healthy home will demand compromise. Look for a resolution with which you can both be satisfied.
  • Listening. I briefly mentioned listening under open communication, but listening is so important that it deserves its own bullet point. Many times, if both parties in conflict will listen deeply and intentionally to the other person, rather than defending or blaming, they will discover their conflict is not really that big. They will easily find a compromise. In fact, they may even find they agree on a deeper level than the conflict suggests. So, listen, don’t judge. Listen to understand rather than listening to form a rebuttal. Listen to find the good in what the other person is saying, areas in which you can agree, rather than listening to prove them wrong.
  • Remember who you are talking to. You are talking to the one you love, your spouse, the person with whom you want to spend the rest of your life. Don’t let your frustration or anger lead to statements that hurt, belittle, or demean the one you love. Remember how much they have done to make your life and your home a better place.
  • Remember how you want others to remember you. Do you want to be remembered as someone who always “had to be right” or someone “who listened so well I always knew they understood me”? Do you want to be remembered as someone who “blew their stack” when they didn’t get their way or someone who “always found a solution everyone could be happy with”? Someone who was always kind, even when angry, or someone who was unpredictable and loud when angry? Act accordingly…especially in the midst of conflict.

As you practice these skills and attitudes, you will find conflict resolves more easily. You will feel less stress. Your marriage will grow more intimate. And your children will develop in a healthier manner.

Marriage, Money, & Your Bank Account

When people get married, they have several decisions to make. Some of those decisions center on finances…and these financial decisions reflect beliefs about power and trust. With that in mind, researchers have completed studies to discover the impact of having a joint account versus separate accounts in a marriage.

A longitudinal study published in March of 2023, assigned newlywed or engaged couples to one of three conditions for managing their finances: 1) merge money into a joint account, 2) maintain separate accounts, or 3) manage their finances in any way they want. Couples who pooled their finances into a joint account reported increases in their perceived relationship quality over a 2-year period. The other two groups reported an expected decline in relationship satisfaction over the first 2 years of marriage. The research supported three potential reasons that pooling money in a joint account would lead to greater relationship satisfaction:

  1. It promoted financial goal agreement. The couples felt like they were on the same team as they created shared goals and priorities.
  2. It improved how married couples felt about the way in which they handled their money. Both these points remind me of how important communication is within a marriage. When a couple pools their money in a joint account, they must communicate goals and desires about finances with one another. They have to discuss expenditures and determine priorities around those expenditures. Perhaps, this communication increased their sense of being a team, of working together, and increased their positive feelings about how they managed their money.
  3. It increased each person’s willingness to do things for the other without expecting something in return. That’s an interesting result to me. It seems slightly removed from pure financial matters. However, it makes sense. Communication about finances allows the couple to learn about what money means to their spouse and about their spouse’s priorities, especially around finances in this case. Communicating to work toward common goals will increase their trust in their spouse. As a result of this growing interpersonal knowledge and trust, each one will grow in their willingness to do things for the other without expecting a “tit-for-tat” response.

This study also suggests that the act of pooling money in a joint account actually contributed to a happier and more enduring relationship. It makes sense, doesn’t it? Money in and of itself does not create happiness. However, how we communicate about money and how we enact our priorities through money can impact our happiness and the intimacy in our relationship. By putting finances into a joint account, a couple puts themselves in apposition to learn better ways of communicating about priorities and values while working as a team to move toward those priorities with their finances. So, would you like a happier marriage? Consider a joint account.

Have a Conversation & Call Me in the Morning…Doctor’s Orders

All of us want to enjoy a happy, low stress life. Perhaps even more, we want our children to have a happy, low stress life. I’d like to say if found a way to make that happen 100% of the time…unfortunately, I can’t.  But a recent study suggests that one simple activity, done on a daily basis, will lead to a greater sense of well-being, reduced stress and greater happiness. 

