The Squeaky Wheel

How to protect your psychological health, improve your relationships, and enhance your self-esteem.

How to Test Your Marital Civility

Reintroducing civility and good will to your marriage or partnership

Civility is often the first things to disappear when a marriage becomes distressed, often never to return. Reintroducing civility and good will into a marriage can have a powerful impact on a couple’s marital satisfaction. It allows couples to improve their communication and it introduces a far more positive and mutually caring tone into the home.

Take this simple test with your partner and learn the 5 EASY changes that can significantly improve your relationship and introduce a dynamic of good will and positivity.

The Marital Civility Test

Choose the answer that most characterizes your relationship.

A. The person who leaves first in the morning:

1. Leaves without saying goodbye.

2. Shouts goodbye from the front door.

3. Goes to the other person and kisses them goodbye.

B. The person who gets home first in the evening:

1. Ignores the other person’s arrival—you’ll find each other eventually.

2. Shouts hello from a different room when their partner gets home.

3. Greets their partner in person when they get home.

C. When you and your partner argue:

1. It is not unusual for one or both of you to shout and use curses or putdowns.

2. You raise your voices but you don’t often use curses of insults.

3. Shouting is rare and you never curse or use insults/putdowns.

D. If you become angry with one another when you’re out socializing as a couple:

1. You might argue or criticize one another in front of your friends/family members.

2. You might jab one another or display obvious annoyance.

1. You put on a united front and save the arguing for when you are alone.

E. If one of you achieves, succeeds, or reaches a goal, the other:

1. Doesn’t make a big deal about it.

2. Congratulates you and expresses support but doesn’t discuss it with others.

3. Tells friends and family members about your accomplishment with pride or excitement.

SCORING: Sum up your responses (Response #1=1 point, #2=2 points, #3=3 points).

5-8: Unfortunately, you are probably more polite and civil to strangers and acquaintances than you are to your partner, and your relationship is probably suffering as a result. The good news is that you and your partner would benefit most from applying the 5 EASY suggestions below. Stick to them for one month and you will notice a significant improvement in your relationship.

9-12: You should be commended on trying to maintain civility in your relationship but there is definitely room for improvement. You could probably benefit from using the 5 EASY suggestions below to create an even more positive dynamic in the relationship and the home.

13-15: Congratulations, civility is still quite evident in your relationship. If you still have minor tweaking to do, try discussing what other changes you could make that would maintain and even enhance civility, respect, and mutual support in your marriage or partnership.

5 EASY Tips for Improving Marital Civility:

After two decades of working with couples, I never tire of hearing how the five following tweaks made a remarkably positive difference in a couple’s relationship. Apply these five simple habits for at least one month and you too will see a meaningful improvement in your partnership.

1. Use the Short Kiss Goodbye. Whoever leaves the home first in the morning should find the other and kiss them goodbye before leaving.

2. Elect a Homecoming King or Queen: Whoever is home first should greet the other in person when they get home at night.

3. Clean up your Act: Make a mutual decision to remove curses, put-downs, and insults from your arguments. They are emotionally harmful, unproductive communication-wise, and toxic to long term relationships. Curses never win arguments they just derail them.

4. Avoid Airing Dirty Laundry in Public: Arguing or clashing in front of others will only make you angrier and more resentful toward one another. It also has the potential for embarrassment, shame, or humiliation, which are especially toxic to one’s self-esteem and sense of mutual trust.

5. Demonstrate Pride and Support: Being proud and publically supportive of your partner’s achievements strengthens relationship bonds, enhances trust and self-esteem for both you and your partner, and creates a dynamic of mutual support and increased motivation.

View my short and quite personal TEDx talk about Psychological Health here:

For more about increasing positivity in relationships check out the sections on improving empathy and conveying emotional validation in my upcoming book, Emotional First Aid: Practical Strategies for Treating Failure, Rejection, Guilt and Other Everyday Psychological Injuries.

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Copyright 2013 Guy Winch

Guy Winch, Ph.D., is a licensed psychologist and author of The Squeaky Wheel: Complaining the Right Way to Get Results, Improve Your Relationships and Enhance Self-Esteem. more...

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