Wednesday, July 4, 2012

This Relationship Corner: Common Courtesy

A lot of couples out there are looking for a magic bullet to either fix or preserve their relationship. While there is no one trick that will magically make your life one big Happily Ever After, there is one practice that will make your relationship strong, durable, and a lot more pleasant. If you just say "please" and "thank-you" to each other, you'll find your relationship is much better for it.

Yes, according to this article, a little common courtesy goes a long way, especially if you make it a priority right at the start of the relationship. If you are courteous and appreciative, you will foster an environment that is less prone to anger, tension, and giant arguments that wake the neighbors. I'm assuming that's what you want in a relationship. Unless your goal is to wind up on one of the twelve dozen police reality shows, and in that case, may I suggest you aim higher.

One of the best reasons to be courteous is that it shows appreciation. We all like being appreciated, and it's no different in a relationship. We go to a lot of effort to cook, clean, run errands, kill spiders, tell lies that get our significant others out of family obligations, and much more. Even if it's something we're expected to do, it's nice to still be appreciated for it. That way, whenever we return to kill the other five spiders, it doesn't make us cranky and bitter, because we know we're getting a "thank you" out of it.

It's a big danger zone when you just expect your partner to do something. If you have the attitude that you shouldn't say please or thank them for anything because it's their job, you are only going to create trouble. No one wants to be taken for granted. And if you were to be taken for granted, would you keep going the extra mile? Would you go all out if it wasn't appreciated? Or would you just do the bare minimum?

In other words, those of you who are huffing and puffing about having to say please and thank you for the same thing day in and day out, this common courtesy will help keep your partner happy. It will help ensure that the things you want done get done. And it makes sure that you will also be appreciated and not taken for granted. What goes around comes around.

If there's one thing you can do to throw a wrench in your relationship, it's to approach it with a sense of entitlement. When you act like you deserve to be treated like royalty, that the other person should thank his or her lucky stars they get to do your bidding, you're setting yourself up for a major fall.

There's a phrase I like and I'll use it here. You never want to get too big for your britches in a relationship, and common courtesy helps keep that from happening.If you don't make demands but say "please" and "thank you," then it keeps you humble. It lets the other person know that you appreciate but aren't demanding.

There's a good reason we teach children to say "please" and "thank you." At least, we SHOULD be teaching children these things, and when children aren't taught those magic words, they become insufferable. If you've ever spent time with a bratty child who doesn't know how to ask nicely or be appreciative, you know what I mean. The thing is, children are naturally selfish and must be taught to be polite, courteous, and appreciative. So I can understand it in a child.

I cannot understand it in an adult. If you are that kind of adult who never says "please," if you never show appreciation with even the most perfunctory "thank you," then you are worse than a bratty child. You know better, or should, and it's high time you learn.Otherwise, you risk sabotaging your relationship, planting the seeds of resentment and anger, and all because you couldn't show a little appreciation.

If you want to go further with your appreciation, you can look for specific things about your partner to appreciate. If they do a little something, be sure to acknowledge that directly. Thank them for not only doing the dishes, but for how they put everything away in an organized manner. Show gratitude for how they just know what to cook for you when you're having a bad day. Appreciate it when they not only do laundry, but make sure to take good care of your favorite shirt. It's always nice knowing that extra effort is appreciated.

Of course, showing appreciation can be much more than just saying "thank you." You can show appreciation by doing things your partner will appreciate. When you know what they like, do it without them having to ask for it. This doesn't have to be a grand gesture or horrendously expensive. It can be something small and simple that brightens their day and makes it better.

However, make sure you don't do it just so they will thank you for it. It's not being appreciative when you do it for selfish reasons. Your act of appreciation is meant to show the other person how much you care. It's tangible proof of your love for them, and every time you make sure to appreciate them, it will renew your love and affection for one another.

Being courteous and appreciative is one of those simple practices that can yield so much in return. The cost-benefit analysis is off the charts. It requires very little from you, and the rewards are astounding. While yes, this is not a magic bullet and won't make everything wonderful, it will definitely help.

So please, show some appreciation to your significant other, even if it's for the same thing they've done for years. You'll be glad you did.

Thank you.

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  1. As a former teacher and grandmother of nine, I like this post very much and offer the following suggestion. In a society full of bullying and self-centered children, it is helpful to teach your children the benefits of consideration for others and being polite as early as possible. The Magic Word is a book emphasizing good manners, which can be read to toddlers. It is a rhyming story of a little girl who was rude, selfish and demanding – and had very few friends. Her mother suggested that she needed to improve her manners; so when she went to school the next day, she thought of her mother’s advice, “What is the magic word?” and she started saying “Please” and also “Thank You”. She tried to become more thoughtful of others, and discovered that she was a much happier person. The repetitive use of the phrase “What is the magic word?” has children answering “Please”!

  2. Amen, Charles. I quite agree. It is amazing how we sometimes treat house guests better than those that actually live there.

    Good advice and a good article, sir. Thank you for sharing it with us.