Relationship toolkit: Building goodwill
Over the course of a long-term relationship, there are many good and bad times. There is dancing, singing and joy. And there is struggling, suffering and fear. There are moments of great bliss. There are moments of intense pain. And there is everything in between.
All the while, you are getting to know each other. When you think you really know your partner, they surprise you! And over time, you grow up together. Jointly you discover who you are, who you have been, and who you are becoming.
I was 22 when I met Diane, and we got married when I was 26 years old. Looking back, I was pretty immature in many ways. Like most young adults, I was very self-involved. I was always thinking about what Diane was doing for me. Of course, when you think like that, disappointment is always around the corner from happiness.
There were hard times. Soon after our first daughter was born, Diane had surgery with a painful recovery. She needed a lot of care and attention and so did our baby. There were days that I just wondered if I would make it! I was exhausted, frightened, and overwhelmed.
There are many times in a relationship when both partners need nurture and support and both don’t have much to give. These are hard times. When this happens, it is easy to find yourself feeling disappointed and angry at your partner. Can’t they see that you need their help?
I had major foot surgery 6 years ago and was in the hospital for several days and home for several weeks recovering. I had never had any surgery, and there were many times I was very frightened. I felt very vulnerable. I know that there were many moments during my recovery that Diane would have liked to trade me in for a newer model!
So what helps us move through these troubled times? What propels us past those challenging moments?
Good will is the gasoline of the marital engine. When there is a full tank of good will, your relational vehicle can drive through snow storms, hail and fog! But when the tank is low or empty, even the smallest problems can derail your relationship. Even a Rolls Royce will sit on the driveway if it is out of gas.
When there is little good will fuel, both partners wake in the morning thinking—“What has my partner done for me lately?—Nothing!” And then, it just stays that way, both individuals feeling resentful and disappointed.
How to build good will.
Actually, it’s easy. When both of you wake in the morning think: “What small act of loving kindness can I perform today for my partner?” It is a simple question, and usually, easy to answer. Then, pick one from the list, and make it happen. Don’t make a big deal over it, just do it. Do this for a week and notice the difference in your marital gas tank. As each of you performs a daily deed of loving kindness, the needle on the “good will” gauge rises.
Small loving deeds are always appreciated! When your partner completes his or her deed, express your appreciation! Don’t keep it to yourself.
The other day Diane looked tired. It was her day to change the sheets on our bed. When she was downstairs, I did the job for her. She was so pleased when she came upstairs and saw that it was all done! My stock shot way up!
A few days later, I came home and one of my favorite foods was on the dining room table. Diane had made a special trip to buy it for me. I was very pleased! I appreciated her thoughtfulness.
It is loving action which creates good will. Words are nice, but not enough. A tank full of good will enables couples to tackle the challenges and conflicts of marital life. It helps them move through the hard times. Give it a try!
What helps keep your good will topped off?