I kissed my wife goodbye this morning.

No, not for good. Only for the day. But the gesture was noticed by her.

My wife, Christie, made special mention of my actions earlier this evening.

“I’ve noticed you taking the recycling out and that you called to wish me a good day,” she said with a big smile. “I appreciate you calling me, even if I don’t return your call.”

Her words of encouragement were enough emotional fuel to keep me going for a month. I soaked up her tenderness.

I’m not trying to toot my own horn here. Heaven knows there have been far too many weeks, even months, when I didn’t go out of my way to do nice things. There have been far too many missed opportunities. During those times I wondered why we fought more often and words of encouragement were fewer and further between.

I asked James and Stacy, a middle-aged couple recently attending a Marriage Intensive at The Marriage Recovery Center, how often they exchanged niceties.

“Do you catch each other doing nice things?” I asked. “Do you do nice things for each other?”

“We’re too busy doing our own thing,” Stacy said, pushing her brown hair back from her face. She seemed tense as she fought back tears.

“He’s gone every day for ten hours and we’re pretty tired by the time we fall into bed at night,” she continued. “Plus, raising three kids is a full time job.”

“What do you think?” I asked, looking over at James, a man his wife alleged was prone to angry outbursts.

“I’ve got five mouths to feed,” he said firmly. “I know I could do better at being nice to my wife.”

Indeed he could—and needed to, as did she. Couples face plenty of conflict, but kissing one another hello and goodbye, making special mention of the extras each brings to the relationship, all can soften some of the jagged edges of life.

I gave them the following advice that seems to be forgotten by far too many couples:

First, relationships need emotional fuel. No relationship can coast. We all need to be appreciated, and this appreciation helps keep the emotional connection open between couples. These niceties fuel our spirit and make us want to be better husbands and wives.

Second, encouragement improves behavior. We work much harder after encouragement than we do criticism. Criticism, of course, comes off our tongues much easier and more frequently than encouragement. Nevertheless, we must push ourselves to offer pleasantries, notice our mate’s efforts and find ways to bring a smile to our mate’s face.

Scripture tells us that our words and actions are critical. The Apostle Paul says, “May our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father, who loved us and by his grace gave us eternal encouragement and good hope, encourage your hearts and strengthen you in every good deed and word” (2 Thessalonians 2:16-17).

Third, small actions bring big results. A kiss hello and goodbye, a smile, and other seemingly incidental actions bring big results. While the weekend away is wonderful, simple efforts often win the day. Do you have a repertoire of small actions you know will please your mate? If not, think again.

Fourth, positive actions counter-balance the losses in life. You know your relationship functions on an emotional bank account. If you make too many withdrawals, your deposits won’t count for much. Likewise, many deposits will counter-balance some of the withdrawals you will inevitably make.

Finally, string together these positive actions and you’ll win their heart. We are all hungry for encouragement, being noticed and points of connection. Efforts made to connect to him/ her will be noticed and they will count. Put several of them together and over a shorter time than you might imagine you’ll notice a change in your mate’s heart.

mrcWhich is better, connection or separation? The choice is easy. Do you long for caring connection? We are here to help. Please go to our website, www.marriagerecoverycenter.com and discover more information about this as well as the free downloadable eBook, A Love Life of Your Dreams, including other free videos and articles. Please send responses to me at drdavid@marriagerecoverycenter.com and also read more about The Marriage Recovery Center on our website. You’ll find videos and podcasts on sexual addiction, emotionally destructive marriages, codependency and affair-proofing your marriage.

Publication date: November 25, 2013