The study involved 900 participants and revealed that engaging in one quality conversation during the day led to a greater sense of well-being at the end of the day. If the person engaged in more than one quality conversations during the day, they experienced an even greater sense of well-being.  Not surprisingly, “face-to-face” communication was more closely related with well-being than electronic or social media contact. A quality conversation may include catching up with a friend, joking around, listening, discussing a meaningful topic, sharing opinions in a manner to promote mutual understanding, or offering sincere compliments. With this information in mind, how can you encourage daily conversation for your family members? After all, doing so will contribute to a greater sense of well-being for your spouse and children.

First, enjoy conversation within your family. I know it sounds obvious but talk to one another every day. Talk about your day, current events, or future plans. Share your fear, joys, sorrows, and moments of pride with one another.  Remember, you don’t need to agree to have a quality conversation. You do need to listen, understand, appreciate, and accept.

Second, encourage friendships. Allow your family to get involved in various groups in which they can develop friendships. Your children and your spouse (even you) will benefit from opportunities to have meaningful relationships and meaningful conversations outside the home. To help your child do this, you may become their friendship coach.

Pretty simple, right? Enjoy conversations within your family. Encourage friendships in which family members can enjoy conversations with those outside your family. As the authors of this study said, the “more you listen, the more you show you care, the more you take time to value other people’s opinions, the more you connect, the better you… will feel at the end of the day….” and so will your family.

Is Child Emotional Neglect Sneaking Into Your Marriage?

Everybody enters marriage carrying “baggage”—positive and negative experiences and learning from our childhood and premarital years. Sometimes that includes a childhood in which emotions were dismissed, avoided, or even punished. When that is the case, a person may have difficulty connecting with their spouse. Their spouse, as a result, may begin to feel emotionally neglected and distant from us. The emotionally avoidant spouse may also find themselves feeling emotionally neglected and distant as well.

Maybe you grew up in a home in which emotions were dismissed, avoided, or punished. If you did, you may experience it in your marriage in at least three different ways.

  1. You may experience difficulty talking about topics that arouse emotions or make you feel vulnerable and exposed. In fact, you may feel as though you don’t even have the words or vocabulary to discuss the deeper topics that arouse emotions. You probably minimize emotions and avoid them altogether. As a result, interactions with your spouse focus on surface issues like tasks that need completed, schedules, children’s activities, or news events. Unfortunately, you don’t have to be emotionally connected to have these conversations. You only have to be business partners, not emotionally connected. And, if these types of conversations make up the bulk of your marital interactions, you end up feeling just like business partners in your marriage…and that is a lonely marriage.
  2. You or your spouse may feel lonely…even when you spend time with one another. Closeness and intimacy are built on emotional sharing. When you do not share emotions with your spouse, you effectively conceal an important aspect of yourself. You don’t allow your spouse to completely know you. You hide your vulnerability and your need for support…and so build a wall of separation between you and your spouse. As a result, you and your spouse may begin to feel distant and disconnected from one another, like you really don’t know one another. You both feel lonely.
  3. You avoid any potential conflict. Nobody likes conflict. But avoiding conflict, or even the admission of discontentment, prevents you from learning new and important things about your spouse. It prevents you from voicing vital needs to your spouse. And the avoided conflict festers and churns until it overflows in anger, resentment, or hurt.

How can you break out of these patterns and gain an emotional intimacy with your spouse? Begin by coming together to learn new ways to interact, ways that will promote intimacy. Agree to work as a team to overcome emotional neglect from the past and build emotional intimacy in the present. The work you do together begins and ends with emotional expression. Then…

