I recently wrote about my thoughts on reading “Emily Post’s Essential Manners for Men: Second Edition.”
In that post, I highlighted the three components of etiquette: 1) consideration (how others will feel), 2) respect (how your actions affect others), and 3) honesty (courteous truth telling). I want to look at these three principles and evaluate in a specific way how their implementation can improve the marital relationship.
I think it’s important to note just how much we take for granted the latitude we have for our actions within the marital bond. The permanence of marriage can give us a sense of invincibility or that our relationship with our wife can withstand more neglect than our other relationships. This is a dangerous line of thinking. Rather, our marital relationship should be given extra special care as it is the primordial relationship of our adult life from which all of our relationships flow. For this reason, we should be especially concerned about using proper etiquette at home.
Consideration is the easiest of the three to apply in the married life. Having empathy for your wife should be second nature. When she feels sick, it’s easy to identify with her misery and to seek to ease her ills. When she’s overwhelmed, it’s easy to connect with those emotions and to find ways to help her lower her stress levels. Consideration is all about responding to her, and as long as you don’t default to rage, anger, isolation, or disinterest, you’ll handedly master this principle. It’s little more than the golden rule.
Respect is much more challenging. As with sin, there are two components to respect: omission and commission. Your actions, and those actions that you should be taking but fail to, absolutely impact your wife. It can be a good impact when you keep your word, promptly respond to requests, and maintain the parts of the home that you’ve agreed to tend to. Being self-centered, uncaring, cold, rude, thoughtless, or deceitful are all violations of mutual respect and clearly are poor etiquette. They won’t build your marriage any stronger than it is. Cleanliness plays heavily into the respect category. Leaving a mess behind for her to clean up or failing to honor her requests when it comes to helping her keep things clean are major respect violations. There’s plenty in here and you know where your areas for improvement are.
Finally, we have the most challenging for us as men: honesty. We love to be honest, but brutally honest. The principle of honesty asks that we are courteous with the truth. That means that when one of your wife’s behaviors is causing friction, you must share that with her in a kind and loving way, and not in the form of a demand or a personal attack. Honesty focuses on the action or idea, not the person. We tend to want to lay our cards out on the table, find a solution, and move on. However, we need to recognize that women communicate differently and working though an issue is more of a journey than a destination.
Regardless of where you stand in terms of the strength of your marital etiquette, there’s always room for improvement. With intentionally, focus, and self-evaluation, you can be a true gentleman and experience the benefits of a fruitful and dynamic marriage.