One of the hardest things to do in a relationship is to be nice to your partner when you’re upset with them.  It’s also one of the most important moments to be kind.  Research shows that couples who start arguments gently are more likely to manage conflict effectively, without harming the relationship.

Being kind to your partner doesn’t mean clamming up and repressing your anger or hurt.  Rather, kindness informs how you choose to express those emotions.  Kindness is explaining why you’re feeling angry or hurt, rather than yelling, screaming, and/or verbally sparring with your partner.

A relationship is the concerted effort of two people who mindfully and enthusiastically work towards a shared vision.  Despite the difficulties of daily life, each partner is in charge of their own behavior.  And as you grow together as a couple, it’s important that both of you evolve as individuals to continually bring your “best selves” to your union.

How can you cultivate a habit of kindness in your relationship?  Below are 3 powerful tips that you can put into action right now:

  1. Think good thoughts.

We’re wired to feel how we repeatedly think. Thinking positive thoughts about your partner will make it easier for you to think more positive thoughts, and to speak and behave positively towards them. To get into the habit of being kind, you must practice the thoughts as well as the actions.

Remind yourself of the nice things your partner does each day.  For instance, did they take out the recycling or come home early one night to make dinner for you?  However small the action, make it a habit of noticing the kindness as it’s happening, and make a mental note of how happy it makes you feel.  When you see your partner, mention it to them.

2.   Accept responsibility.

Take responsibility for assessing your own feelings before expressing them to your partner. There will be times when you feel angry or frustrated by your partner’s words or actions. But oftentimes, when we pause to let ourselves process our emotions, we discover that what we’re really feeling is annoyed or sad about a situation.  Or perhaps we’re feeling unappreciated, abandoned, or unsupported with our dreams or goals.  Being able to accurately pinpoint your feelings will help you to convey them in a kinder, gentler tone to your partner.

3.   Let hope win.

Have faith in the relationship and in your mutual commitment. Even though arguments are inevitable in every relationship, you must stay solidly rooted in your friendship. It’s always easier to resolve disagreements and problems with your best friend than with your “enemy.”  Nurture your friendship by doing fun activities together, actively listening to your partner’s needs and concerns, and going out of your way to do nice things for your partner (without expecting anything in return!).  Some of my favorite friendship-nurturing activities include finding new restaurants to try on our date nights, sending my husband loving text messages when he’s traveling for work, and peeling the mini oranges that my husband loves eating with his coffee each morning.

Ultimately, kindness serves your expression of difficult emotions by offering your partner the capacity to really hear you.  Even if you’re angry, showing kindness paves the way for your partner to be open to you and respond to your complaints and/or concerns with compassion.  In short, kindness gets your needs met.

Being kind and gentle is a decision.  Just as we offer a smile and hold the door open for a stranger, we must remember to cultivate this habit in our relationships no matter how many months or years have passed.  The more we practice kindness, the easier it is to remember that our partner is a human being who’s experiencing this amazing journey called life alongside us.  It becomes easier to offer a smile and to extend an olive branch to the person who always has our back and invariably wants the best for us.

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