  1. Become aware of your personal emotions. Take a break three to four times a day (once in the morning, at lunch, mid-afternoon, dinnertime) to reflect and identify any emotion you might be experiencing. You may find you’re experiencing anything from nothing to boredom, contentment to agitation, joy to anger, happiness to sadness. Simply identify the emotion. At the end each day, review and identify those emotions you experienced during the day.
  2. Label emotions as they arise. Learn to describe them. Pay attention to how you feel each emotion in your body. Do they expand your sense of self (like happiness does) or restrict your sense of self (like anxiety)? Do you feel any muscles tense (like your jaw or hands in anger)? Do you feel light or heavy? Do you feel your heart race? Your facial muscles tense or relax? How do you recognize an emotion in your body?
  3. Identify the context of your emotion. Can you identify a priority it relates to? Does this emotion arise often in a particular place or in the presence of a particular person?
  4. Practice communicating your emotions to your spouse. Try to communicate your emotions without judgment or blame. That’s easy to do when the emotions are light, like happiness or excitement, but more challenging around emotions like anger or frustration.  
  5. Listen to your spouse express their emotions in a nonjudgmental way. Listen for the priority, the intent, and the motivation behind the emotion. If the emotion is a more difficult emotion (like frustration, agitation, or anger), ask your spouse how you might support them through this emotion. And, in all instances, thank your spouse for sharing their emotions with you. It takes courage to open ourselves up and become vulnerable enough to share our emotions.

These steps may prove difficult. However, they will become easier over time. More importantly, the rewards of sharing our emotions are fantastic—a more intimate, satisfying, and loving marriage.

The Humility of Listening

We all have a desire to be heard. That sounds like such a simple desire, doesn’t it?  But “to be heard” is more than having people within earshot to hear our voice and the words we verbalize. We also want them to understand what we are saying—to truly comprehend the meaning, the intent, and the significance of what we are saying. Even more, we want them to recognize the impact of our words and so accept our influence. We want others to respond to our words in a way that we know they consider our words as important and significant. This deeper desire to be heard is doubly true when it comes to our marriage and family.

Does that sound dramatic? Consider an example. In the presence of your spouse you say, “It’s a beautiful day today.”

  • If your spouse does not respond, you look toward them to see if they heard you. When you see them immersed in something else—the paper, the TV, their work, the game on their phone—for the umpteenth time, you begin to feel unimportant, devalued. You feel as if they care more about their own interests than they care about you. You feel as if you have no import, no influence in their life. “I should have known,” you think to yourself. “Everything is always more important than me.”
  • Or imagine your spouse responds with an irritated, even angry response: “What? It’s cold out there. You see the sun and automatically think it’s nice but it’s too cold to go outside. That’s your problem. You never look at the whole picture.” Once again, you leave feeling unheard, unappreciated, even unimportant. 
  • Maybe your spouse looks up from the paper and responds. “You’re right. It’s a beautiful sunny day outside.”  As they speak, they take a moment to look out the window at the sunny day. They have listened. They have allowed your words to influence them in the moment. They have responded. They have heard.

This deep desire to feel heard points out a wonderful opportunity to show kindness. Ironically, it’s a kindness that enhances the humility of both the speaker and the listener. Let me explain. In a study published in 2021, 242 participants were randomly assigned into 121 dyads. These dyads were then assigned to a “good listening” or a “poor listening” condition. In the poor listening condition, the listener was instructed to act distracted while the other person talked for 10 minutes about a recent experience. The “good listener” was told to listen as if the speaker was telling them “the most interesting things they had ever heard.” In other words, the good listener was to listen with curiosity. Of course, those who were listened to with curiosity reported feeling “more heard.” However, the study was about more than simply “feeling heard” by the other person. It was about humility as well. This study found that when a person listened with curiosity, several things happened.

  1. The speaker perceived the curious listener as more humble.
  2. The curious listener perceived the speaker as more humble. Both perceived the other as more humble when one person listened with curiosity. And…
  3. The curious listener perceived themselves as more humble.
  4. The speaker perceived themselves as more humble. In other words, both perceived themselves as acting more humbly when one listened with curiosity.

Think of that for a moment. When I listen to my spouse with deep curiosity, both of us experience an increase in humility and perceive the other as more humble. And—here’s the kicker—humility in marriage strengthens marriage. So, next time your spouse opens the door with a simple statement, don’t let your eyes glaze over and ignore them. Look at them with delight in your eyes and, with the curiosity of hearing the most interesting information you’ve ever heard, listen intently. It’s an act of kindness from which everyone grows.

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